Last Friday my husband and I made the 40 minute or so trip from Hiroshima to a magical place called Okunoshima – better known as “rabbit island”. Yes, it is called rabbit island for the very reason you are thinking: hundreds of wild rabbits call the small island home. Keep reading to see some pictures of this amazing experience.
Getting to rabbit island is actually very simple, so folks should not be intimidated. From Hiroshima Station you take a super express train to the JR Mihara Station. Then you switch to a local train on the Kure line to Tadanoumi Station. The ferry dock to the island is maybe a 5-7 minute walk from the station. You can buy rabbit food at the ferry station as well as on the island. Honestly though, it is far more fun to bring a bag of fresh lettuce and carrots.
I would not believe it if I hadn’t seen it myself, but each rabbit has a unique personality. They truly are special little creatures. As the ferry pulled up to the dock on the island it was like “Where’s Waldo” – there’s a rabbit; oh! and there’s a rabbit; and more rabbits under that tree; and… you couldn’t help but smile at the sight. The rabbits know quite well what the sounds of rustling bags and shuffling human feet mean, and they are eager to let you know.
You can walk a loop around the island, as well as climb a 1200m summit to take in sweeping views of the sea and surrounding islands. The rabbits live in little burrows dug into the side of the hills. My husband was able to coax this little baby bunny out from the burrow with the promise of fresh lettuce. It was quite possibly the cutest thing ever.
The island’s history, however, is not so cute. Like so much of the area, there is a dark past that is important for us to remember so that we may never repeat it. During WWII the island was home to poison gas production facilities which produced large quantities of mustand and tear gases. The incredibly sad part is that the people who lived on the island, as well as the gas plant workers, were not readily told what was being done on the island. Many people had adverse side effects from accidental exposure to the gases. It is interesting history, and I encourage you to look into it. Some of the buildings from the production area still remain. In addition a small, but very moving, poison gas museum was opened in 1988. The exhibits clearly show the horrible impact that poison gases can have on both intended and unintended victims.
It was raining pretty decently while we were there. The rabbits would sit under their bushes and trees watching us battle the rain like we were the crazy ones. Without fail, however, they would leave their dry shelters one by one to eat lettuce from our hand. With little rabbit whiskers against your hands, you couldn’t help but forget about the rain and wind and cold.
Often the new friends would follow us down the path. It was a once in a lifetime experience to be guests on their island. We were actually amazed at how healthy and well taken care of the rabbits were. Literally every 7 feet or so was a shallow water dish, even up the hiking trails into the center of the island. Local farmers donate veggies for the rabbits. We were told of a local broccoli farmer who was going to donate the broccoli leaves – nothing humans eat, but apparently the bunnies enjoy quite a bit. As we walked around the island there was a service truck driving down the one road the island has. Ahead of the truck was a man on a bicycle waving a red flag. It was his job to wave rabbits out of the way and ensure there was no chance they would be hurt by the truck. The smile on his face was a mile wide. Can you blame him? He gets to ride around a beautiful island by the sea and shepherd rabbits all day!
Such a beautiful experience to have. If you are ever near Hiroshima, please go visit the rabbits. They will welcome you with wiskers, a hop, and hunger. There is also a hotel on the island, so you can even stay the night and spend extra time with the rabbits. Even if you only go for a day, it is worth the effort to get there. We left at 8:30AM and were back in Hiroshima by about 4:30PM, so very feasible to do in a day from Hiroshima.