After being in Japan for nearly two years, I had already heard of millions (or, more accurately, tens) of amazingly adorable places I needed to explore. At the very top of this list was the one, the only – Rabbit Island.
Rabbit Island – real name Okunoshima – is an island in the Seto inland sea, in Japan. During the war, the island was home to a secret poison gas factory, which was abandoned after the war was over. Then, for some unknown reason, the island was taken over by hundreds of bunnies! Nobody actually knows why, but honestly, I really don’t care!
Reaching the island is a bit of a trek, but is still fairly straight-forward. From Hiroshima JR Station, you need to take two trains, changing at either Hiro or Mihara stations. It takes around 2 hours, or if you jump on a bullet train for the first half, it’s a bit quicker – although, there really isn’t a big difference, and its a lot more expensive. If you have a JR pass, you can use it on the slower route, and save even more money. Once you reach Tadanoumi station, its a ten minute walk to the ferry terminal where boats leave roughly every half hour, and take 10 mins to reach the island.
Now we’ve got the logistics out of the way, time for the bunnies (which is why we’re all here anyway)! As soon as you step off the boat, you will find yourself surrounded by little rabbits all running up to you hoping you’ve got something tasty for them to eat. Obviously, this is quite a busy area, and while it’s great to see them right away, I didn’t stay for too long, as it was a little crowded. But, never fear – the island really does have an abundance of these adorable little creatures, so you won’t be alone for long!
Poison Gas Factory
If you turn right from the ferry, you’ll soon find yourself within the ruins of the poison gas factory that once stood secretively tucked away on this island. The building cuts an impressive figure, surrounded by lush greenery on all sides, and with rabbits poking around every corner. There are barriers all around it with no entry signs, but some people manage to slip through the net and poke around inside…although, of course, I would never do such a thing.
After exploring the ruins (which included hiding behind one of the walls as some other tourists appeared), it was time to explore the rest of the island. I had set aside a good few hours to wander around, so I didn’t feel too pressured for time. I had no map, and no plan, and no sun cream on – only one of them was a mistake – so I set off along the only road to see where it would take me.
After a bit of walking I came across a little beach, with steps down to it, and soft pale sand paired with clear blue waters. I stopped for a few photographs and a breather – it was quite hot (I ended up VERY sun burnt by the end of the day…oops). Even though this is an island, I really wasn’t expecting such a gorgeous stretch of sand here – so it was a lovely little surprise!
Exploring Rabbit Island
Once I’d caught my breath, I set off again, on a trail that led up through the trees to the top of the island. The walk was pretty easy, but I was rather sticky by the time I reached the top. There was a clearing up there, with some tables and benches to rest on, and the most stunning view I’ve seen in Japan so far.
I spent a good chunk of time up here, and was joined about 5 minutes in by yet another cute little bunny. We spent some quality time together up there together enjoying a snack (carrots for the rabbit, chocolate for me), taking pictures, and enjoying the view that was spread out in front of me. The peace was ruined slightly on my way back, as I nearly broke my neck trying to escape from some kind of giant wasp. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.
Heading back down through the trees, I appeared right outside the island’s only hotel. This was probably one of the best spots for interacting with the rabbits. I had a few carrots left, and a bag of rabbit food, so I set to work feeding the little critters. I poured the rabbit food into a little plastic cup as this made it easier to feed the rabbits (and made for better pictures).
There are signs everywhere telling you not to feed them out of your hand, and pouring the food on the floor doesn’t really work so well. My cup method was going really well, until one greedy little rabbit decided to grab the cup and run off with it, spilling the food all over the floor. The floppy-eared thief then looked super confused when he stopped to eat and found that no food was left in it. It did mean a whole hoard of rabbits flocked around me where the food had landed though, so I got some awesome pictures.
Leaving the criminal critters behind, I set off to find the museum. Turns out its just a one room museum, mostly in Japanese, but it was still interesting to find out more about the islands history. The guy at the ticket counter grabbed an English guide and passed it to me as I walked by, nodding a smile at me as he did. Seeing the conditions these people had to work in was shocking. The suits they wore to protect themselves from the gas were laughable, and it’s no surprise how many of them were affected by the chemicals they were working with.
For most of the day, I was completely alone. The majority of people who come here, are only here for the rabbits – and while they are amazing, the island itself deserves a lot of your time and attention too. Looking back, I wish I had booked into the hotel for a night so I could spend more time there, as I only managed about half the island before my legs finally gave in and demanded a rest (and a snack). I was absolutely exhausted by the time I jumped on the ferry to restart my mega journey back to my hostel, but it was well worth it. I can safely say, this was one of my best days in Japan over the last two years, a top-notch day of exploring, adventuring, and cute fluffy bunnies!
Buy your rabbit food at the Family Mart next to the train station. They have carrots, lettuce and bags of rabbit food here for good prices, and already sorted into handy packs. The rabbits will eat the rabbit food, no problem, but they definitely prefer the veggies!
Give yourself plenty of time to explore the island fully, and consider staying overnight if you have the time – there’s lots to explore!
Make sure your camera is fully charged! Mine nearly ran out of battery by the end of the day, there was so much to take pictures of. Also, if you’re going alone, be sure to perfect your selfie stick technique before you go – mine was not great (cue multiple pictures of half a rabbit and half of my face- not ideal)!
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