Okunoshima Island: This 1940s Chemical Weapons Island is Now a Sanctuary for Adorable Bunnies

Tourists flock to the Japanese island of Ōkunoshima for one reason alone: to be smothered by the overwhelming cuteness of the numerous wild but friendly rabbits roaming the area.  

Known as the “Rabbit Island” (Usagi Shima, うさぎ島), the popular tourist destination located in the East Sea/Inland Sea of Japan is home to adorable feral bunnies.

To protect the cuddly inhabitants, predators such as dogs and cats are strictly prohibited on the island, according to Apike.ca (via National Park Resort Okunoshima). Hunting the bunnies is also forbidden by the government.

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The generally positive vibe of the island is a complete contrast of what it once was: the site for Japan’s chemical weapons production during the World War II.

Ruins of the gas factory, where the Japanese army secretly produced 6,000 tons of poison gas, can still be found all over the island. From 1929 to 1945, rabbits were reportedly used to test the developed poison.

Some believe the current population of rabbits inhabiting the island were descendants of the test subjects that were freed at the end of the war.

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However, officials claim that the present bunnies are not related with those that were involved with chemical weapon tests as all leftover test subjects were already killed when the factories were demolished.

One accepted theory of the origins of the beloved island inhabitants is that eight rabbits raised at an elementary school were released by students in 1971 on the island. As they were completely protected from predators, their numbers continued to multiply ever since.

A totally transformed tourist haven, the site now features campsites, a hotel, a six-hole golf course and a surrounding beach with clear waters.

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Coming from the mainland, the best way to reach the one-of-a-kind island is to take the Sanyō Shinkansen train to Mihara Station. From Mihara, catch the Kure Line local train to Tadanoumi and then from there walk to the terminal and catch a ferry. By taking a ferry from Tadanoumi and Ōmishima, the small island can be found in Takehara City, in the prefecture of Hiroshima.

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