Okunojima : The Rabbit Island
Everyone knows Japan can be an active, busy place. For those wanting to escape from their everyday lives, where do they go? Well, I have a pretty good idea: Okunojima.
Okunojima is a small island in Hiroshima prefecture. It is accessible by ferry at Tadanoumi (a stop off of JR Kure Line). From Tadanoumi station, the ferry port is only a five minute walk. The ferry doesn’t come too often, but the scenery of the ocean makes one forget the wait. When it does come, the size is surprising. The ferry doesn’t only transport people but cargo and cars as well. The ferry ride to the island is around ten to fifteen minutes. When the ferry arrives at the island, a bus awaits to take the guests to the one and only hotel. However, a bus is not really required. It’s a short ten minute walk from the port to the hotel. Actually, the island is so small that one can make a full circle by bicycle in about three hours. What really makes this tiny island special are the rabbits. Okunojima is home to thousands of wild rabbits!
So what can one do on an island full of rabbits? Plenty! The hotel offers separated onsens for men and women, tennis courts, bicycle rentals, fishing pole rentals, a swimming pool (if the season is right), a gift shop, comfortable rooms with Wi-Fi and TV, and last but not least breakfast and dinner buffets. Bicycle rentals cost about 300YEN for three hours. This is a great way to see the whole island, since following the road will lead you in a complete circle. Breakfast and dinner buffets are available for guests staying overnight. The buffets offer a wide variety of food from traditional Japanese dishes to western comfort food. About five minutes from the hotel is a nature reserve post. It’s a small building with activities for children, descriptions of the island and a view point overlooking the water.
The island itself has much to offer as well: beaches, walking trails, hiking trails and most interesting of all, the ruins. During World War II, the island was used solely for the purpose of gas and chemical warfare testing. After the war, the buildings have been left almost untouched. From old watch posts to gas factories, the ruins look almost enchanting nestled in the forests of the island.
Why so many rabbits? As mentioned above, the island was used for gas and chemical warfare development and testing. The gasses were tested on rabbits. After the war, the healthy rabbits were released. Over the next few years, people would bring rabbits of their own to the island as a contribution. The rabbits, although wild, welcome human interaction. Most rabbits will approach people hoping for food, and some will even eat directly out of people’s hands! The rabbits are scattered all throughout the island and will usually come hopping when they see an opportunity for food.
If Okunojima sounds enticing, I can offer a few recommendations. First, bring outside rabbit food. There will be thousands of rabbits hoping for food, and the hotel’s one cup-at-a-time option (which costs 100YEN per cup) is not sufficient. I recommend going to a supermarket or pet store beforehand and buying a big bag of rabbit food. Second, I would highly advise anyone to stay at least two nights on the island. One whole day is needed to make full use of all the accommodations. Lastly, since the hotel only offers breakfast and dinner buffet, hunger might strike around lunch. Bringing granola bars or taking a few things to go from the buffet might be a good idea. As a person who has been to Okunojima, I would recommend this place for everyone. The relaxing but exciting island will offer so much, that leaving and returning to everyday life will be difficult. Guaranteed.