Chances are you aren’t familiar with the name Okunoshima, but if someone mentions its nickname, you’re almost certain to know where they’re talking about. Yes, the place I’m talking about is Rabbit Island, so named for the hordes of rabbits that run wild and are the main attraction for this popular tourist destination.
Rabbit Island is located in the Inland Sea and is easily accessible from Hiroshima. It’s a good day trip for locals, but a hotel on the island now means it’s easy to stay a little longer if you don’t feel like rushing back to city life right away.
The rabbits make this place a fun family outing, but it wasn’t always this way. In fact, the whole island is shrouded in more than a little mystery due to its past.
Historical records show that the island was home to a poisonous gas factory owned and operated by the Japanese Imperial Army between 1929 and 1945. The factory produced five different types of gases that were used on the Chinese during this time. Legend has it that the rabbits were used as guinea pigs (well, rabbits actually) to test the effects of the gas. Many people dispute this though and so maybe we’ll never really know…
The factory has been made into a museum and although its contents are a little grim, it does make for interesting reading. At only 100 yen for admission, it’s a bargain! The museum is closed on Tuesdays but is open every other day between 9am and 5pm.
The mystery continues with abandoned ruins on the island that are akin to something from the James Bond movie, ‘Skyfall.’ If you’re interested in haikyo (廃墟) or the exploration of ruins, then this is definitely somewhere you won’t want to miss.
If you prefer a happier affair with the family, skip the museum and ruins and just hang out with the rabbits. There are plenty to see and they make for some adorable photos you can share on all your social media apps.
The fastest way to get to Rabbit Island is to take the Kodama Shinkansen from Hiroshima Station to Mihara and then change to a local train bound for Kure. Get off at Tadanoumi Station. This will cost you 1490 yen and takes just half an hour. The ferry stop is a five minute walk from the station. The various fares are available on the English version of the ferry page below.
http://sanyo-shosen.jp/omishima/time.html (Japanese only)
For an English version of the above page check out the Google Translate page below: