There’s an uninhabited island off the coast of Japan which was hidden in secrecy for most of the 20th century—the Japanese government even had it removed from maps. It was the site of top-secret Imperial Japanese Army Institute of Science and Technology, and the ruins of that chemical weapons testing facility still stand as a silent reminder of the past. Sounds more creepy than adorable, right? Like a place where you’d expect there to be ghosts and ghoulish mysteries. What you probably wouldn’t expect, however, is that the tiny island of Ōkunoshima is teeming with… hundreds of charming, friendly bunny rabbits.
The island, which has a circumference of only 2.5 miles, is usually called “Usagi Jima” by locals, which translates to “Rabbit Island,” and it is absolutely overflowing with feral bunnies. Far from being the spookfest you might imagine, considering its rather grim backstory, Rabbit Island is one of the cutest places on the planet.
The feral bun-buns hop freely around in fluffles of dozens or more. (Side note: “Fluffle” is Canadian slang for a herd of rabbits. I’m totally not Canadian, but I’m using it from now on.) The best thing about Rabbit Island? Tourists are more than welcome! This incredible sanctuary isn’t closed off from the public. Far from it. Not only can you visit, you’re free to interact with the bunnies! The cordial cottontails, while not exactly tame, are super-enthusiastic about approaching visitors for affection (and they won’t turn down noms, either!). Check out this first-person shot!
Visiting Rabbit Island
Rabbit Island might have a dark history, but it has a bright present and future. In fact, the contrast between the ruins that remind us of one of the darkest periods in human history and the harmonious, peace-loving, free-roaming fluffles is one of the things that makes Rabbit Island such an incredible, unique experience. And it’s not just that rabbits are pacifists. Unlike wild bunnies in other places, the rabbits of Rabbit Island have no predators to fear, so they’re completely fearless. The nervousness that is usually such a defining characteristic in their kind is simply absent.
While there isn’t much room on the tiny island for a human village (after all, bunnies have most of the local real estate locked down!), there is a gorgeous resort hotel run by Japan’s National Park Service. Plus, getting to Rabbit Island is easy—it’s only a 12 minute ferry ride from mainland Japan. You’ll know you’ve arrived at the right station when you see this sign!
Rabbit Island sign
On the ferry, there are information pamphlets to explain the best ways to interact with the (lop-eared) locals, including their favorite snacks. With so many rabbits on the island, vegetation gets scarce, so the bunnies look to their human friends for handouts! You’re welcome to bring along bunny delicacies like carrots and cabbage, and you can also purchase rabbit feed at the hotel. Oh, and people feed too—there are restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops. Unfortunately, you’ll have to content yourself with a souvenir that isn’t one of Rabbit Island’s rabbit residents–the bunnies are staying put!
It is, of course, prohibited to bring dogs, cats, or any other type of predators to Rabbit Island. The island’s caretakers are determined to let this little utopia remain untroubled. So far, they seem to have been successful at keeping carnivores from trying to turn any of these bunnies into a meal!
If you (somehow) get bored with being snuggled in an affectionate blanket of bunny rabbits, there are also nature trails and camping opportunities.
The Mystery of Rabbit Island
Okay, there are probably a lot of mysteries surrounding the poison gas factory, but I’ll leave those to the historians. (There is a very cool museum about the place on the island as well, if you’re interested!) But the mystery that interests me is the obvious one—how did all of the bunnies happen? Rabbit Island isn’t, as it might at first seem, a planned petting zoo for the bunny-obsessed.
No one knows for sure. Some people have speculated that these friendly flop-ears are the descendants of animals used for testing at the factory, and that their ancestors were released by workers when the factory was abandoned. The Japanese government denies this, though. Another theory suggests that the rabbits are descended from a fluffle of eight bunnies released there by schoolchildren in the 1970s.
We’ll probably never know the answer for sure—but what we do know is that there are upwards of 700 bunnies chilling in an island paradise waiting for you to bring bunny snacks! It’s the perfect vacation spot for a cuddly pick-me-up. And if you can’t afford a getaway, get your binge-watch on–search Rabbit Island on YouTube, get some carrot sticks to nibble on, and brace yourself for the cuteness.