As a fan of all things furry I was extremely excited when I moved to Japan to learn that we happened to be close to Okunoshima (大久野島), an island in eastern Hiroshima dedicated to celebrating the cuteness of rabbits. In Japanese culture rabbits are a symbol of safe childbirth and Okunoshima is a place to seek blessing and good fortune for fertility.
Reasons to visit Okunoshima: Fluffy friends and the landscape
There are currently over 800 long-eared residents in a burgeoning population. Rather than being treated as pests as they are in my home country, the rabbits are provided with food and generally looked after; despite being wild rabbits, because of the frequent human contact they are relatively relaxed, letting you get close depending on how hungry they are at the time.
Even if you are not a fan of rabbits, I would recommend visiting Okunoshima for the scenery alone. Located in the middle of the Seto Inland Sea there are beautiful golden sand beaches and views of the other small islands dotted around that area. It is an ideal place for taking a day trip.
Exploring the Rabbit Island
You can purchase bunny pellets for feeding the island residents both at the ferry terminal and on the island itself. Many people bring pre-cut vegetables with them. A word of advice, they feed the rabbits with carrots and cabbage on the island, so if you want the edge in gathering fluffy followers I would recommend taking lettuce leaves.
Once disembarking the ferry on the island you will immediately see cute rabbits dotted about under the trees and in various hollows. When feeding them, show these small wild animals respect by moving slowly, avoiding making loud noises and not trying to pick them up.
Continuing around the island from the port is a beautiful waterfront walk and many picnic spots. There is the option of a short walk to the top of the hill on the island; the stairs may look daunting but I would recommend it both for the amazing views and the larger variation of colors and sizes in rabbits that can be found at the top.
It was also less crowded so we had some hungry bunnies all to ourselves. There are many small side tracks to explore and seating where you can sit and enjoy the panoramic ocean view.
After coming down the hill we sat for a while on the bathing beach before catching the ferry back to the mainland. This is an absolutely stunning beach with white sand and calm, crystal clear water. It is the main swimming spot on the island during the summer months; there are changing rooms and also stalls selling snacks.
Transportation & accommodation options
Having gone to Okunoshima a couple of times by various modes of transport, the easiest option is to drive to the port where you catch the ferry. From the Hiroshima side, the ferry goes from Tadanoumi Port (忠海港) in Takehara (竹原), stopping at Okunoshima and continuing on to Omishima (大三島) Sakari Port (盛港) before turning around and doing the same trip in reverse. Tickets are very cheap and while you have the option of paying to bring your vehicle onboard, walking around the island is not difficult. In our case we came from the other side near where we live in Imabari in the Ehime Prefecture. My fiancé’s parents were visiting from New Zealand so our lovely local friend offered to drive, it being his first time to Okunoshima as well.
The line to board the ferry to leave the island can be rather long during peak season so make sure you allow yourself enough time. Also, for non Japanese speakers, be careful which ferry you board; when my fiancé and I went by ourselves we jumped on the first available ferry which we soon discovered was going the opposite way to what we wanted! If you are unsure, show your ticket to the boat crew to be safe.
There is also the option of spending the night on the island in the National Park Resort Hotel (休暇村大久野島, Kyukamura Okunoshima), the only hotel located on the island. It also contains a hot spring. Alternatively there are a number of camping sites on the waterfront.
Overall, Okunoshima is an amazing and quintessential Japanese place to visit for all ages. It is questionable how long a small island can sustain the growing population so I would recommend going as soon as you can! It is truly a unique and scenic experience unlike anywhere else.
- Official Website: The Gateway to Rabbit Island
- Access to the island: A 15 minute ferry from Omishima Sakari Port from 7:00 a.m., or from Tadanoumi Port from 7:30 a.m., going every 30-45 minutes until 7:30 p.m. every day. See website for ticket prices.
- Access to Tadanoumi Port: A 3-minute walk from JR Tadanoumi Station, a 25-minute train ride from Mihara Station on the JR Kure Line.