A very small island in the sea of Japan is a well known tourist destination because it is home to a very large population of rabbits. Each year, thousands of visitors come to admire and feed the rabbits who swarm tourists and beg for treats. Here are more details as published recently by Katie McFadden of Travelers Today.
While Okunoshima may be full of all that is cute, it wasn’t always a pleasant place. It used to be used as a lethal gas production site for the Imperial Japanese Army from 1929 to 1945. This particular location was used as a chemical warfare production site because it was isolated and far enough from major cities like Tokyo in the event of a disaster, according to Amusing Planet.
The operation was top secret and not even residents or potential employees were told about what the plant was creating. Okunoshima was even taken off of maps for the 16 year period. Not many knew that over 6,000 tons of about 5 types of poison gas were made on this island during that time.
When the war ended, documents from the plant were burned and the gas was disposed of. Visitors can still see signs of the gas production as there are still ruins of factories on the island. There is also a Poison Gas Museum on the island which opened in 1988.
There are many theories about how the rabbits got to the island. Some believe they were brought there during World War II so the poison gases could be tested on them. Workers are believed to have let the animals go when the war was over.
Another theory is that a group on children on a school trip brought eight bunnies to the island in 1971. No matter what the reason was, it didn’t take long for the rabbits to reproduce as flood the island with their kind. There are now hundreds of bunnies on the island.
You can read the full report online as well as view a short video at this link.
According to Wikipedia, the Okunoshima rabbits were not released by workers at the poison gas factory, but they did not give a reason why all of the bunnies are there.