Rabbit Island in Okunoshima, Japan

Okunoshima, or more popularly known as Rabbit Island, is an island in Japan located off the coast of Takehara, Hiroshima. It is home to hundreds of free-roaming rabbits waiting to charm you with their cuteness so that you will give them food.

The reason behind why there are so many of these furry little creatures on this island is a mystery. However, there are some theories, and they’re surprisingly grim.

History of the rabbit island in Japan

Abandoned power plant on Okunoshima
Image credit: @nonp.hoto.99

The history of Okunoshima is a huge contrast from the fun and touristy image it has now. An island shrouded in secrecy, Okunoshima didn’t even exist on Japanese maps during World War II. The island was a place where the Imperial Japanese Army conducted biochemical weapons experiments.

Ruins of a poison gas storehouse on Okunoshima
Image credit: @apricot_you

The island’s dark history gave rise to theories that attempt to explain the origin of the rabbits that inhabit the island.

Some believe that workers on the island released the rabbits, which were originally used for the biochemical experiments, into the wild after the war ended. Others believe that rabbits were released onto the island after the war to check for remaining biochemical contamination.

The last theory is quite wholesome in contrast – according to one story, a group of school children released a herd of rabbits onto the island many years after the war.

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Even though the truth of how the rabbits got there is vague at best, one thing that we know for sure is that Okunoshima is now a paradise for rabbit lovers who want to fawn over lovable furry bunnies.

Interacting with wild rabbits

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The experience in Okunoshima is unique in that you can interact with rabbits in their natural habitat, rather than in enclosures.

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Though these bunnies are cute, you must be careful not to get over-excited. They are wild animals, after all. Do take note of the dos and don’ts to protect the rabbits, as well as yourself.

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Beautiful view of the sea and surrounding islands

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The Gateway to Rabbit Island

Apart from the rabbits, the panoramic view of the inland sea and neighbouring islands from the summit is also a sight to behold.

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Feel the sea breeze and enjoy the scenery as you stroll along the shore. You can also swim in the sea or just chill on the beach during the summer.

Okunoshima Poison Gas Museum

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Not all is idyllic on this island, however, as it’s also home to a grim reminder of the horrors of war – the Okunoshima Poison Gas Museum.

Ceramic poisonous gas production equipment outside the museum
Image credit: @soramiisin

Exhibitions in the museum showcase the effects of different biochemical weapons on the human body, as well as old tools used to conduct the research. These tools include gas suits and medical apparatus.

Staying overnight on Okunoshima

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Kyukamura Ohkunoshima

For those who can’t get enough of the furry inhabitants or want to observe them in a different light, you can consider staying overnight at Kyukamura Ohkunoshima, a ryokan.

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The Gateway to Rabbit Island

You can get beautiful shots of the rabbits at dawn or dusk as they tend to be more active during those hours.

The ryokan has 65 rooms in total, with 63 Japanese-style and two Western-style rooms. Each room has air-conditioning, so you don’t have to worry about the sweltering heat if you’re visiting in summer. The ryokan also has an on-site restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner. 

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The Gateway to Rabbit Island

There is a hot spring in the hotel where you can soak away your fatigue after a day of walking and rabbit petting.

For more details on Kyukamura Ohkunoshima, check out their website.

Getting to Japan’s Rabbit Island

Visitors can reach this enigmatic rabbit island by heading over to Tadanoumi station, and then taking a 15-minute ferry ride from Tadanoumi Port.

Address: Okunoshima, Tadanoumi-cho, Takehara City, Hiroshima 729-2311
Tadanoumi port opening hours: 7:40AM-6:40PM
Admission Fee: ¥360 (~USD3.28) for those over 12 years old. ¥180 (~USD1.64) for children aged 7-11. Admission for children under 7 is free.

For more places to visit in Japan, check these out:

Cover image adapted from: @strangemotors, @explore.hiroshima and The Gateway to Rabbit Island

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