As a westerner, reading about Japan, watching videos about Japan and heck, even actually visiting Japan, can induce a form of cultre shock. There are meany reasons for this, however more modernly these cultural surprises would likely relate to the Japanese having made reality of concepts that seem utterly absurd to others. Okunoshima is one of those things that may seem too unreal to be true.

Modern Japanese culture has a strong part of it dedicated to animals, and subsequently, cute and cuddly things, often represented in art and entertainment such as anime and manga. Many of us would have had a pet as a child, often in the form of a dog, cat, hamster, rabbit or some other cute mammal. Many of us would have thought how amazing it would be to have a whole island filled with these cute creatures – and that’s exactly what Okunoshima is.

Okunoshima is often referred to as “Rabbit Island” nowadays. Rightfully so, as the island is mainly inhabited by a very large number of freely roaming rabbits. These rabbits are, by definition, feral, but in reality rather tame and will often approach humans, especially if they sense food. There are businesses on the island that make their revenue by simply selling rabbit food for the visitors to use and, sometimes, quite literally get swamped by rabbits with.

Two tourists sit and feed hundreds of rabbits at Okunoshima Island

Of course, hundreds of rabbits don’t just simply spawn out of nowhere, and the reason the bunnies inhabit the island in the first place isn’t quite as cute or innocent as one might hope. The island served as a testing site for chemical weaponry and such in the early 1900s with rabbits being used a test subjects. Once the testing was banned and stopped, the rabbits remained and quickly multiplied, like, well, rabbits.

Aside from being a tourist attraction due to the rabbits present, the island has its own hotel, golf course, camp-site, clear water swimming spots and is home to the Poison Gas Museum in remembrance of the island’s horrid past and the damages inflicted by the weapons secretly developed on the island in the time prior to the 1925 Geneva Convention which banned the use of chemical warfare.


Image by theguardian.com