Visiting Ōkunoshima aka Rabbit island in Japan
Rabbit Island in Japan sounds as though it’s a place that has been made up. An island populated by bunnies? Somewhere you can stroke and hand feed cute little rabbits to your heart’s content? Even by Japan’s Kawaii (cuteness) standards, this is next level.
But believe me when I tell you that Rabbit Island is real!
Of course, as soon as I heard about it, I knew we had to visit during our honeymoon in Japan. Mr A wasn’t as convinced, but hey, he knew what he was getting himself into when he married me!
Getting to Rabbit Island
Ōkunoshima, more commonly known as Rabbit island, is about two hours from Hiroshima. It’s easy to reach by getting a train to Tadano-Umi and a 15 minute ferry ride over to the island.
Something I found fascinating in Japan is that places that are obviously huge tourist attractions don’t charge massively inflated prices like they do in other countries. The cost of the ferry to the island, for example, was only £2 ($2.80).
The ferries usually leave every hour between 7am and 7pm, but check daily timetables before planning your journey.
As soon as we got off the ferry we immediately saw lots of cute rabbits popping up everywhere. It was as though we were entering some kind of live Disney film.
This is the point where you will start to take about a million photos, forgetting that you have the whole of the island to explore!
The history of Rabbit Island
Despite the fact that it may now be in the running for the cutest place on earth, Rabbit Island actually has a dark past. From 1925 it was used as a secret place to develop chemical weapons. Many of the Imperial Army’s former buildings are still standing today and there’s a strange juxtaposition of the cute bunnies and its ghastly past.
For those interested in the island’s history, there is a Poison Gas Museum, which has a strong anti-war message. It costs less than £1 ($1.30) to enter and takes about 30 minutes to get round. Obviously Mr A was straight in there, while I opted to stay outside and top up on bunny cuddles.
There have long been rumours about just how the first bunnies arrived on Rabbit Island in Japan. One is that their original descendants were actually escaped test subjects. Another explanation is that some pet rabbits were released by visiting schoolchildren. Wherever they initially originated from, the rabbits did what rabbits do and there are now believed to be more than a thousand on the island.
It’s important to remember that the rabbits are wild animals. While they are obviously used to humans and are not scared around them, it is forbidden to pick them up and you should respect their space.
Exploring the island
Rabbit Island itself is very beautiful and easy to navigate. It takes about two hours to walk around. Although obviously that can take much longer when you’re stopping to look at bunnies on the way! There is a path up to a main viewpoint, which is the perfect spot to eat lunch, looking out over the surrounding islands. We had a lovely moment there, when a little girl ran over with some food from her family’s picnic for us.
You’ll also likely be joined by a furry friend or two, but remember not to feed them human food. You can buy rabbit food at the port before taking the ferry to the island. Lots of people take fresh vegetables over too. We were laughing on the way over, as the small bags of food we’d purchased paled into insignificance when compared to the shopping trolleys of vegetables some Japanese people were taking!
It’s possible to buy meals at the island’s hotel, but there are no other shops. So I’d recommend taking lunch and snacks.
Staying on Rabbit Island in Japan
Although it’s easy to do Rabbit Island as a day trip from Hiroshima, some people choose to stay the night so that they can experience it in the evening and early morning before other tourists arrive.
There is one hotel on Rabbit Island, Kyukamura Ōkunoshima, which costs from £75 ($104) per night. There is also the option to camp, either with your own gear or by renting a tent.
We actually didn’t find the island to be as busy as we were expecting and once you leave the port it’s easy to lose the crowds. So I wouldn’t say an overnight stay is necessary, unless you’re an extreme bunny enthusiast.
For us, it really was one of the highlights of our trip. The views were beautiful, Mr A got his history fix and the day had an element of the silly, fun, side of Japan that we both love.
Wow, I’ve heard about the Rabbit Island but didn’t know it was a place where they used to develop chemical weapons. Hope we can visit the place once this coronavirus situation is over =)
Yes, I didn’t realise until I visited either. It’s a really strange juxtaposition with the cute rabbits. Hope you get to visit one day!