5 Most Unique and Unusual Islands - #3 Is it Cute or Creepy?

  • June 02, 2015
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For most of us islands hold a certain mystique. It could be their seclusion that entices us, or the perceived difficulty of reaching them. Others are relatively untouched and represent a a world lost in the modern age. For these reasons and many more, islands can be deeply fascinating. Here are some of the most unique examples.

1.

Tashirojima

Just off the east coast of Japan, Tashirojima is an island with a small population (less than one-hundred people) comprised mostly of the elderly. The island's villages aren't expected to survive much longer (Japan designates such places as “terminal villages”), which is a real shame because that means no one will be around to feed all those cats. Tashirojima has a huge stray cat population, earning it the nickname “Cat Island.” A local belief that feeding and breeding cats will bring good luck has led to the stray feline population dwarfing the human population. It's gone so far that dogs are banned from the island. In the island's past cats were raised to keep the mouse population down. Fishermen who came to the island would feed the cats. Overtime the fishermen would interpret the cats' behavior to predict the success or potential dangers on their next job. Overtime several monuments and shrines were built, one of which is at the heart of the island.

2.

Okunoshima

Any discussion of Cat Island would be incomplete without mention of Okunoshima, also known as Usagi Shima (“Rabbit Island”). A small island off the south-west coast of Japan, it's a popular tourist attraction due the hundreds of feral rabbits that call it home. The rabbits are friendly and approach visitors without hesitation. The rabbits are also protected by law and hunting them is prohibited. The explanation of how the rabbits came to the island requires one to delve into Okunoshima's dark past. In 1925 the island was chosen as a top-secret location by the Japanese military to develop chemical weapons. At the end of World War II the program ended and the plant was destroyed. In the following years the island was converted into a park, and to this end rabbits were released. A common but mistaken belief is that the rabbits are descendents of those used for testing at the chemical weapons facility. According to curators at the Poison Gas Museum (also on the island), that isn't the case.

3.

Island of the Dolls

One of several chinampas (artificial islands) in the canals of Xochimilco boroughs, this subject isn't an island in the usual sense. Chinampas were made in bodies of water as a means to increase agricultural output. The Island of the Dolls, however, makes only nightmares. The history of the island is a bit cloudy. According to Julian Santana Barrera, a man who lived on the island alone, he found a young girl drowned in a canal. Moments later he found her doll in the water, too. He hung the doll from a tree, either in memorial or to appease her spirit. This continued as he found more dolls (and doll parts), placing them throughout the island. Supposedly he felt that the dolls were possessed by the spirits of other girls. Julian died in 2001, though, and verifying these things has become difficult, particularly the truth of finding a drowned girl (no other sources seem to confirm this) There's a good chance the story has been embellished by outside sources, but again, we may never know. After his death the island has become a popular destination in Mexico. People report hearing the dolls whisper or finding that they've moved from place to place. Some tourists even bring their own dolls to contribute to Julian's strange legacy.

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