In the prefecture of Hiroshima, there is a very peculiar and mysterious island that attracts thousands of tourists a year. They all want to meet its small and tender inhabitants. The island’s name is Okunoshima, and it is colloquially known as Rabbit Island. Within this island of 700 square meters around 1000 rabbits live in happy freedom. The rabbits are friendly and affectionate to visitors, but you have to respect the established rules. Read more about what to expect when visiting Japan’s cutest island!
Rabbit Island History
Okunoshima is a beautiful place, with a spectacular view of the sea and abundant vegetation. Rabbits are scattered throughout the territory, so while exploring the place you can find many of these beautiful animals. Being an island, the only way to get there is through a ferry that leaves from the port of Tadanoumi. The island has a single restaurant that is inside the island’s only hotel, the Kyukamura Okunoshima. Here you can spend the night and observe the beauty of the island with tranquility.
Currently, this place is full of peace and tenderness, but formerly, from 1929 to 1945, a toxic gas factory was installed on the island for military purposes. It was secret, and during this time, the island was erased from the maps of Japan. At that time, rabbits were also used to test chemical weapons, but in 1945 the Allied forces burned the entire place and annihilated all rabbits.
Today, the island is one of the few places where you can see structures of war-period buildings and parts of storage almost intact. Okunoshima is full of significant places for people interested in history. It also has a museum dedicated to explaining the island’s past, the effects of toxic gas, and the importance of peace. It is said that the rabbits that currently inhabit the island, are the descendants of 8 rabbits released by schoolchildren in 1971. Since then they have been breeding until they reached the amount of today.
In front of the beach, there is a camping area. The island has very few spaces to throw away garbage, there are no convenience stores, and therefore it is recommended to take your garbage back with you. Okunoshima is a fascinating place, where vegetation, history, rabbits, and the sea, become an unusual journey. For those who would like to interact with rabbits and see large historical structures almost intact, Okunoshima is the right place. Rabbits, history, nature, and peace.
Interacting with Okunoshima Rabbits
Okunoshima welcomes visitors who wish to interact with the tender inhabitants of the island. For maximum enjoyment, people are required to meet certain standards of behavior and protection, such as:
– If you want to feed the rabbits, the food must be purchased at the port of Tadanoumi.
– Small animals should not be held or chased. Rabbits are generally afraid of being held and will fight to escape.
Living in nature means that they do not have access to veterinarians in case of injury, therefore, it is crucial that they are left free to minimize the risk of injury.
– It is appreciated not to leave food scraps. Rabbits do not eat damp skin or spoiled vegetables. This waste attracts crows. In addition, leaving food near the nest means filtering the whereabouts of baby rabbits to their predators. Nor should they be given food for human consumption such as bread and snacks because they will get sick when ingested. In addition, rabbits cannot digest potatoes.
– It is forbidden to take rabbits out of their habitat and take them home.
– Do not bring your own rabbits to abandon them on the Island. The rabbits that have remained as pets cannot survive on the island because the rabbits are too territorial and the “strangers” will be harassed and beaten by local rabbits.
Riding Bicycles on Okunoshima
You can rent bicycles from the hotel, and ride around the 4km-long road comfortably. Be sure to be careful of the rabbits though!
– Bicycles are required to drive at moderate speed for the reasons stated above.
– If you would drive, do not forget to check under your car because there could be rabbits because it is an ideal place to hide from the direct sun and its predators. Be sure to check under your car, as they can remain even after starting the engine.
– It is important to keep in mind that, on the roads, rabbits should not be fed because the roads are traveled with bicycles and, while eating, the rabbits are too concentrated and do not notice the traffic. When trying to escape at the last moment, they can crash into bicycles or other types of vehicles.
– Please fill the water bags. Water is scarce, especially around the hotel. Refill the water trays around the island, whenever possible. Rabbits that live on the hillside can feed on natural springs, however, for those surrounding the hotel, these trays are crucial for their survival.
Following these rules, you can enjoy the wonderful experience of being in Okushima, Rabbit Island.
To go to Rabbit Island, you can take one of the following options:
From Hiroshima Station: The cheapest option is to take the San-yo train line in the direction of Hiro to the final station, Hiro. Upon arrival at Hiro station, transfer to the Kure Line in the direction of Itozaki to Tadanoumi station.
The fastest option is to take a shinkansen (bullet train) Kodama or Hikari to Mihara station. Upon arrival at Mihara station, transfer to the Kure line in the direction of Itozaki to Tadanoumi station.
From Osaka Station: All Kodama Shinkansen (bullet train) departing from Osaka stop at Mihara station. Upon arrival at Mihara station, transfer to the Kure line in the direction of Itozaki to Tadanoumi station.
Upon arrival at Tadanoumi station: From Tadanoumi station you have to walk approximately 3 minutes to the port, where it is very well specified how to buy tickets to get on the ferry.
The only way to get to Okunoshima is through a ferry that leaves every 30 ~ 45 minutes from the port. The ferry ride takes approximately 15 minutes. In the same way, you return to Tadanoumi. The last ferry to leave Okunoshima is at 19:15. Japan Rail Pass is accepted to Tadanoumi JR station but not for ferry services. Only cash is accepted.
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