My girlfriend Shannon adores animals of all shapes and sizes, the fluffier the better. As such, we made it a mission to visit as many of Japan's animal attractions as possible. Japan is well known for having cat cafe's, but there are a range of different animal 'cafe's' and parks to visit, including rabbits, monkeys, deer and more.
This article is the first in a series about the various animal attractions we visited in Japan.
Okunishima - Rabbit Island
Okunoshima is a day trip from Hiroshima, a few trains and then a ferry to get to the island. You buy the food before you get on the ferry, and once you get there you're greeted with an entire island overrun with semi-tame rabbits.
You're greeted with hungry rabbits as soon as you step off the boat.
The island used to house a poison gas factory, back around the time of WW1 and 2, and wasn't listed on official maps due to it's military significance. The location was chosen because it was a quiet sheltered cove, easily defended but also far from large cities, in case of any accident on the island. After all, it was manufacturing poison gas, a chemical weapon intended to kill people through the air.
One of the abandoned poison gas buildings.
After their surrender in WW2, the poison gas factory was shut down, and these days one of the buildings has become a small 'poison gas museum'. One thing I found interesting was the slight omission of historical detail in a museum, somewhere supposed to be for learning and education. The poison gas they manufactured was used hundreds of times on the Chinese during the Sino-Japanese war1 but this fact isn't mentioned at all. I transcribed the plaque while I was there:
"Very little is known about how the poison gas was actually used in war. The significance of the tragedies on this island extends far beyond the people of this region. They should be remembered as some of the horrors of war."
The shutdown of the factory caused the already tiny human population on the island to leave for a number of years, and while they were gone the rabbits took over. Eventually they made it a widlife reserve for the rabbits and opened it up to tourists. It's a decent sized island with a few good lookout points and ruins, and I definitely recommend it if you can make the trip from Hiroshima.
Shannon having the most fun of her life.
How to get there
We went there by train and boat. From Hiroshima Station, take the shinkansen to Mihara, then a slower, normal train down to Tadanoumi. Tadanoumi station is a short and well-signposted walk from the ferry terminal, where you can buy a ticket each way for around 300 yen and bags of food for 100 yen each.
The view from the ferry as you arrive.
- There is a hotel on the island. We didn't know this beforehand or we might have booked it. Worth considering if you want to do less travelling and spend longer on the island.
- I mentioned it above but it bears repeating - food for rabbits cannot be bought on the island, you have to buy it before boarding the ferry. We bought 5 bags of food and we still felt like we could've spent longer on the island if we didn't run out, so stock up.
To be fair though, I did waste a whole bag getting rabbits to swarm Shannon...
"Paint me like one of your French Girls."
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_warfare#Imperial_Japanese_Army no I didn't look very hard. ↩