Ōkunoshima, is a small island located in the Seto Inland Sea of Japan between Hiroshima and Shikoku. During World War II the island was a top-secret military site which manufactured poisonous gas for chemical warfare. The island was a perfect location – isolated, with low security risk and far enough from Tokyo and other areas in case of disaster. The top-secret program ran for 16 years, with Ōkunoshima even erased from maps and residents and employees unaware of what the plant manufactured. The Poison Gas Museum located on the island has been open since 1988 to help raise awareness on the truth and terrible tragedies related to poisonous gas.
According to some sources, the rabbits were brought to Ōkunoshima as test subjects and then released by workers when the war ended. Others sources claim that in 1971 a group of school children were on a field trip and released eight rabbits. It seems that it will always remain a mystery. Regardless, the founder bunnies of Ōkunoshima and their many generations of offspring thrive in their predator-free environment – dogs and cats are not allowed on the island in order to preserve the rabbit population.
It is said that the island is home to more than 300 adorable fluffy rabbits but I’m under the impression that there are at least a few hundred more than that! Though the rabbits are wild, they are fairly tame and used to human contact and will approach you in the hope that you’ll feed them. If you’re afraid of bunnies then BEWARE – they will chase you, hop onto your lap, eat out of your hand and basically do whatever it takes to get food! Watch out for their teeth as they’re quite sharp and they may accidentally bite you. And some of the rabbits have rabbit flu so I’d just be a bit wary of them.
It was roughly a 2 hour trip from Osaka so we caught the Sanyō shinkasen to Mihara Station and changed to the local Kure line which took us to Tadanoumi Station. From there its a short 10 minute walk to the terminal where tickets need to be purchased for the ferry. For those that get seasick (yes, that’s me), the water is fairly calm so you should be okay. The ferry ticket counter also sells small bags of rabbit pellets which you can purchase or if you feel like spending the whole day being consumed by cute little fluffballs, feel free to bring your own giant bag of pellets.
If you’re an animal lover then this place is definitely worth a visit. It was one of the highlights of my trip!