Okunoshima: Rabbits and Poison Gas

Perhaps the title may sound kind of weird; perhaps like a mixture of cuteness and malevolence. Well let’s say that this blog post lives up to the name of Weird Things in Weird Places.

Horde of rabbits

Today many come to see the cute rabbits that outnumber humans living there by a massive margin. Rumors have it that someone left two rabbits on the island during a visit and those two multiplied into the thousands of rabbits that hop around across the whole area. It is possible to feed these rabbits for only a few hundred yen but you can get close and personal with them even without food. Though being overrun by cute bunnies is a good investment too.

Abandoned chemical factory

However, most visitors are unaware of (or unwilling to) address the dark origin of the island. At Okunoshima which today is known as rabbit island, the sinister and dark history of Japan is shown through the poison gas chemical factories that dot the island. The gas was to be used multiple times in China, often tested on prisoners of war or even ordinary Chinese civilians.  Japanese textbooks often omit war crimes by Unit 713 (comparable to the Waffen-SS) or others in the Imperial Army; instead they call Japanese Imperialism the “Great East Asia War” while painting it as Japan’s effort to liberate Asia from imperialism. The legacy of the war is not lost on those who suffered so much, either because they were conscripted into service or targeted as part of Japan’s plan for the new Asia.

If you happen to get the chance to visit Okunoshima, I strongly advise you also check out the creepy abandoned factories and gas holding centers. For the full experience, make sure to have a tour guide that explains the history of the island and the many former facilities in depth. After all the profits from your visit go to efforts to educate others about the deadliness of poison gas and international efforts for their total ban.

Gas mask and gas bombs

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