Graveyard Shift

Japan’s Rabbit Island: The Dark History, Mystery, And Tragic Truth

Japan's history is marked with instances of life springing up from misery; consider how the radiation incident in Fukushima allowed wildlife to prosper in the absence of humans. In the aftermath of WWII, Japan stopped producing tainted gas on an island called Ōkunoshima located near Hiroshima. This allowed another portion of their country to change and reshape itself after nearly 20 years of producing lethal gases for combating enemies. Ōkunoshima became Usagi Jima, or the Rabbit Island of Japan.

Interestingly, no one quite knows how the bunny island of Japan got its residents, with legends of abandoned pets and released rabbit test subjects as only two possibilities. Yet the rabbits are there, year after year, aggressively greeting and depending on visitors to the island for their wellbeing and survival. 

  • Once Called 'Poisoned Gas Island,' 6,000 Tons Of It Was Produced There Over Two Decades

    Ten years before the start of WWII, the Japanese government used Ōkunoshima to produce more than 6,000 tons of toxic gas from 1929 until 1945. The island is perfectly located in the East Sea/Inland Sea of Japan, far from civilians and the eyes of enemies.

    The gas manufactured included mustard and phosgene, used as chemical weapons on the Chinese during WWII,with a purported casualty toll of 80,000.

  • The Island Was Removed From Maps To Keep The Project Hidden

    Likely already unknown to the general populace, Ōkunoshima was removed from maps of Japan to keep it off the radar of enemies. As the Japanese created so much toxic gas there over nearly 20 years, keeping 'Poison Gas Island' hidden was of high importance to the government due to their agreement to the Geneva Protocol.

    This Protocol banned the use of chemical warfare in armed conflicts, hence the need for secrecy.

  • Legend Has It That Rabbits Were Brought To The Remote Island For Testing

    Some speculate that the large population of rabbits now housed on Ōkunoshima are descendants of test animals used during the island's time as a poison gas manufacturing site. However, sources disagree with this idea.

    According to The DodoEllis Krauss, professor of Japanese politics at the University of California San Diego, knows that the rabbits used as test subjects did not survive the American occupation of Japan. The American military euthanized the nearly 200 rabbits on the island. 

  • Another Legend Is That A British Couple Brought Their Bunnies To The Island

    While there are hundreds of rabbits located on the island today, some theorize that a British couple visiting Ōkunoshima started the humongous pack by leaving their own pets there.

    This alleged British couple have no names and there's no timeframe for their visit on the island, but their story persists as the origin of the current friendly, aggressive, and plentiful pack there.