Just as we thought Japan couldn’t surprise us anymore, we heard about BUNNY ISLAND!
Well, we didn’t have to think twice, we were definitely going…
The bunny island, Okunoshima, was formerly used by the Japanese to produce poison gas and other chemical weapons during World War II. For many years, this remote island was unknown to the outside world and kept off maps.
Despite its dark history, today this small island in the Seto Sea is probably among one of the most cutest and fluffiest places on earth. There are more than one thousand bunnies living freely on the island today which are taken well care of by visitors as well as the few locals who live on the island; the only bus driver on the island drove at a walking speed to avoid hitting any bunnies on the road.
It’s not perfectly clear how the bunnies got there in the first place or why they multiplied so quickly. Some say they were brought for experimental purposes but were set free by factory workers at the end of the war. Also, bunnies “bang like bunnies” (breed fast) and the island is small with almost no predators, making it an ideal breeding place.
On a sunny day, we decided to make a day trip to Okunoshima from Hiroshima. Weaponed with our JR pass we hopped on a shinkansen and switch to a local JR line in Mihara getting out in Tadanoumi, where the ferry departs for Okunoshima. While we waited for the ferry, we grabbed some ice coffee from one of the high-tech vending machines and enjoyed walking around in this quiet little town facing the sea.
We had read some online news about the island but we didn’t really have any idea what to expect. We brought along some carrots and vegetables in case we would meet some furry friends. On the way we were a bit nervous that perhaps we would be unlucky and not see any rabbits.
That thought didn’t stay long, as we approached the small island we could already spot the bunnies that lined up the dock. They knew what the ferry meant – DINNER TIME!
We couldn’t take the smile of our faces, it’s just too funny to see all those rabbits gathered in one place. As soon as we stepped on the island the bunnies started hopping towards us. They will stand on their hind legs and make a “bunny pose”, which I’m guessing is their way of being super-cute and asking for more food. At least it works, as you want to give every single one of them a carrot.
When we got over the shock of being surrounded with those fluffy fellas we decided to walk around the island. It’s only a few kilometers in diameter and easily walkable. You can also rent a bike from the only hotel resort on the island. The whole island is a paradise of itself, lined by palm trees, spotless pristine beaches surrounded by turquoise blue waters, and to top it all there are bunnies literally everywhere.
There are two museums on the island; a nature museum and a poison gas museum. We visited neither…we were more interested in finding the abandoned factory building that was used to make chemical weapons a few decades ago. After some search we came upon a concrete tunnel that lead us to the factory, not far from the dock. The building seemed to have been partially digested by mother earth with roots and plants growing along the concrete walls.
The area was dead silent and empty, until we noticed a painter that was sitting in the far corner making a sketch. Even here we saw some bunnies jumping around. Some of them would even follow us inside in hope for getting some food. We spent some time inside the factory, exploring the details, old doors and broken windows. Everything was rusty and old.
Our visit to the Okunoshima was definitely one of the highlights of our 30 day trip in Japan. Mixing cute bunnies with an abonded poison gas factory on an otherwise paradise island makes for a fairytale experience…the kind of a surreal adventure we are always hunting for during our travels.
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