Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Okunoshima Rabbit Island

Ōkunoshima is a small island located in the Inland Sea of Japan between Hiroshima and Shikoku. During World War II the island used to be a top-secret military site manufacturing poison gas for chemical warfare. Today, it’s completely overrun with cute, fluffy bunnies who are the island’s main inhabitants.

Between 1929 and 1945, Okunoshima Island was a chemical warfare production site for the Imperial Japanese Army that produced over six kilotons of mustard gas. The island was chosen for its isolation, conducive to security, and because it was far enough from Tokyo and other areas in case of disaster. The program was shrouded in secrecy and during its 16 years of operation, Okunoshima was even erased from maps. Residents and potential employees were not told what the plant was manufacturing and everything was kept secret.

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With the end of the war, documents concerning the plant were burned and Allied Occupation Forces disposed of the gas either by dumping, burning, or burying it, and people were told to be silent about the project.

According to some sources, the rabbits were brought to Okunoshima to test the effects of the poison and released by workers when World War II ended. Others sources claim that a group of schoolchildren were on a field trip, when they released eight rabbits in 1971. Regardless, the original bunnies of Okunoshima and their successive generations of offspring thrived in their predator-free environment.

Today the 700-square-meter 700,000 square-meter island is home to more than 300 rabbits that roam freely, earning the nickname of Usagi Shima, or Rabbit Island. Though wild, the rabbits on the island are used to humans and will approach visitors in search of a snack, and hop on to laps. Visitors are allowed to pet and feed the animals, but in an effort to preserve the bunny population, dogs and cats are not allowed on the island. Pellets of rabbit food are sold for ¥100 a cup at the Kyukamura Okunoshima resort hotel located on the island. The hotel has recently seen a steep increase in visitors to the island since knowledge of the island’s furry residents spread on the Internet.

Although most visitors to the island come here to see the bunnies, Rabbit Island’s poison gas legacy isn’t over. Okunoshima is also home to the Poison Gas Museum opened in 1988, in order to alert as many people as possible to the dreadful truths about poison gas.

Some argue the island might not be completely safe as there has never been any major decontamination of the whole island. It’s rumoured that there are several sealed locations on the island where workers reportedly buried gas when the war ended.

Also see: Tashirojima - The Cat Island of Japan and The Swimming Pigs of Big Major Cay, Bahamas

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The Poison Gas Museum. Photo credit

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Former poison gas laboratory on Okunoshima. Photo credit

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Sources: Wikipedia, Coilhouse, Gethiroshima, CNN, MNN, via Oddity Central

31 comments:

  1. The statistic of Okunoshima being a 700-square-meter island is incorrect. It is 0.7-square-kilometers or 70000-square-meters.

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  2. Correcting the corrector... 0.7 sq. km = 700,000 sq. m. Grew up in Europe... Well known, no need to even bother with converting charts!

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    1. Correcting the corrector's corrector. I just spent 45 minutes evaluating the conversion charts and you seem to have missed the decimal poi... Oh. Oh, wait. Ok. Okay then. Carry on.

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  3. Yaay metric units!

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  4. Anonymous is correct. Source: Canadian.

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  5. Mark was correct, you are converting square units, so you need to multiply or divide by 100.

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  6. He's obviously not going to correct it... which is lame, IMO.

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  7. "Usagi Shima" is incorrect. It should be Usagi Jima

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  8. But guys, look at the BUNNIES!

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    1. *Dies* I have to go the some day!

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  9. Why should it be Usagi Jima? The island is called Okunoshima, so Usagi shima.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFzWUeQBR7g

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    1. It's a quirk of Japanese grammar. "Oku no Shima" has "shima" (island) prefaced by the particle "no", so it stands alone as "shima". When combining words, however, the "shi" turns into a "ji". Since it's "UsagiJima" instead of "Usagi no Shima", the transformation of "shi" into "ji" is correct.

      Damn Japanese language!

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    2. Then why is it Fukushima or Hiroshima?

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  10. -jima because when some words are compound like that in Japanese, you add a ten-ten or maru (looks like a quote mark or circle) to the letter, which changes the sound. The "S" sound can become "Z" or "J" when adding ten-ten. For example, the instrument is shamisen but the specific tsugaru kind is tsugaru jamisen.

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  11. so cute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  12. I love rabbits. Sweetest animals ever. I'm a 250lb large, muscular, not-very-friendly man and people love to see me act like a giddy little boy when I snuggle gently with one. They turn me into mush.

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    1. :-)...I have a Flemish Giant who is my companion.I understand completely how you feel.

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  13. Beautiful photos! Its so uplifting to hear about how this community care for the abandon bunnies.

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  14. The cute bunnies look so scrawny compared to the ones in NH. SO FLUFFY!!!!!!

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  15. Those rabbits look so delicious!!! Is it possible to take some rabbits there and bring them back ? I’d like to cook some, haven’t had a rabbit for two years now in Tokyo… Or maybe mate two of them and breed a popultaion that I could eat later with my friends.
    I think it’s not legal on the island but do you know if someone actually checks ?

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    1. you are so mean!!!!! never ever to cook animal. be vegetarian.

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    2. GTFO Anon @ 8:25 PM

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  16. There was a Big Rabbit named "Harvey" . . .

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  17. to the idiot who wants to eat rabbits....go grocery shopping. that's what a supermarket's for!!! I have had house rabbits for over 30 years. they are intelligent, genital, and enormously loving creatures. they can be house trained, but even if you have only one, they should be fixed. THIS ISLAND IS A BEAUTIFUL SANCTUARY FOR THESE LOVING CREATURES!!!! AT LAST MANKIND IS SHOWING THEM SOME RESPECT AFTER INHUMANELY USING THEM AS LAB ANIMALS FOR DECADES!!! (we still do in the US.) IF YOU APPRECIATE HOW CUTE THESE BUNNIES ARE, KEEP THIS IN MIND, THEY CAN LIVE AS LONG AS 12 YEARS!!! It's always been my dream to see such a place!! WHAT A BLESSING IT EXISTS!!!!!!!!!!!

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  18. Since they don't get medical treatment most of the rabbits on this island will probably not live 12 years. But they surely have a much, much, much better life than so many other lonely rabbits who have to live without any other rabbit partner (looking at usagi island it becomes clear that rabbits are group animals that need other rabbits to communicate), in a small cage in an appartment or even worse- as a kid's toy. I feel very happy for the rabbits of usagi island, they live on the bright side of life.

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    1. As a long time rabbit owner, Some bunnies like other bunnies for companionship and others do not....Just like Humans there are many types of personalities. My current Snuggle Bunny is Named Baby Girl and she refuses
      any other rabbit companions(I have tried at least 4) She does however sleep on my chest every night, and grooms me constantly. I love her bunches, and YES I too am a BIG MEAN OLE MAN!!! I started a rabbit farm when I was 12. I guess Rabbits are my Spirit Animal or something. They just warm my heart and make me so happy. I don't know why....per se.....just do!!!

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  19. Night of the Lupus

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  20. dream island...hunny bunny sweety...

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