By Crystal Chung @crystalkchung
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Aoshima Island is one of about a dozen "cat islands" around Japan small places where there are significantly more feline residents than people. In fact, cats outnumber humans six to one on the island.
The incredible pictures taken by photographer Kei Nomiyama show hundreds of cats prowling the island, curled up in abandoned houses or strutting about in the quiet fishing village.
Recently becoming popular online, tiny Aoshima has seen a steep rise in tourist visits, overwhelming the handful of permanent residents.
Kei said: “Aoshima, a 30minute ferry ride off the coast of Ehime was once home to 900 people in 1945 now only around 15 people live on the island.
“It’s mostly home to pensioners who didn’t seek work elsewhere after World War II. The only sign of human activity now is the boatload of two times of daytrippers from the mainland, visiting what is locally known as Cat Island”
Several cats were originally introduced to the milelong island to deal with mice that plagued fishermen's boats, however they stayed on and multiplied.
Nomiyama said: “The massive increase of cats has become a big burden in recent years to the small island. Locals are trying to keep the feline population in check and at least 10 cats have been neutered.
“The residents haven't taken too kindly to the tourists either as they don't mind them coming, but want to be left in peace.”
The cats of Aoshima survive on any food they are given by tourists and local residents such as rice balls and leftover scraps of food.
Kei said: “There are many feeding grounds for visitors on cat island and a great deal of cats gather there. With more than a hundred cats coming towards you for food this can definitely become overwhelming!”