Visiting Rabbit Island in Hiroshima

ByJustin Hanus
May 24, 2022

Visiting Rabbit Island in Hiroshima

Just off the coast of Hiroshima is Okunoshima, more commonly called Rabbit Island. Although the island is small, it’s home to more than 1,000 rabbits. The place was relatively unknown to anyone other than locals until a few years ago, but now it’s one of the most popular places in Japan for animal lovers.

Where Did the Rabbits Come From?

Okunoshima has a fascinating (albeit dark) history. As far back as the Meiji period, the island was a military fortification. In World War II, it became a test site for the Imperial Japanese Army to create poison gas. It was a secret location and didn’t appear on any maps. At the end of the war, the government opened up the island to the public and established the Poison Gas Museum to be open about its history.

However, none of this explains the rabbits. Theories include that they were already inhabiting the island when it was used by the military or were brought in later to check that no poison gas remained. A more popular theory is that school children released a few rabbits to bring some joy to the island — and they bred like rabbits. Whatever the case, the rabbits have thrived on the island and enjoy meeting new human visitors (although they’re not tame, and you shouldn’t try to pick them up).

How to Reach the Island

Ten ferries leave from Tadanoumi Port to Okunoshima every day, and the journey only takes 12 minutes. You’re welcome to visit the island without paying any entry fees. If one day of rabbits isn’t enough for you, it’s even possible to stay overnight. There is one hotel on the island (with an onsen) and a campsite. Staying overnight is a great way to see more rabbits since they are especially active in the early morning and late evening.

How to Help the Rabbits

Visitors are invited to purchase rabbit food at the ferry terminal, but it’s important not to feed the rabbits human food as this could make them sick. In addition, if you notice that any water pans around the island are empty, you can help the rabbits by refilling them.

What Else to Do on Rabbit Island

As well as being home to rabbits and the Poison Gas Museum, Okunoshima is a great place to visit for its nature. There are numerous hiking trails, a cycle track (you can rent bikes from the hotel — just be careful with the rabbits!), and beautiful beaches where you can swim during the summer. While walking or biking around the island, you’ll come across old fortifications, factories, and a lighthouse. The highlight is the summit, where you have a panoramic view of the ocean and nearby islands.

Anyone who loves rabbits (or animals in general) shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to visit Rabbit Island. If you decide you’d like to stay overnight, make sure you book your stay in advance, especially if you’ll be visiting during the high season.

Jdlrobson, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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