So, do you like cats? Okay, that’s a silly question–of course you like cats. But how much do you like cats? Are you a one-cat-in-my-lap kind of person or are you a CATS-ON-ALL-THE-THINGS kind of person? Hopefully you’re more the latter than the former, because where we’re going today, there’s just about nothing but cats. And cat butts.
Taking a small jaunt out of Japan, we’ll be heading down to Houtong in Taiwan, a village with over 100 incredibly photogenic cats–and a major tourist destination for locals and travelers alike!
Recently, Meg, one of our writers from the Japanese side of RocketNews24, headed down to Taiwan to see what all the nyanko (a pun combining nyan, the Japanese word for “meow,” and neko, the Japanese word for “cat”) were up to. The answer, it turns out, was cuteness. They were up to a whole mess of cuteness!
While Houtong is now known mostly as a tourist destination for cat lovers, it was once a much more industrial village. In fact, it used to be a mining town–though apparently the mines have closed in the last few decades.
▼Our guess is that everyone was too busy playing with the kittens.
Located about 60 kilometers (roughly 37 miles) from Taipei, Houtong is easily accessible by train to the residents of Taiwain’s capital city. Meg tells us that the trip only took 40 or 50 minutes, making it a perfect weekend destination for anyone looking for a bit of fresh air and kitties!
While Houtong once had a population of around 6,000 people, it’s dropped to only a few hundred with the closure of the mines. On the other hand, the population of cats has steadily increased. We’re assured it’s not because the cats were eating the people–the humans were just leaving to look for work!
▼”Well, why don’t they try sleeping and being cute all day. It works for me!”
Eventually, the number of cats grew enough to transform the dying village into a hot tourism destination. After all, who wouldn’t want to go hang out all day with carefree and human-friendly kitties? But it didn’t happen by magic. In 2009, a cat-loving volunteer group set to work changing the image of Houtong into a “cat village,” posting numerous photos of the cats frolicking with people. Using the village’s history as a mining town and combining it with the abundance of furry critters, they helped save the village from extinction.
▼One of the few times that sleeping on the job is the job!
▼”It’s a hard job, but someone’s gotta do it, right?”
▼A mother cat taking care of her new baby kitty
Warning: Repeated viewings of this photo may cause a cuteness overload.
But enough history: What’s it like in this cat village??
The moment our writer Meg stepped off the train, she found that even the platform was covered with cat illustration and paraphernalia–we’d say the tourism board knew what they were doing. There were paw prints in the steps and even cat towers in the station. From the station, the trek to the cat village was fairly direct: Just a hop across a walking bridge!
▼Arriving at Houtong Station! The smell of cute is in the air!
▼Saying goodbye to the train…
▼Cat cutouts in the station…
▼Paw-prints all over the place!
▼And even a cat tower! They need to get some kitty station attendants too…
▼”Welcome to cat village!”
▼Crossing the walking bridge from the station to the cat village.
With the humidity up to 80 percent, Meg was hardly surprised to find a plethora of cats stretched out on the ground as soon as she’d crossed the bridge. While their furry face may be incredibly adorable, we’re guessing they don’t do too well in the humidity. (I can relate.) Even better for Meg, the cats were utterly tame–they were so used to throngs of squealing visitors that they happily acquiesced to petting.
▼”Pssst! Buddy! You bring the noms and I bring the pets. Deal?”
Of course, it wasn’t just the cats that were amenable to visitors. There were plenty of shops, cafes, and places to relax for tourists. But the villagers had also gone out of their way to makes sure the kitties were as comfortable as the humans. Signs encouraged people to be on their best behavior, with text like: “Kitties love cleanliness! Let’s not put cat food directly on the ground, okay?” or “We wouldn’t recommend bringing a dog with you into the cat village.” As Meg pointed out, they avoided using language like “don’t” or “forbidden,” creating a soothing atmosphere to spend a relaxing day with all the purring nyanko.
If you’re burning with jealousy and you don’t have time to hop on an airplane to Taiwan, at least you have the Internet to help you out. We have tons more photos below! Check out the rest of Meg’s snapshots and try not to think about the fact that this is part of her awesome, awesome job.
▼Here’s the cat village!
▼And here’s the first cat Meg spotted. Don’t you just want to curl up and take a nap with it?
▼A sign asking people to keep the area clean–no cat food on the ground!
▼Cats enjoying the spoils of their hard work!
▼In the cat village, the kitties will eat right from your hand!
▼And no elbows on the table–such good manners!
▼A baby kitten attracts “awwww”s from happy tourists.
▼The town is decorated with cat paintings, illustrations, figures, and…oh, right, real cats too!
▼A cat stamp!
▼The last facility built for the mine, this coal purification factory was constructed in 1920. It’s seen better days, we’re guessing.
▼On her way home, Meg saw one final cat lazing in the station…
▼A catnap is the perfect way to end the day, if you ask us.
[ Read in Japanese ]