Located east of Hiroshima in the Seto Inland Sea, Ōkunoshima (大久野島) is a small island home to over 700 rabbits. The rabbits are wild but friendly, and tourists arrive every day with bags full of food and treats. The island was relatively unknown in Japan until recently when its populality among foreign visitors brought it into the spotlight.
A Dark History
Ōkunoshima today is a paradise of cuteness, but its origins are sinister. Chosen for its remote location, it contained secret facilities used to develop and produce poison gas for chemical weapons. The island was erased from maps at the time to hide its existence. The ruins of these facilities still exist, covered by moss and providing a grim backdrop for those who choose to explore the island.
Most visitors are here for the bunnies, but it is important to not forget these parts of history. There is also a small museum showing the history of the island as a chemical weapons plant, decorated with messages promoting peace sent from students around the country.
Meeting the Bunnies
As soon as you get off the ferry, you will be greeted by adorable bunnies waiting for a snack. You are encouraged to bring food for the rabbits, as you will not be able to buy any on the island. You will find the rabbits relaxing in the shade, sitting in little holes they have dug, or foraging in the bushes. But once you approch and start to open your bag of pellets or vegetables, they will all come running and beg for a treat. If you come in the sping or autumn, you might see tiny baby bunnies come hopping with their mothers.
Because the bunnies are so friendly it can be easy to forget that they are wild animals. You should never try to pick one up, and definitely never give them any food meant for people. As long as you remember that you are visiting them in their home, you should be able to spend a lovely day socializing with them.
Rabbits are actually nocturnal! If you spend the night on the island, you can walk around at night or early in the morning to see rabbits much more energetic than during the day. Most tourists just visit for the day, so this is your chance to have the bunnies to yourself. There is only one hotel on the island so you might need to make reservations in advance if you want to do this.
For anybody wishing to surround themselves with adorable bunnies, or just looking for a unique travel destination, Ōkunoshima is a wonderful island to visit. Remember to pack an extra bag for treats!