Japan is home to a number of characters – cats and bunnies that is.
As we’ve reported before, in the Pacific Ocean off the Oshika Peninsula sits an island known as “Cat Heaven,” whose more official name is Tashirojima. Here, about 100 human residents share the island with a burgeoning feline population
Yet Tashirojima isn’t the only critter-filled island in Japan. About a two hours east of Hiroshima lies the island of Okunoshima which is best known for its fluffy, hoppin’ townies: feral bunnies. In fact the island has been nicknamed “Rabbit Island,” and is now a fairly popular tourist destination with a hotel, golf and tennis court, camping site, beaches and an observation deck overlooking the Seto Inland Sea, as Zooming Japan writes.
Just take a look as the adorable swarm of rabbits that follow one lucky tourist below!
However, Okunoshima didn’t used to be quite so bright or quite so cute in the past.
Prior to 1927, a few fishing families lived on Okunoshima, yet between 1927 to 1929, the Imperial Japanese Army sought out the small island for a secret chemical weapon development and testing program. It was during this time that a poison gas production plant was built on the island, the remnants of which can still be seen and visited today.
Despite being a signatory of the Geneva Protocol, which banned the use of chemical weapons, Japan was still legally allowed to harbor and produce these deadly instruments of war hence the secret program.
But how did so many rabbits come to live on the island? Well, the dominating theory is that rabbits were brought in as test subjects for the mustard gas and were later released onto the island, breeding quickly and growing a feral population. Another theory is that these test rabbits were euthanized by American forces who overtook the island during occupation in WWII and that the current generation of rabbits are dissidents from another group of introduced rabbits.
The world may never know for sure. What is certain though, is just how irresistibly adorable the island is. Today, you can visit and interact with the rabbits, who are now used to visitors. They respond best to food so you might want to bring some tasty treats along for them.
Interested in a visit? Take a look at what you’d experience through the photos of Bunny Island, Japan below!
Image source: ikumi C / Flickr