Travel

Search
Region
Chugoku
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Hiroshima
Population
2,878,949

Okunoshima

Lie down with a couple of carrots and rediscover, for a fleeting moment, the pure joy of a child holding their first pet.

The instant you set foot on Okunoshima, it immediately becomes apparent why the tiny and tranquil island is also known as the “rabbit island”. Nearly abandoned by humans, the island is home instead to an enormous colony of wild bunnies.

Though they roam free, these cottontails aren’t afraid of cuddling up to human company if food is involved. Their excessive friendliness reels in boatloads of visitors to hand-feed them treats, stroke their twitchy noses, and snap photos while covered in rabbit blankets. Relics of the island’s dark history remain standing, but the adorable locals have turned it into their own fluffy sanctuary.

Okunoshima chemical warfare museum

It’s tough to see but make sure to visit the Poison Gas Museum while you’re there.

With a circumference of around four kilometers, the island is easy to explore leisurely on foot within a few hours. From an original eight rabbits released on the island in 1971, the descendants have multiplied to number in the hundreds. Though they can be found everywhere, the most social of them tend to congregate around the hotel, where the most people and therefore the most food can be sniffed out. There’s not much technique involved to getting the attention of these fickle customers; if you have food out, they’ll mob you for it.

The lucky chosen ones will drown tragically under a soft and fluffy sea of bunny snuggles.

Now the picture of innocent family-friendly fun, this safari slash petting zoo has bleak origins. During World War II, Okunoshima was chosen as a research and production site for poison gas, despite its use being prohibited under the Geneva Protocol. The island was removed from maps, and locals forced to keep hush hush about the circumstances.

The ruins of the power plant and gas storehouse are easy to come across, and their large, hulking figures cast a solemn shadow as you pass by. The Poison Gas Museum close to the visitor’s center presents more information on the horrors of chemical warfare.

There is only one hotel on the island, with an attached restaurant. Hiking trails cut through the island’s hilly centre, offering short but adventurous treks through jungle-like terrain, with excellent views of the ever lovely Seto Inland Sea.

Things To Know

Feeding the rabbits

Rabbit food can be purchased at the port for ¥100 a bag. Visitors are also welcome to bring their own rabbit-appropriate feed, so pick up some lettuce, cabbage, or carrots before you leave home, as there are no grocery stores near the ports.

ATMs

There are no ATMs or convenience stores on the island so make sure to bring enough cash with you to the island.

How To Get There

By boat

Okunoshima can be accessed by ferry from the nearest mainland port, Tadanoumi. To reach Tadanoumi from nearby cities like Hiroshima and Osaka, the fastest route is to take the Shinkanesen to Mihara Station, then transfer to the local line to Tadanoumi Station. Tadanoumi port is a short walk away. From there, boats leave for Okunoshima starting at 8:30, and roughly once per hour after that until 19:10. The ride takes 15 minutes, and costs 310 yen one way.

Where To Stay

Sawaki
  • Oomishima-cho Miyaura 5460 Imabari-Shi, Ehime 794-1304
  • 9.2/10
  • 7.1 km
Powered by Booking.com
Guest House & Cafe Ohana
  • Omishimacho Miyaura 5341 Imabari-Shi, Ehime 794-1304
  • 7/10
  • 7.1 km
Powered by Booking.com
Green Sky Hotel Takehara
  • Chuo 4-2-18 Takehara-Shi, Hiroshima 725-0026
  • 8.3 km
Powered by Booking.com
Suminoe Ryokan
  • Setoda-cho Setoda 264-3 Onomichi-Shi, Hiroshima 722-2411
  • 9.1/10
  • 8.5 km
Powered by Booking.com

This Month’s Top Spots

Amanohashidate or Bridge to Heaven in Kyoto Prefecture

Kyoto

Break the tourist mould and head outside of the city to uncover the rest of what Kyoto has to offer.

Monkeys bathing in the onsen in Nagano

Nagano

World-class winter sports, hot springs (occasionally monkey-filled), delicious local food and a foreigner-friendly vibe.