Another fantastic little island I visited during my month-long trip in Japan, Okunoshima, also known as ‘Rabbit Island’. Don’t let the cute name or its inhabitants fool you though, this island has quite a dark history behind it too. There’s not an abundance of activities on this small island but you’ll be able to enjoy scenic walks and lots of encounters with fluffy adorable rabbits.
Although you are not allowed to pick them up or cuddle them, just feed them and stroke them if they let you! Or watch them as they hop around or sunbathe in the Japanese sunshine. For some history and a break from the cutesy world of rabbits, you can also head to the Poisonous Gas Museum to learn about the island’s past as a top-secret poisonous gas manufacturer during World War II.
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- Visa – As a British National I was exempt from requiring a visa to visit Japan for less than 90 days, however, some nationalities will require a visa. For the most up to date information visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
- Immunisations – some are required, check out my go-to website for up to date information: https://nathnac.net
- Safety – Okunoshima is a very safe place to visit. Just be sure not to enter ‘ No trespassing’ zones.
- Currency – Japanese Yen
- Language – Japanese
It’s very straight forward to reach Okunoshima from nearby Hiroshima. Simply board the JR train towards Tadanoumi Station, once you arrive, the port is just a few minute’s walk down the road.
There is a small store near the port where you can purchase rabbit feed for the bunnies on the island, which is recommended as you cannot feed them anything other than this specially formulated food. There is a ferry timetable so check online in advance to plan your travels here. Once on the ferry, you’ll arrive in the port of Okunoshima Island in around 20 minutes.
There only seemed to be one main hotel for staying on the island of Okunoshima, and with limited attractions on this tiny island, you can really see all there is to offer just during a day trip. However, the island does seem popular with large groups and there seemed to be a school trip enjoying the facilities and making use of sports activities such as fishing and tennis on the island.
The island is really quite small and I managed to walk around the two and a half mile perimeter along the designate walkways probably in around an hour, exploring the various derelict buildings left for the war hinting at the island’s turbulent past, as well as stopping to say hello to the numerous bunnies who call this island home, and enjoying the beautiful scenic views out to sea.
So where did all the rabbits suddenly spring from exactly? Estimates vary but the general consensus seems to be that there are over 1000 rabbits inhabiting the tiny island of Okunoshima.
Much like the numbers the origins of these fluffy little animals also seem to vary. During Okunoshima’s dark past of World War II it has been suggested that poison gas manufactured on the island was tested on the rabbits, and once the war was over the rabbits escaped/were freed.
However other accounts also seem to show that the rabbits were euthanised when the project was shut down. Other reports include people simply releasing several bunnies onto the island, and even a school releasing a number of rabbits in the seventies.
The origins of these rabbits are shrouded in mystery, but their welfare is something which will need to be closely monitored with their numbers ever increasing they may start to overpopulate their tiny island before long.
Poison Gas Museum
Just a small museum but an important educational addition to the island overrun with cute bunny rabbits. As this island wasn’t always the vision of cute and cuddliness at all. It was previously used to manufacture poison gas during World War II. The Tadanoumi production facility was established in 1929, which you will still see remnants of the building son the island, along with a gun platform and electricity generating station.
The poison gas operation that took part on this Japanese Island was completely confidential and secretive, only since 1984 has more information become available to the public. At the museum, you’ll be able to learn more about the various chemicals and poisonous gases created on this island, what the workers used to protect themselves and how unfortunately most of them became ill as a result of handling these toxic chemicals. The museum showcases this tragedy for everyone to see and emphasises the importance of peace so that instances such as this are not repeated.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my day trip to Okunoshima Island, (also known as Rabbit Island). Okunoshima makes a great, fun day trip from Hiroshima, I really enjoyed my day here seeing all of the beautiful bunny rabbits roam freely around the island. I hope I’ve given you some inspiration for your own trip too. If you have any questions or queries, please do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
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