Exploring the Japan Rabbit Island
With owl cafes, a fox village and islands dedicated to cats, deer, monkeys and pigs, Japan is truly an animal lover’s dream destination. But no trip to Japan is complete without a visit to Okunoshima, the country’s very own bunny island. Each year, more than 100,000 people flock to this island located just a short ferry ride away from Tadanoumi. But what makes this island so special and what is there to do while you’re there?
The History of Okunoshima
Okunoshima, nicknamed Usagishima (usagi– rabbit, shima– island) after the loveable bunnies which inhabit the island was not always the popular tourist attraction it is now. Chosen for its discreet location and distance from civilization, this island once housed factories which produced mustard gas during the Second World War.
Today, all that remains of Okunoshima’s dark past is a poison gas museum and crumbling factory ruins. Thought to be symbolic of the importance of peace, the island’s poison gas museum is well worth a visit, reminding guests that the Japanese were both victims and aggressors in the war.
Where Did the Rabbits Come From?
The main attraction of Okunoshima is without a doubt the 700 wild rabbits who hop about the island wanting to be petted and fed by visitors. But where did they come from? There are two main theories:
- Rabbits were brought to the island as test subjects for the mustard gas produced in the local factories. Some people believe that the rabbits now on the island are descendants of the World War II test bunnies.
- School children brought 8 rabbits to the island in 1971 and let them loose.
As dogs, cats and other pets are prohibited on the island, the rabbit population continues to grow without the threat of predators.
Click here to watch a video of the rabbits on the island.
How to Get There and Where to Stay
The rabbit island in Japan is only accessible by ferry. A typical journey from Tadanoumi port to Okunoshima port takes 10-15 minutes and costs roughly 310 JPY (around £2.21).
While visiting bunny island, many people choose to camp, but, if camping’s not your thing, the island also hosts a hotel: Kyukamura Ohkunoshima National Park Resort. This hotel boasts 65 rooms and has several facilities including a restaurant, souvenir shop, tennis court and a pool.
Japanese Animal-Loving Culture
Animals are an intrinsic part of Japanese culture, so much so, that pets now outnumber children in Japan (21.3 million: 16.5 million). Animals are so popular in Japan that, if you’re unlucky enough not to own a pet, you can hire a furry companion for an hour anywhere up to a week. And if that wasn’t enough, you can sip your tea next to birds, cats, dogs and birds in one of the country’s animal cafés, complete a day’s work alongside them in a cat-filled office and even hire an alpaca to attend your wedding.
If you or someone you know loves animals, you won’t be disappointed by our vast collection of animal-related goodies. From miniature crystal owls and adorably cute year of the animal kokeshi dolls to lucky cat wind chimes and soft toys, we have animal-themed gifts for every occasion!