Essay

All About Okunoshima: The Rabbit Island of Japan

There’s an island in Japan where rabbits have taken over. This could present issues in some situations. But in this instance, rabbit enthusiasts have a wonderful chance that the Japanese government has taken advantage of. Actually, travelers are welcome to travel to Okunoshima, Japan’s “rabbit island.” Learn about this island’s unique history and how to visit by continuing to read.

Where is Okunoshima?

The island lies in the Hiroshima Prefecture, about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) off the coast of Japan. Officially, it is a part of Takehara town. It is a portion of the Inland Sea National Park, officially named Setonaikai National Park. The 3,000 islands that make up the Setouchi Islands are included in this park.

How Okunoshima Became a Rabbit Island

Okunoshima translates to “Black Island.” Its name may come from the how it looks when viewed from a distance—covered in ebony foliage. Although it is not the official name, Okunoshima is also occasionally referred to as Usagi Shima, which translates to “rabbit island.”

Okunoshima’s past is convoluted. A few families made their living by fishing on the island before the turn of the 20th century. Japan constructed eleven forts on the island during the Russo-Japanese War, which lasted from 1904 to 1905, transforming it from a tranquil and sparsely populated area to a military installation.

Japan’s military began using the island for a covert chemical weapons program in 1925, the same year Japan ratified the Geneva Protocol, which forbade the use of chemical weapons. The Imperial Army Institute of Science and Technology constructed a chemical facility in 1927 in order to produce mustard and tear gas.

There were three reasons the army selected the island. First, being far from big cities made it a safe place to be. It was easy to hide what they were doing there because it was small and off the shore. Finally, it was simple to guard and maintain secure because it already had ten forts.

Despite the risks, everyone on the island—including the employees of the plant—had to keep the project a secret. Many of the employees suffered from chemical exposure. The facility was disassembled by allied forces following World War II, and its records were destroyed by government forces. It took several decades for the government to acknowledge the damage the facility had created and to provide assistance to the impacted workers.

In 1988, the government established the Okunoshima Poison Gas Museum with the aim of purposefully disclosing the island’s secrets. For anyone interested in history and rabbits, the island is a fascinating place to visit.

Where Did All The Rabbits Come From?

Some people theorize that the rabbits on Okunoshima are descended from test rabbits from the island’s days as a chemical weapons plant. That is probably untrue, though, as there is a story that the allied soldiers that demolished the factories also destroyed those rabbits.

The island was turned into a park after World War II. The purpose of the release of the rabbits was to make the park better, and the rabbits that are here now are the offspring of those original rabbits as well as other rabbits that have been purposefully released there over the years.

How to Visit Okunoshima

You must travel to Japan in order to reach Rabbit Island. The majority of travelers arrive in Tokyo via plane. After that, you can either take a bullet train to Mihara Station or fly to Hiroshima Airport from Tokyo. You can take a taxi to Tadanomi, where you can catch the boat to Okunoshima, if you choose to fly into Hiroshima Airport. Tadanomi can be reached by public transportation in roughly twenty minutes from Mihara Station.

Instead, a lot of tourists travel from Tokyo to Hiroshima by bullet train in order to take advantage of the city’s many tourist attractions and historical monuments. Tadanomi may be reached by a number of public transportation methods from Hiroshima Station, the majority of which take approximately one hour. The island is within a fifteen-minute boat ride from Tadanomi.

You can take the ferry to Okunoshima with your car. The cost of a ferry ticket can vary greatly, ranging from 180 Yen for a youngster to about 10,000 Yen for a truck driver. For an extra charge, you can also bring motorcycles and bicycles on the ferry. Free WiFi and a 500 Yen daily luggage storage facility are available at the Tadanomi port.

Rabbit Island Guidelines

There are a number of regulations in place to protect people and bunnies alike because this island is such a unique location.

Avoid feeding the bunnies next to the road. Bicycles and foot traffic may run them over if they become accustomed to being near the road.

Never feed human food to rabbits.

Avoid handling the bunnies. They are untamed and easily frightened if you attempt to hold them.

Avoid pursuing the bunnies. Rabbits are frightened. Their fear can cause them to get injured or perhaps have a heart attack. Since wild rabbits are unable to visit the veterinarian, it is crucial to allow them to live in peace on the island.

Remaining rabbit food should be disposed of properly. If leftovers are left out, crows may get attracted and disturb the island’s ecology.

Taking a rabbit home with you is prohibited by law.

What Can You Do On Rabbit Island?

Although Rabbit Island is a wonderful destination for day trips, overnight stays are also an option. On the island, there is a hotel with a restaurant and a hot spring to enjoy. A campsite is available for those seeking a more rural setting. Since they are crepuscular animals, rabbits are most active during dawn and twilight. If you are lucky enough to remain overnight, you may be able to see as many rabbits during the twilight hours as possible.

Apart from seeing rabbits, you can additionally:

At the port, buy rabbit chow and give it to the bunnies. Remember to return your bag to the port so you may exchange it for a unique stamp and postcard featuring Rabbit Island.

Take a bike rental and ride the island’s numerous routes.

Take a stroll around the beautiful walkways. Gorgeous views of the surrounding seas and islands may be seen by hiking to the summit of the island.

Take a look at the Poison Gas Museum and other old structures.

Visit the beach on the island.

Visit the island’s gift shop and cafe for a coffee.

Take a look at the lighthouse.

Whether you are a history buff, a rabbit lover, or just searching for a different kind of vacation, Okunoshima is a fantastic place to visit.