The Dark History of Japan’s Rabbit Island
by Andrew Amelinckx, Modern Farmer/Smithsonian.com
This article originally appeared on Modern Farmer.
There is an island where rabbits rule. They are well fed, free from predators, and spend their time lounging around getting photographed by fawning humans. So where is this bunny paradise?
It’s a small island in the Seto Inland Sea called Ōkunoshima, two miles off the coast of the Japanese city of Takehara, in Hiroshima Prefecture. These days, though, it’s most often referred to by its nickname Usagi Jima, which translates to Rabbit Island and is so named for the hundreds of feral rabbits that call it home.
It’s a bit of a mystery how all these bunnies ended up on a tiny island whose previous claim to fame (infamy, actually) was as the spot where the Japanese Imperial Army manufactured thousands of tons of poison gas during World War II in a facility so secret the island was removed from all Japanese maps. According to The New York Times, the poison—mustard gas, phosgene and other types—was used against Chinese soldiers and civilians in the 1930s and 40s during the war in China, killing about 80,000 people by some estimates.