So, a couple of posts ago I wrote about Kyoto’s Arashiyama bamboo grove being bucket list worthy – which it definitely is. However, during my time in Japan, the number one thing on my list of ‘musts’ was a visit to Okunoshima, an island near Hiroshima. Okunoshima may not be a name you immediately recognise, but you possibly will have heard of ‘Bunny Island’ which has gotten its name for exactly the reason you will be thinking.
Though Okunoshima is marketed as an island full to the brim of fluffy bunnies – which it is and yes, it is just as cute as you can imagine – the island itself has a much more sinister history.
In the 1920s, Japan signed the Geneva Protocol of 1925 – which banned the use of chemical and biological weapons. However, this agreement failed to ban the development, storage or transfer of such weapons, a whopping great loophole which Japan took advantage of.
In the late 1920s, Okunoshima underwent construction to make it suitable for the development of chemical weapons. The island was erased from all maps, ferry routes were changed and window blinds needed to be closed on certain train routes. During this period of development, all natural predators (cats, foxes, rats etc) were eradicated.
Between 1929 and 1944 Okunoshima was kept top secret, as it became the location where horrifically toxic gases such as lewisite, phosgene, yperite (mustard gas) and numerous other poisonous gases were produced and stored. During this time, these gases were tested on rabbits before being put to use by the Japanese military. Historical research also reports that on at least two occasions, the mustard gas produced on Okunoshima was tested on Chinese prisoners in the now infamous Unit 731.
Fast forward to the present day and the island is now home to hundreds and hundreds of fluffy bunnies. Reports of how the bunnies came to make Okunoshima their home vary. Some believe that when the weapons development and production ceased in the 1940s, factory workers released remaining laboratory bunnies onto the island. Others believe that a class of Japanese school children released some domestic rabbits onto the island in the 1970s. Either way, as a result of all natural predators being eradicated from the island in the 1920s, these bunnies have been able to live and breed safely for at least several decades, resulting in the spectacular number of fluffy buns who now call the island home.
Getting to Okunoshima is fairly easy if you are based in Hiroshima.
First, get yourself to Hiroshima Station.
Then jump aboard the Tokaido-Sanyo shinkansen (included with JR Pass) bound for Tokyo. Ride for 27 minutes and then disembark at Mihara Station. At Mihara, change to the local Kure line (included with JR Pass) towards Hiroshima. Ride for around 23 minutes and then jump off at Tadano-Umi (also written as Tadanoumi) Station.
Immediately upon exiting Tadanoumi station, take a right and proceed on foot for about 150 metres, then take the first possible right turn. The road curves around, follow it over the railway lines (as seen in the picture above) and about 10 metres further on is the ferry port.
At the ferry port, purchase tickets to Okunoshima which will set you back 310¥ ($4) each way. At the port you can also buy bunny food for around 500¥ ($6) and if you want to have bunnies crawling all over you, purchasing a bag is not a bad idea at all.
You can find information regarding the ferry timetable by clicking here.
Within seconds of getting off the ferry, bunnies will come into view!
When I say that I almost cried with happiness, it is not an exaggeration. I fricking LOVE bunnies.
The only pets I have ever had have been bunnies, and ever since I cuddled my first baby bun when I was around 3 or 4 years old (ever so creatively named Blackie), my heart has belonged to the buns.
Visiting bunny island was the absolute highlight of my time in Japan. For me, it was absolutely, without a doubt, a dream come true.
The buns are incredibly tame, and have absolutely no qualms about coming up to check you out. They will happily climb all over you and seem completely at ease while doing so. However, they are not huge fans of people picking them up and most will run away (sadly) if you do attempt to scoop them up for a quick bunny snuggle.
If you absolutely must have a proper bunny snuggle, the little babies are the most chilled out about being handled. Check out this adorable little baby bun!
