Leap into the new year with a trip to Rabbit Island that’s overflowing with adorable rabbits ready to swaddle tourists with the softest of cuddles. Read on for a glimpse into the island where both cute and eerie come together for the best experience!
2023 is the Year of the Rabbit, and it’s only fair to do something befitting the occasion. In the many travel plans we’ve got for this year, one thing not to miss is the ‘Rabbit Island’ or Okunoshima in Japan. On a small island seated around Eastern Hiroshima, multitudes of bunnies hop around on grassy lands. Let them envelop you from all directions and drown you in a sea of kawaii! But the wonder doesn’t stop there. Like most of Japan, the island is riddled with marvels that can only surprise you, and there’s so much more to do than what meets the eye! Read on to know more about the curious island colonised by cute, pointy-eared furballs!
Only Bunnies, And Tourists.
Image credits: Booking.com
The enclave is surrounded by European rabbits all around — over a thousand bunnies take up the entire island as the sole population and swarm tourists with warm hugs and cuddles. They will chase you, so be ready! While the island does not have much native population, it’s also brimming with tourists visiting the rabbits, so planning your trip ahead would help!
YouTrip’s Guide To Visiting Japan’s Rabbit Island 2023: Watch this video on Okunoshima
Where Did The Bunnies Come From?
Image credits: The World Pursuit
Well, nobody really knows. The rabbits are not naturally wild and all seem to be direct descendants of a domesticated and cuddly ancestor. Some stories point at the possibility of a British couple, or alternatively, elementary schoolchildren (whichever version you prefer) letting some rabbits free on this island — then, of course, bunnies did what bunnies do. While that sounds wholesome, another possibility is a little darker. It’s said that the island was used to produce chemical weapons during the Second World War and a theory speculates that the rabbits were brought in as test subjects. Shudder.
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The Histories & Mysteries Of Bunny Island
Image credits: Mad or Nomad
It all started with a viral video of a woman being stampeded with bunnies. And now, visitors from around the world flock to the mecca to experience it for themselves! The visitor demographic shifted dramatically as younger tourists replaced the older generation mostly by visiting the island for a peaceful Onsen soak.
Although it’s hard to believe the overlap of adorableness and agony on this island, Okunoshima was originally a secret facility remotely serving as a chemical weapon factory. And given the Geneva Convention banning the use of such weapons, it remained clandestine and eventually got “erased” from history. The Poison Gas Museum on the island gives an insight into the poignant ambiguousness of warfare and Japan’s militarised life of the silent era. So be sure to check that out for a taste of urban history and apocalypse-core on your trip there!
YouTrip’s Guide To Visiting Japan’s Rabbit Island 2023: Check out our Not-So-Ordinary Guide To Japan
Other Things To Do In Okunoshima
While bunnies are definitely the pull, the beauty of the island still leaves more to explore. The island is now a National Park Resort and an antithesis to its jaded history. Two hours should be enough to circumnavigate the island: Rent a bike at the hotel and roll down the trails cycling through the greenery, old observatories, military tchotchkes, and of course, bunnies! Be careful though, bunnies jaywalk!
Image credits: TripAdvisor
Find yourself hiking up a trail to get a panoramic view of the lapping turquoise waters surrounding the island. The island maintains a campsite for those who’d want to spend a night under the stars. You can choose to bring your own supplies and shelter, or the staff can help to rent you some!
Winding down, you can choose a soothing bath in the onsen at the hotel, open for tourists from 11 AM to 6 PM. The only hotel on the island, Kyukamura Ohkunoshima, makes for a hospitable stay although it’s definitely less budget-friendly unless you’re looking to capture the sunrise and sunsets on the beach (which couldn’t be a bad idea considering rabbits are essentially crepuscular!)
Image credits: Booking.com
Head down to the waters of the shore itself, where bunnies, too, gather for a day out on the beach! On summer days, nothing would be more refreshing than a dip in the blue waters while rabbits congregate on the pastel sand of these wondrously beautiful (and deserted) beaches.
The restaurants and coffee shops at the hotel do provide good sustenance for the day. But in peak season, it’s better to carry your own food to avoid a long queue under the sweltering sun! Last but not the least, be sure to check out the souvenir shop as well for a perfect memento to grab on your way back home.
YouTrip’s Guide To Visiting Japan’s Rabbit Island 2023: Check out what else to do on Okunoshima Island here
A Few Things To Know About The Celebrity Rabbits
The rabbits on Okunoshima love and are accustomed to tourists — and they’re hoping for some treats in return! While local culture might sometimes encourage you to feed the bunnies, it’s important to refrain as the rabbits are unable to digest human food — even certain vegetables like Iceberg Lettuce can be toxic to these furry creatures. Not one for being touched, these rabbits risk injuries while trying to jump out of the hold of humans. So the authorities emphasise on letting these rabbits come to you instead of the other way round!
Lastly, the rabbits are not accustomed to traffic and often bolt in the middle of roads and cycling paths — so it’s always good to be careful!
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How To Get There?
Image credits: TripAdvisor
The island was an obscured military location, so it was designed to be inaccessible. While a direct flight or train ride won’t be the way to go, the journey to the island only greatens the anticipation of the big bunny reveal!
The best way to get there would be to take the ferry from Tadanoumi Port, the one with walls so thick, you get an eerie sensation of Ba Sing Se (The Last Airbender fans get it!). The port is a three-minute walk from the Tadanoumi JR Station, and the Ferry service runs every 30-45 minutes. In case you’re wondering how to get to the JR Station, find yourself on a magnificent 25-min train ride from Mihara station running along the peacock-blue bay.
If you’re coming from Osaka, get aboard the zippy Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Mihara and change to a bus ride to Tadanoumi.
From Tadanoumi, get on the ferry, costing around ¥310 one way. No other fees are incurred except for ferry charges on the island. 20 minutes in, you’ll find a big bunny-shaped sign welcoming you!
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Time To Get Hoppin’!
Image credits: TIME
Rabbit Island fascinates endlessly with its adorable critters mingled with its elusive history. Truly, nothing beats Japan in providing the weirdest yet most beguiling concoctions of experiences — so what’s the wait? The Year of the Rabbit has already begun! While paying for your ferry tickets or buying your favourite souvenirs, don’t forget to make use of your YouTrip Card to lock in those wholesale exchange rates and skip those pesky bank fees.
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Hope you have a great year ahead and happy travels!