You’d be forgiven for asking ‘where?’ on hearing the name Ainoshima Island. It’s off the coast of Fukuoka and is better known as one of Japan’s ‘cat islands’. Local photographer Fubirai’s photos of the cats went viral a few years ago. But I had no idea how to get to Ainoshima until I came across this blog post from a few months ago. I was able to piece together the various stages from that, but it’s still a bit confusing so here’s a step-by step guide to getting to Ainoshima.
First, you need to get to Shingu station (or to give it its ‘proper’ name, Nishitetsushingu station). From Hakata take the Kagoshima line to Chihaya then change to Nishitetsuchihaya station for the Kaizuka line and travel to the Shingu terminus. Chiyaha and Nishitetsuchihaya are in the same building but are technically different stations, so you’ll need a new ticket or to swipe out and in with your prepay card. The journey takes about 35 minutes and costs 460 yen in total. There’s another route from Tenjin: take the Hakozaki subway line to Kaizuka (end of the line), then switch to the Kaizuka line for Shingu. It takes about 40 minutes and costs 530 yen. These are commuter lines and trains are pretty regular.
At Shingu, turn left out of the station and walk for 100m until you get to a bus shelter in a car park. You need the local community bus, which is green, and not any of the Nishitetsu buses. All the timetables are on the Shingu town website (use Chrome’s translation widget to read them!).
(Since I originally wrote this guidance, the Shingu town website has handily put together a timetable guide for catching the bus and ferry. At the moment it’s here, but if the link breaks again go to the homepage, use Chrome to translate and look for ‘public transport’ in the menu.)
So for example, if you wanted to visit in summer, these are your options:
7.10am bus for the 7.50am ferry
8.45am bus for the 9.20am ferry
10.55am bus for the 11.30am ferry
2pm bus for the 2.30pm ferry
4.10pm bus for the 4.40pm ferry
(You could take the 5.30pm bus for the 6.10pm ferry, but that’s the last sailing for the day and you won’t be able to get back.)
The bus costs 100 yen. The journey takes about 10 minutes and you get dropped right at the ferry terminal. The bus then hangs around for the ferry to get in and picks up disembarking passengers. (Note: buses travelling in both directions wait to pick up passengers. Both go to the station but one will take longer! I asked the bus driver if he went to the station; I presume if he’d been the longer route he’d have directed me to the other bus.)
The ferry costs 460 yen each way and takes about 20 minutes. You need to buy your ticket from a machine in the terminal at the Shingu side and a little office on Ainoshima (next to the restaurant). If you don’t spot it, like I didn’t, you can pay the person collecting the tickets on Ainoshima in cash.
It tipped it down the entire time I was on Ainoshima so I didn’t do much exploring (though I still saw five cats, two of which were very up for cuddles as they sheltered from the rain). The island is small and has some interesting scenery, but of course the main draw is the cats – take some snacks, hang around the port and you will see some. There’s a village (some of the doors were open and I got a peek into some traditional Japanese homes, all tatami mats and raised floors), and do pay a visit to the small restaurant. It’s run by a lovely woman who’s very fond of cats and is keen to visit England one day.
This article is part of a series on visiting Japan, and is inspired by Tom Royal’s Japan on a Budget.