A small, unassuming island in Hiroshima Prefecture brings in enormous amounts of visitors each year. Why, you may wonder? One of the most popular “attractions” is actually the residents. Okunoshima is commonly referred to as “rabbit island”, and for good reason.
If you’re traveling to Japan or looking for even more reasons to do so, then add this place to your list. The island is fairly removed from other areas, accessible by ferries from Tadanoumi and Omishima. It is a popular vacation spot complete with a new hotel, golf course, tennis courts, and camp site. The surrounding waters are clean and great for swimming. Visitors can even relax in hot springs after a long day of exploring.
There is a darker history to Okunoshima, however. During World War II, the island was a major player in chemical warfare. The island’s isolated location made it an ideal lab for poisonous gases. For years, the project carried on in secret, hidden from residents and even employees. The end of the war also brought an end to the factory, and the Okunoshima Poison Gas Museum was opened in 1988. To this day, the museum serves as both a reminder and a warning about the dangers of poison gas and warfare.
The History Behind Rabbit Island
Luckily, in recent years Okunoshima is mostly remembered for its unusual inhabitants. In an effort to change the island’s dark history, the land was redeveloped into a scenic park catering to rest and relaxation. Many rabbits were introduced in the process, and they soon spread across the entire island, numbering over 300.
These adorable little creatures are tame and friendly, curiously sniffing at newcomers and relaxing in the warm sun. Visitors love to take pictures of the rabbits or feed them little treats. They have become well adjusted to humans, and some are especially adventurous and playful. The hotel on the island sells cheap rabbit food so people can easily engage with the animals. There is even a rabbit-themed restaurant on site as well. Keep in mind though that dogs and cats are not allowed on the island, for fear of disturbing the rabbit population.
Time to Explore
As we mentioned, there is plenty of additional activities to pursue on the island. Besides the museum, there are also other historic sights to see. Strewn along the island are the remains of the old factory and buildings from the warring period. Most of them are crumbling or unsafe to enter, but it gives people a glimpse into the early days of rabbit island. There are also many camping grounds and trails where visitors can look out onto the calm sea. Lucky visitors may even find themselves with some furry companions.