Rabbit Island is a well-kept secret along the Japanese coastline, providing sanctuary for hundreds of wild rabbits and an exciting retreat for the bunny-lovers among us.
As far as islands that are occupied by wild animals go, Okunoshima, better known as Usaga Jima or Rabbit Island, is probably the cutest. It’s also the most appropriate to visit at this time of year, as the Easter Bunny makes the arduous trip to our shores from the magical land of ‘What-Do-You-Mean-He-Isn’t-Real?’ .
The small island, only a fifteen minute ferry ride from the mainland, is occupied by hundreds of wild rabbits that roam the forests and paths. Although wild, the Flopsies Mopsies and Cottontails are remarkably tame and always keen for a pat – it is advised that one doesn’t pick them up, however, as the rabbits do not have health insurance and would struggle to pay their bills should an escape attempt lead to injury.
Much like many animal-dominated areas (think: St Mark’s Square in Venice for pigeons or Boulder’s Beach in Cape Town for penguins) humans are certainly the secondary concern on Okunoshima. However, unlike St Mark’s, visitors are actively encouraged to hand-feed the rabbits from food available to purchase on the island. If you’re planning a trip, buy some carrots and cabbage on the mainland. Your new furry friends will love you for it.
The origin of the rabbits on the island is as unclear as its harrowing history is apparent. Wiped from unclassified maps in the area during the 1930s and 1940s, Okunoshima was used as a base to test chemical weapons of war; the juxtaposition of fluffy rabbits and the Okunoshima Poison Gas Museum cannot escape the notice of even the most avid lotus-eating traveller among our number.
For the die-hard coney-lover who would not be able to bear anything less than a sleepover, Rabbit Island offers a remarkably well-equipped hotel (just the one, mind you, it’s a very small island) with a pool, tennis court and golf course.
Water pans are abundant around the hotels to hydrate the rabbits on the lower parts of the island who don’t have access to natural springs – guests are encouraged to fill up these water pans whenever possible to contribute to the care of the enclave’s adorable residents.
For more information or to plan a trip to Setouchi and Rabbit Island, visit www.setouchitrip.com.
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