• Kyodo

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A small island in the northeast known as “cat island” is making use of its name to seek support for its reconstruction from the March natural disaster.

Tashiro Island, a part of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, has launched a drive to raise at least ¥100 million in donations to launch an oyster farm.

The island is home to fewer than 100 mostly elderly residents and about 100 cats. It became famous after the media played it up as “cat island” in 2006.

Some 12,000 tourists in 2010 took the nearly hour-long boat trip to Tashiro from Ishinomaki on the mainland.

“Our income sources from both the fishing and tourist industries were lost because of the quake,” said Yutaka Hama, 53, operator of a guest house and one of the seven islanders taking part in the project.

“We will be glad if cat lovers will help us,” he said.

People who contribute ¥10,000 or more to “Nyanko the Project” will receive cat-related goods — and some oysters as well in a few years time, the organizers said. Nyanko is a popular term meaning cat or cats.

Half of the fund will be used for oyster farming, 40 percent for various other needs and the remaining 10 percent for the cats.

Many of the island’s fishing boats and gear were lost in the March tsunami.

One resident remains missing and presumed dead and about 10 cats were believed lost.

The water supply is still out.

Tashiro’s residents have long looked after the local felines and even built a small shrine called Neko Jinja (Cat Shrine) in their honor in the middle of the island.

Local lore has it that fishermen will get terrific catches after enshrining a dead cat and offering tuna at the shrine.

To donate, call the organizer at 080-2810-2914 in Japanese.

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