You read that right. Bunny Island. Is that some kind of kids amusement park, you ask? Maybe a pet store? No, though both would be good guesses. Bunny Island, Okunoshima in Japanese, is a small island not far from Hiroshima that is completely overrun with feral rabbits. The rabbits are far from wild though, as the island has become a popular tourist spot. It is accessible by ferry from the coastal town of Tadanoumi. The little shot that sells tickets for the ferry also sells little bags of bunny food that tourists snatch up with even more voraciousness than the animals for which they are intended.
We intended to hit the road around 6:30 am in order to beat the crowds at what we anticipated would be a crowded ferry terminal. We managed to only hit the snooze button once and just missed our first train. We were able to catch the next train though and simply had to wait a little longer at each of the transfer stations. We stopped at a Lawson at the Mihara station and checked out some castle ruins that seemed to be built in to the train station (or rather the other way around). The local train to Tadanoumi and the ferry terminal were already pretty crowded when we arrived. Alana was feeling pretty anxious at the prospect of all the long lines (a carryover of her amusement park tendencies), but after a bit of a wait we had our tickets and two bags of rabbit food.
Upon arriving at the island we saw some pretty fat rabbits hanging around the dock area. We made the decision to trek as far inland as possible in order to find some less lethargic and likely hungrier rabbits. The island itself would have made for some nice hiking even without the hordes of rabbits hopping around. There were a variety of trails that ran around the island and up a small mountain (or large hill) in the center. The rabbits were not shy and as soon as they caught scent of your food would come hopping up and eat it right out of your hand. We took a pretty steep walk up to what we assumed was the highest point on the island. The rabbits we encountered were quite a bit more energetic than many of those in the more easily accessible parts of the island.
On a side note, while Bunny Island today seems like something out of a 5 year old girl’s wildest dreams, the island has a dark past. It was the site of a secret chemical weapons manufacturing plant during World War II. There is currently a museum that details the island’s more sordid history, but, given the preponderance of adorable bunnies waiting to be fed, we found we didn’t quite have the time for a trip to the museum.
After spending the rest of the morning wandering around from one patch of bunnies to another, we made our way back downhill and got in line for the ferry back to Tadanoumi. We then took a train from Tadanoumi back to Mihara where we grabbed our stuff from the coin lockers before hopping on another train to Hiroshima. It was the last day of our rail pass, so we had to make the most of our already-paid-for travel. We checked into our hotel in Hiroshima and then hopped back on the train to the Miyajima ferry, which we subsequently took over to Miyajima.
Miyajima is another place that you will probably find pictures of if you do a Google image search for Japan. It is the sight of that famous torii (like the ones at Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto) that is out in the middle of the water. It is also (like Amanohashidate) one of the three most scenic views in Japan. We got there just before sunset and followed the crowd over to where we could get a good view of the Great Torii. Unfortunately the sky was still super hazy which left the sunset looking a little muted. It was a very scenic view regardless, and we had a good time hanging out and taking pictures.
Once the sun had set, we took the ferry and train back to Hiroshima and had dinner at an Okonomiyaki place by Hiroshima station. They cooked and then served the food right on a giant counter top griddle right in front of us. It was fun to watch and before long we were tossing back little spatulas full of cabbagey, eggy, noodley, goodness. As we walked back to our hotel we reflected on our experience with the JR Kansai-Hiroshima pass. On the one hand, it really did save us a lot of money on train and ferry travel over the previous five days. On the other hand we both wished we had been able to take this portion of our trip through Japan at a slower pace. Five days just didn’t feel like enough to really take in all that Kansai had to offer.