Have you see this popular youtube video? A stampede of rabbits hops after a woman who runs with a bag of food. When I saw it, I just about died. A place where hundreds of free-roaming, cute little bunnies smother you with their tiny paws an twitchy noses? My dream.
This bunny oasis exists on Ōkunoshima Island in Japan! Ōkunoshima Island, also called Rabbit/Bunny Island, or Usaji Jima in Japanese, is a small island about an hour and a half from Hiroshima in the city of Takehara. (See Getting There for directions.)
Before you get any bunny love, you have to buy food; bags of food are 100¥ (about 85¢) at the same port where the ferry departs from. This brown paper bag will make you bunny’s best friend; I bought several bags to prolong the fun. (Or bring your own cabbage and carrots!) Then prepare yourself for some bunny lovin’.
Bunny Island is heaven on Earth for bunny lovers like me. I mean it- I LOVE bunnies. I think they are the sweetest creatures ever. I could barely handle myself when I stepped off the ferry and the bunnies came a running. As I wielded my brown paper bag across the island, they followed like school children and formed furry bunny blankets around my feet when I dropped treats.
Ōkunoshima wasn’t always fur and games. Because of it’s isolation, this island was the perfect secret spot for producing poison gases for the Japanese Army during World War 2.
Although the Poison Gas Factory was destroyed in 1945, there are remnants of this history all over the island, including the poison gas storehouse and several lookouts. The small Poison Gas Museum on the island gives visitors a disturbing look at the effects of the mustard and tear gases produced on the island, with an emphasis on how factory workers suffered serious long-term health effects.
Some sources say the poison gas was tested on the bunnies, who were then released after the war while others say the bunnies were intentionally set loose by a group of students. Either way, the energetic bunnies drastically uplift and lighten the heavy mood lingering from the past.
The rabbits are the big drawn for the island. Free to roam as they please, they have no predators on the island- besides the overly anxious child. I was entertained watching adorable Japanese kids giggle and shriek as they threw cabbage to the bunnies. I even watched one little girl politely shoo away some big bunnies so she could feed a little one. Kids LOVE this place. Heck, so do I!
Bunny Island, part of Inland Sea National Park, now considers itself a ‘National Vacation Village’. As if hundreds of bunnies aren’t enough, the family friendly island has gorgeous walking and biking trails around the island rim along with hiking trails, camping sites, a golf course, an onsen, and a swimming pool. You can even stay at Kyukamura Hotel, the only hotel on the island, though I found a few hours on the island to be quite fulfilling.
The island has taken quite the turnaround…. from being an off-the-map poison gas manufacturing hub to a family vacation destination loaded with furry friends. During my visit in December, I was able to enjoy the stunning views from the island and historical remnants with very few other tourists, the majority being Japanese families. I bet it will become much more of a hopspot for foreign tourists over the next few years.
Watch these videos on youtube.
I followed this plan, which I found on a few websites. This timetable doesn’t give much wiggle room, so you need to be on your A Game, but it will get you there in the shortest amount of time.
•Hiroshima Station (9:07) – Mihara Station (9:35) by bullet train Kodama 732
•Mihara Station (9:42) – Tadanoumi station (10:03) by local train bound for Hiro (Kure line)
•From Tadanoumi Station take a 10 minute walk to– Tadanoumi Port
•Tadanoumi Port (10:30) – Okunoshima Port (10:42) by ferry
Return to Hiroshima:
•Okunoshima Port (16:13) – Tadanoumi Port (16:25) by ferry
•Tadanoumi Station (17:12) – Mihara Station (17:35) by local train (Kure line)
Mihara station (17:42) – Hiroshima station (18:05) by bullet train Kodama 747
The ferry and trains run regularly, so it’s easy to take the reverse route back without following the timetable if you want to leave the island earlier. I had a JR Pass, so I only paid 300¥ (about $2.50) for each ferry ride. Without a JR Pass, the one way trip listed above would be 3,840¥ (about $33). There are less expensive options here.