A Bunny Lover's Paradise: Exploring Okunoshima, Japan's Rabbit Island

Posted by Stacey Venzel
okunoshima rabbit island

Off the coast of Japan, Okunoshima is a rabbit lover's dream.

The island of Okunoshima, Japan didn't used to be a tourist attraction. Now people flock to the locale to visit thousands of friendly feral rabbits that call Okunoshima home.

The colony of hop-alongs is part of the island's dark history. During the Russo-Japanese War, protective forts were erected on the island. Two decades later, the Imperial Japanese Army's Institute of Science and Technology took over the island for chemical warfare.

Okunoshima became a secret poison gas factory. Its location was a safe-enough distance from heavily populated cities like Tokyo to avoid contamination and ensure security.

Dozens of rabbits were test subjects for the chemical plant, but those rabbits are said to have been killed when the factory was destroyed. Historical documents confirm this.

Now, as part of the Inland Sea National Park, the island has hiking trails and a historical museum... as well as a feral rabbit colony.

But if the rabbits aren't from the war project, how did they get there?

Look as the tiny one in my lap AHHH #okunoshima #rabbitisland #rabbit

A post shared by @kookybat on

Many still believe the rabbits that roam the island are generational offspring from lagomorph escapees when the gas factory was finally closed. Other rumors suggest that a few rabbits were set loose by eight young kids in 1971.

No one seems to know for sure where they came from, but the fecund breeding habits of lagomorphs prove that two rabbits are capable of creating an isolated population this large.

As herbivorous creatures, the rabbits would have quite the competition for vegetation on such a small island, but they've survived over the decades due to food brought by an influx of tourists. This frequent interaction with humans has turned the wild rabbits into friendly, domesticated animals.

If any country should have an island of rabbits, it's Japan. Known for its "cute culture," the country boasts hundreds of pet cafes, including the first-ever hedgehog cafe.

Okunoshima is best reached by taking a ferry from Tadanoumi after a series of train rides through the mainland.

Have you been to Rabbit Island? Would you want to visit? Tell us in the comments below!

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A Bunny Lover's Paradise: Exploring Okunoshima, Japan's Rabbit Island