Leporiphobia is the fear of rabbits. Okunoshima Island is a place to avoid if one suffers from this phobia. It’s a small island located in the Inland Sea of Japan in the city of Takehara, Hiroshima Prefecture and is a national park accessible by ferry from the ports of Tadanoumi or Ōmishima. The island’s nickname is Rabbit Island.
The island is very small and is home to over 700 rabbits (we learned from the announcement made by the captain of the ferry boat over the loudspeaker on the approach to the island).
One can access Rabbit Island on a daytrip. We took the train from Shin-Osaka to Mihara (transferring along the way). From Mihara, we took the local Kure Train (we just followed the signs for the Kure at Mihara) to Tadanoumi. After arriving at the Tadanoumi station, we exited the train station and followed the crowd, heading to the right. At the corner, there was a sign directing us to again turn right to the Tadanoumi Port. It took us about fifteen minutes or so walking to arrive at the port itself.
Once at the port, we got in line to purchase the 300yen ferry tickets (about $3 each way for adults), and also some bunny food, as they don’t sell the food on the island.
We waited quite awhile for the ferry as there were some departures suspended due to boat maintenance. From what we could tell, they weren’t really adhering to any schedule though, so we just stood and waited. At this point, there was nothing else we could do.
The day was really hot and by the time we reached the island it was early afternoon and the bunnies were either really burned out on rabbit snacks or they were just plain worn out because we did not get the exited bunny turnout we had expected. I’ve seen pictures of people covered by rabbits, but we never seemed to get more than four or five bunnies at one time. I guess you just need to sit down on the ground, cover yourself with rabbit snacks, and be patient. If that is your thing.
I thought the rabbits looked a bit mangy looking upon closer inspection though, and did not want to catch bubonic plague, so I kept a respectful distance and didn’t care that we were ignored by the majority.
It was fun to see so many bunnies everywhere though.
We did not come only for the bunnies, however. We also came to see the island’s much darker-themed museum.
A small two-room museum was built in the late 80s to commemorate the island’s historical importance and to teach the ‘meaninglessness of war’ according to its brochure.
In the late 20s the island was used as a secret poisonous gas factory. The island was so secretive that it was left off of many maps of that time period and the few residents of the island and its workers were not even told what they were working on, and suffered much because of the poor conditions.
The museum features examples of the poorly made haz-mat rubber suits the workers wore, as well as pictures of the diseases they suffered from exposure to the gases. While much of the museum pieces are in Japanese only, there are some English translations as well as an English version of the brochure.
The museum is located across the street from the Visitor’s Center and can be reached either by jumping on the free hotel shuttle bus located at Pier 2 where the ferry stops, and getting off at the Visitor’s Center—or by walking 15-20 minutes or so up the road to the left from this pier (there are two piers on the island about a 15-minutes walk apart) .
The free hotel bus picks up at the pier, drives past the Visitor’s Center and Musem and stops at the hotel. That is the route. We kept riding past the museum, thinking it was somewhere else. It’s not.
It took about ten minutes to see the museum contents.
Besides the museum, the island has a hotel, a six-hole golf course and a small camping ground. It’s a pretty place and the water looks clear—though I didn’t see anyone swimming.
I’m glad we went to the island since it’s something I’d wanted to see, but after visiting it, I don’t know that I can recommend the time and expense to do it. Unless maybe you really love rabbits. Even mangy looking ones.