The story starts with a message, “you have time to do some translation for about 10 days?” Having recently quit my job to chase my dream of attending school to focus and study Japanese, I was pretty eager to make a little extra money, practice translating, and go to a new place. Cat Island sounds like fun. After reading a news article, talking to a film/documentary maker against the advice of many, three of us headed up to Miyagi Japan, a place that suffered a lot of destruction after the major earthquake in March of 2011. Take a night bus from Tokyo, arrive in Sendai at 5 a.m. wait an hour to take the only express train to Ishinomaki that also takes an hour. After getting to Ishinomaki take a 15 minute taxi ride to the boat that takes 45 minutes to get to the island.
A slight side note, the film maker and his assistant were asked by TV Tokyo at the airport if they could follow them, and due to “lack of interest” they decided not to go. While at the island, NHK was there and initially were pretty rude to us, but after finding that we were there for more than just cats we were interviewed. I’ll be on TV March 30th 2014
Back to the point our goal was to talk with people that live on the island. The average age is 80+ and only about 40 or so people living there. How do you just show up on an island and ask people to be filmed and answer very personal questions about their life? If you know me, my presence had to be somewhat imposing . Speaking Japanese too? We faced a lot of reluctance the first two days, and on top of that there was a storm projected to come through the area. Only a week before it snowed at Cat Island for the first time i
n 90 years and we had tents and sleeping bags. Cat Island is predominantly a tourist attraction in the summer for people that like to fish and more so love cats so all the places to stay aren’t available.
It was freezing cold. It was miserable no lights, no heat. I’m sure many visitors to Japan have mentioned that Japanese are so friendly, and helpful and go out the way to help you. Tashirojima is a place that will forever be in my heart. The residents were worried about the three of us, they opened up places for us to stay no charge, brought us heaters, and even helped us to talk to some of the “legends” of the island. I found out that not only are the people nice, but if you look past the 800 cats of the island amazing stories are to be heard, and I was able to hear them. I haven’t cried in a long time. I haven’t cried for more than a few minutes at any given time. I cried on several occasions in as many days listening to the stories of people lost in the tsunami, those that had to move away and the stories of a dying island. To tell the whole story of a ten day trip will take a long time, but please take a few minutes to see the photos of life of people in Tashirojima Japan. (I threw in a few cat photos too)