Buying food at the ferry port is a great idea if you want to give the buns extra incentive to come and hang out with you. They have certainly learned that people equal food, but if no such food is shown to them they will lose interest fairly quickly – something which I can relate to on an almost spiritual level!
While the ferry port pellets did well, if you have extra time to prepare, bringing a bag of fresh veggies will get you even more attention from the many inhabitants of Okunoshima. I spotted a lady with a bag full of goodies such as spinach, carrot and cabbage – and so did the buns – they were far more interested in her offering than ours!
But even though these little balls of fluff preferred the fresh food, they certainly weren’t going to turn down our pellets when offered them!
This bunny in particular was a very feisty character! He/she was clever enough to wait until I left my handbag unattended for a split second and then proceeded to climb up on it to go foraging for pellets! The first time bunny tried this, he/she actually succeeded and managed to tear open the paper bag and cause pellets to spill everywhere! Cheeky little bugger. By the time bunny tried this again though, I was prepared and had tucked them well away out of reach. However, did not stop bunny from trying and you gotta admire such perseverance.
Look at these two little babies sharing a carrot! They look like twin siblings – so bloody adorable!
This little bun was truly tiny, it probably could have fit in one of my hands.
Eventually, it was time to board the ferry back to the mainland and head onwards to Miyajima to explore another noteworthy Japanese island. I was sad to leave my buns behind, but I know I will definitely be back to visit them again one day.
T H E L O W D O W N
Getting to Hiroshima: Though Hiroshima airport is the closest airport to Hiroshima city, it is not a major international hub and it may make more sense to land into Tokyo or Shin-Osaka before making your way there via train
Getting to Tadanoumi Station: From Hiroshima Station, catch the Tokaido-Sanyo shinkansen bound for Tokyo, get off at Mihara Station and change to the local Kure line bound for Hiroshima
Okunoshima: Entrance to the island itself is free, but the ferry will set you back 620¥ ($8) for a return trip
Threads: Both my white top and maxi skirt are by Tigerlily Swimwear
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1 with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 lens
Remember: Bring food for the gorgeous buns and try to get there as early as possible
Don’t forget to add me on Snapchat and Instagram – @wwellend – for more foolishness and travel adventures!
If you enjoyed reading this post, please share it via Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest! <3
Lastly, I am currently working on a ‘Get To Know Me/FAQ’ post, so if you have any questions about myself, travelling, midwifery, blogging or anything at all, let me know in the comments and I will do my best to answer them!
73 thoughts on “Only in Japan: Bunny Island”
So sweet!!! ❤️❤️❤️
Aren’t they bloody adorable?
Yes indeed! I’d love to have bunnies ‘attack’ me!! ❤️
The best kind of animal attack imho
Wishing you a great Christmas Ellen!! ❤️
You too, and a Happy New Year!
I want to visit!
Add it to the bucket list!
Yes! You should add it!
SO cute! Amazing photography as well I really want to go now!
Do it! Are you headed to Japan any time soon?
No – I’ve never been out of Europe and we’re going back to Greece in the Summer I think… but Japan is definitely on my list of places I need to go
I saved this to my Pinterest! This looks like so much fun I can’t wait to go 😍😍😍
Have you heard of the island in the Bahamas where it’s filled with pigs??
I have! It looks bloody amazing! I have no idea when I will get around to visiting the Bahamas, but hopefully it isn’t too far away!
Your accounts and the way of presentation is excellent, everything is so perfectly detailed, probably that is why the bunnies are happy with you to provide you with a story and a great time. That being said your detailing, your accounts follow the principle of renowned physicist Stephen Hawkins, present iin detailed but keep it simple.
P.S: You should become a photo journalist
WOW! This is one of my favourite comments of all time! I am actually thinking of doing some study in photography and graphic design… so you never know!
The first answers or thoughts that normally come to us, give us the best results. Go ahead and photography is all about practice and observations.
