Japanese island overrun by rabbits, tourists

Japanese island overrun by rabbits, tourists

Okunoshima Island offers cute and cuddly bunnies for mass enjoyment

Okunoshima rabbitsSure, he looks cute, but just wait till those sneakers catch his eye.

Okunoshima, a small island floating in the Inland Sea between Hiroshima and Shikoku, used to be a top-secret military site manufacturing poison gas. Not exactly the kind of place you’d think to spend an idyllic afternoon.

Of course, that was before the rabbits took over.

In 1971, a group of schoolchildren released eight rabbits on the island.

The rabbits did what rabbits do best and now the 700-square-meter island is home to more than 300 of their floppy-eared descendants, earning it the nickname Usagi Shima, or Rabbit Island.

While the Okunoshima museum chronicling Japan's use of poison gas has been drawing school groups for decades, the island has more recently joined the ranks of cat cafés and dog-rental shops as a destination for Japan's pet-less cravers of cute.

Travel company Rakuten has even begun offering a “Let's Play With Rabbits!” tour plan in Japanese and English.

Though wild, the rabbits on the island are used to humans and will approach visitors en masse in search of a snack, particularly in the colder months when their natural food sources are scarce.

Visitors are allowed to pet the wascally wabbits, though children should be closely supervised. Dogs, cats and Holy Hand Grenades of Antioch not allowed.

Getting there: From Tokyo, take the Sanyo Shinkansen to Mihara Station, change to the Kure Line and get off at Tadanoumi Station (reserved ¥17,830, unreserved ¥17,020. From there, it’s a 12-minute ferry trip to Okunoshima (¥210).

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