At the far corners of the earth, mythical places spring into being. Formerly the base of the Imperial Japanese Army’s poison gas production facilities, Japan’s Okunoshima Island lay dormant for decades. Then something strange happened: it was overrun by hundreds and hundreds of rabbits. Japan Probe observes:
Many visitors to Okunoshima Island, located some three kilometers off the Hiroshima Prefectural city of Takehara, are bringing their cameras to take photographs of the rabbits, next year’s zodiac animal, for their New Year’s greeting cards and personal blog sites. Today, there are some 300 rabbits living on the island.
The small island of about four kilometers in circumference used to be a base for the Imperial Army’s lethal gas production between 1929 and 1945. It was once erased from the map of Japan for security reasons.
The poison gas produced at the site took the lives of many people in China and other battlefronts, and former facility workers are continuing to suffer from health ailments caused by the gas.
Today, the island is uninhabited, but the remains of the facility buildings, including gas containers and a power plant, are still there.
It is believed that rabbits were first taken to the island in 1971, after an elementary school in Takehara found it difficult to keep the animals at school. According to the Kyukamura Okunoshima resort hotel, most of the visitors to the island consisted of students on school study trips and senior tourists.