Animals know who loves them, so it’s no surprise to see them clambering all over you-food or no food. I will definitely be heading to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, sometime in the next three years, as my son will be based in Busan for that period. Okunoshima would definitely be on that itinerary.
Awesome! You certainly will not regret making the trip. I bet the bunnies will love you too!
I’m not gonna lie – I’m dying of jealousy reading this! The photos are gorgeous too by the way.
Thank you so much! Any plans to visit Japan in the near future? The buns are waiting for you!
I certainly hope to when I can afford it! Time will only tell but fingers crossed!
Have you got any other adventures coming up?
Should hopefully be off to London this Christmas, but other than that nothing concrete :).
That should be lovely!
Oh my god. So cute! You are right – only in Japan 🙂
It is such a special country!
Cute. There is a place on the Oregon coast that has a similar population. –Curt
I will definitely keep that in mind!
They are so cute!!!
Aren’t they just?! I wanted to take them all home with me!
Wow! I have never heard of this place! It’s so awesome that some things are the norm in some cultures and just complete craziness for another. Lol in this case it’s cute craziness :))
Totally agree! The best kind of craziness imho!
i wonder if this could be a haven for the displaced bunnies from the university and hospital on the island I live on.
That is quite the thought! I bet it could be!
It looked like you were enjoying yourself immensely. The smile on your face showed it. Bet it was hard for you to leave them. It seems like a fun place to visit.
It really was, they are all so endearing. I would have liked to move in haha
Oh my gosh! So adorable!
Such cuteness! 😍
Sooo cute! I was have little cute rabbit but they died, But there’re my fave pet 🙂
Sorry to hear that 🙁 <3
Omg!!! That is so adorable <3 <3
awww that’s so cute !!
I was there two years ago and it was also the highlight of my trip to Japan! Would love to go back.
I was there two years ago and it was also the highlight of my Japan trip! Would love to go back.
Me too, a return trip would definitely be on the cards!
What adorable pictures. I was in Japan this summer and sadly missed this one out. It was one of my best holidays though.
Just means you will have to return one day 😉
This is so cute! But they can bite, don’t they?
They can, but as long as you don’t threaten them or mishandle them they are unlikely to!
They look so cute. I’ve heard of dog islands and cat islands, but this is the first bunny island that I’ve heard of. I found the history of the island very interesting–particularly that it was wiped from most maps until relatively recently.
Me too! I had no idea about the history until I visited – I was just there for the bunnies and then I found out so much more!
Omg 😱 can’t believe I never heard about this , been in Hiroshima this summer , would have loved to go to bunny island😩
Just gives you extra incentive to return one day!
I’ll have to check this out the next time we make it to Japan! The cat island is also at the top of our list!
There are just so many amazing places to explore in Japan!
Ah so adorable. Looks like such a chilled out way to spend an afternoon!
This is so awesome! I will visit when I am in Japan! You have such an amazing life! It is so inspiring!
Awesome! When are you headed to Japan? Thank you so much, I am certainly a very lucky lady.
Not for a bit, perhaps a year, maybe two. I have a lot of traveling and work first.
This post is so darn cute! I laughed at you only be interested when food is involved. I laughed because I understand.
Hahaha everybody loves their food!
I don’t know about everyone, but I certainly do.
Wonderful read and photos!
Are you currently on a trip right now? Also, where is your favourite place you have travelling too?
I am actually at home at the present minute. I have a big trip coming up which is requiring a fair bit of preparation (visas, flights etc) and a bit of down time to save a few extra dollars!
My favourite places are Greenland and South Africa!
Oh my goodness, this is the most precious collection of travel photos!
Thank you so much! It was hard to take a bad picture on this amazing island!
I’m not sure you’ll see this in time Ellen, but I’m going to Hiroshima tomorrow and just wanted to know if there was somewhere to buy groceries near the island or should I bring them from Hiroshima? Also is it a popular location hence the get there early? Thanks:)
This is too precious! Love it.