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The Rabbit Island, also known as Okunoshima, is a destination that has become very popular the last couple of years.

Okunoshima is a Japanese island with a dark and mysterious past, that’s today filled with cute bunnies hopping around.

Down below you can read more about the Rabbit Island and important & useful information before visiting:


The history of Rabbit Island in Japan

In 1925 the Japanese army initiated a secret program on the island to develop chemical weapons. It worked like a poison gas factory during the second world war and produced over six kilotons of mustard gas and tear gas.

The island was chosen for its isolation, conduciveness to security, and because it was far enough from Tokyo and other areas in case of disaster.

Rabbits were brought to the island to test the poison gas, and how they have stayed until today is still unknown.

There are different kinds of stories about if the rabbits on Rabbit Island are descendants to the test bunnies or not.

Some people say that the workers released the rabbits after the war, and some say that the Americans killed all the bunnies when they came to the island during the occupation.

Some say that a few bunnies were released on the island by some school kids back in 1971. With no predators to worry about, no cats or dogs, and hunting prohibited – there’s no wonder that they have become so many.

poison factory

Photo: shutterstock

What is this place all about?

People visit the Rabbit Island mainly because they want to see and interact with the rabbits, but also because of the beautiful nature and history.

You can walk or bike around the island, see old abandoned houses, and magical views from the top of the island.

Okunoshima island

Photo: shutterstock

biking on rabbit island

rabbit island bunnies

Photo: shutterstock

Okunoshima history

Why tourism is bad on Rabbit Island

The big number of tourists that visit Rabbit Island has brought a whole lot of problems for the rabbits. Down below you can read more about it:

A poisonous diet

The European rabbits that live on the island are herbivores, and known to naturally feed on roots, leaves, seeds, and wood. However, most people who visit this island bring carrots, lettuce, and cabbage to feed the them.

These are not things that rabbits eat naturally, and it’s actually poisonous in large amounts.

Cabbage is one of the most toxic vegetables that the tourists give to the rabbits, which is not good at all. The Rabbits have a sensitive digestive system and difficulty breaking down the vegetable.

They need high fiber food, which is not something most tourists give them.

Okunoshima

A child feeding the rabbits with cabbage

Rabbits need to eat every day

Rabbits are animals that need to eat every day. As it is today on the Rabbit Island, the rabbits  have a big meal one day and the other day they have to starve.

The rabbits rely on the food that the tourists feed them, which is now a problem when tourists are not visiting every single day.

tourist feeding rabbit

Tourist feeding rabbit on Okunoshima Island

They get sick from humans

A rabbit in a natural environment without tourists feeding them can live up to two years, even 10 years if they’re lucky.

At the Rabbit Island, the rabbits live up to 2 years. There are no predators on the island, so technically they should live much longer than two years.

The rabbits get injuries and get sick from contact with humans. They get both eye infections, respiratory infections, and gastrointestinal problems.

As a population they’re doing ok and the numbers are increasing, however, several of the bunnies are struggling and are not doing so well.

When we went there we saw several rabbits looking very sick. It was horrible to see the truth behind this “cute” Rabbit Island.

rabbit island

My Experience of the Rabbit Island

I think that Okunoshima is a lovely island with beautiful nature and interesting history, and it was cute with the bunnies hopping around. However, it made me so sad to see how they’re affected by the tourists.

To see sick bunnies with infections to tourists feeding the rabbits with non nutrient food – it was just all so sad to see.

Beyond that, the island is very beautiful with its nature and interesting places. I can recommend you to visit, but not to touch the rabbits or feed them with bad food.


How to get to Rabbit Island

From Hiroshima Station you have to catch the Kure Line to Tadanoumi Station. A short walk from the station you’ll find the ferry terminal where you can buy tickets to the ferry.

The ferry takes around 15 minutes from Tadanoumi to Okunoshima island.

ferry to Okunoshima

Map of Okunoshima

Down below you have a map of the Rabbit Island in Japan. It’s located in the Hiroshima Prefecture right outside the town of Tadanoumicho.


Do you have more questions about Rabbit Island? Leave a comment below!