As islands that are occupied by wild animals go, Okunoshima, better known as Usaga Jima or Rabbit Island, is probably the cutest.
Situated in the East Sea/Inland Sea of Japan, the small island is occupied by hundreds of wild rabbits that roam the forests and paths, chase tourists, appear in viral videos and just generally lounge around. They also provide a much needed counterbalance to the island’s otherwise dark history – as the production site for Japan’s chemical weapons during the second world war.
Of course, Japan being the birthplace of kawaii – the distinct cultural appreciation of all things cute – the bounding herds of friendly rabbits are a much bigger attraction than the Poison Gas Museum. But although the source of the rabbits remains a mystery, it may be that the origins of the island’s fluffy residents is intertwined with its history as manufacturer of chemical weapons.
Between 1929-1945, the Japanese army secretly produced over 6,000 tons of poison gas on Okunoshima, which was removed from maps of the area and chosen because of its discreet location and distance from civilian populations. At the time, an unfortunate colony of rabbits was brought to the island in order to test the effects of the poison.