Rabbit Island (Okunoshima) 大久野島
An island of cute animals with a dark history
Located off the coast of Hiroshima , Okunoshima is famous for its large population of rabbits. While many visitors come to visit these cute critters, they may not realize the island harbors a terrifying secret.
- Southwest of the beach resort is the Hill of the Evening Sun, a great spot to see the sunset
- Look for the picturesque lighthouse on the southern tip of the island (off-limits)
- The island also has Japan's tallest electricity pylon, 226 meters high
How to Get There
Okunoshima is accessible by ferry from Tadanoumi.
From the mainland, you can take a ferry from Tadanoumi, on the JR Kure Line. Another ferry to the island leaves from Omishima.
Fluffy bunnies everywhere
There is no way of knowing exactly how many rabbits currently live on the island, but with no natural predators and cats and dogs barred from entry, the numbers will continue to grow.
There are conflicting stories as to where the rabbits came from. Some believe they are descended from a small batch of eight rabbits released by school children in 1971, while others say the original rabbits were test subjects released after World War II. Either way, they are now the island's biggest draw, and they are very well cared for.
Guests to the island are encouraged to buy food and feed these docile creatures, who are so used to human contact at this point that they are all but domesticated. Just be ready to run when you run out of food, as they are prone to chase.
The island has many beautiful beaches to enjoy, and there are campgrounds and a small golf course. But no matter where you go, the rabbits are a constant factor, adding a healthy serving of cuteness to almost anything you can do on the island.
A Dark History
While the island is a very popular tourist spot, it does have a tragic past. The island does not shy away from its history, even exploring it for the sake of a brighter future. So even if you are not an animal lover, but are rather a history buff, Okunoshima is still well worth a visit.
Although Japan was a signatory to the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibiting chemical warfare, just two years later in 1927, a secret chemical weapons factory was built on Okunoshima. By the end of World War II, some six kilotons of mustard gas and tear gas were being made at this one factory.
Isolated yet still relatively accessible, Okunoshima was the perfect location for these secret activities. At the time, the government went to great lengths to keep the factory a secret, even removing the island from some maps and keeping the locals in the dark as to what was being produced.
As the war ended, documents were destroyed and the Allied forces disposed of the stockpiled chemicals. It was only decades later that the government admitted to any wrongdoing and offered financial and medical support to those in the area whose health had been damaged by the factory.
A museum of sadness
In 1988, a museum was opened on Okunoshima to present the island's secret past of poison gas manufacturing in unflinching detail. There are ruined military outposts scattered around the island, which without context seem extremely out of place on the island.