We know Japan has cat islands — too many actually, scattered around the country. There is the famous one called Aoshima in Ehime prefecture. Further up north, there is Tashirojima in Miyagi prefecture. Then, there is Okishima situated at Lake Biwa in Shiga prefecture, where people feared for the lives of the island’s cats when Typhoon Hagibis struck recently. In case you’re wondering, the island was far from the typhoon’s path, so the kitties are fine.
Apparently, other than these cat islands, Japan also has an island of rabbits called Okunoshima! This small island is located in the Inland Sea of Japan near the city of Takehara, in Hiroshima prefecture.
Look at these pictures. Have you ever seen so many fluffy, adorable wild rabbits in one place?!
The island, often called Usagi Jima or "Rabbit Island", is famous for its rabbit population that has taken over the island and become a tourist attraction, with many people coming to feed the animals. Other tourist facilities on Okunoshima include a resort, six-hole golf course and camping grounds.
During World War II the island was used as a poison gas facility. From 1929 to 1945, the Japanese Army produced five types of poison gas on Okunoshima island. The island was so secret that local residents were told to keep away and it was removed from area maps. Ruins of the old forts and chemical factories can still be found all across the island.
Today, Okunoshima is a haven for these cute little furballs. Hunting the rabbits is forbidden and no cats and dogs are allowed on the island as well, which is probably why they managed to multiply their numbers over the years. According to a video by Science Channel, the island started with a population of just five bunnies in the 1960s!
As for the island’s rules, visitors are advised not to chase after or carry the wild rabbits. For the safety of both people and rabbits, do not interact with them on the roads, by the roadside or in front of buildings. If you don’t want to be bitten, do not feed them directly as well! Last but not least, feed the rabbits with only food suitable for rabbits.
Okunoshima can be accessed by ferry from Tadanoumi port, which costs 310 yen (around S$3.90) and 160yen (around S$2) one-way for adult and child respectively. The ferries make regular trips to and fro almost every hour, and each trip is around 15 minutes. For the detailed timetable, you can check out this website (Japanese only).
Note that Okunoshima does not have rabbit food for sale. You can, however, get them at convenience stores or supermarkets near the port on the mainland before taking the ferry to Okunoshima.
So the next time you visit Hiroshima, apart from visiting the famous Itsukushima Shrine whose torii gate “floats” in the sea, you can also make a detour to the east to the rabbit island Okunoshima! (Don’t say we bo jio, cat island Aoshima is also in the vicinity towards the south.)