An island abandoned by men and inhabited by rabbits is an odd image. If we add to that strange scenario a museum, a hotel and a place to rent bicycles, the whole picture becomes even more strange. And, if the museum is called “Poison Gas Museum”, one ends up being really confused. All that exists and it is happening as you are reading this; in Japan, on an island called Okunoshima.
During World War II, Okunoshima Island operated as a secret chemical weapon factory that Japan used to produce poisonous gas in order to attack China. The rabbits were taken to the island to test the effects of the gas. When the war ended, factory workers freed the rabbits. Therefore, the ones that are currently living in the island are their descendants. At the time, the island was erased from all the maps in order to keep it private. The location was chosen taking in consideration the difficulty to access to it. In addition, the distance to the mainland made it a safe place in case some experiment came out wrong.
A ferry takes you there. Most of the visitors are Japanese families. They carry food and children are eager to get there. Some carry their own food with bags full of vegetables. When the island is spotted in the distance, you can see the excitement of children looking out the window. They can’t wait to meet the rabbits. When you get off the ferry, hundreds of fluffly rabbits are waiting in order to get feeded.
Okunoshima is known for bringing good luck and fertility to its visitors. In a society as tender and cheesy as the Japanese, such an island is a dream. But perhaps, the Western view may vary slightly; rabbits are not always in their best shape. There are several wounded rabbits. Some of them are missing an eye or a leg.
As you get into the island, one can’t help to wonder if the creators of Lost TV show were inspired by this place. Buildings look like the Dharma initiative arhitectural constructions. It is easy to get into Jack’s skin when he discovered the abandoned buildings and was very confused. The few buildings are in ruins. Some look calcined, others left half-torn.
The island has some cut roads and there are signs of forbidden passage, as if there was still danger today to be in Okunoshima. This island is defintely the ideal place for lovers of abandoned and/or creepy places. It is fair to say that, even in this strange scenario, the Japanese remain faithful to cleanliness. Weird enough, the island is just as clean as the rest of the country.
Okunoshima leaves you with a bittersweet feeling. It is hard to say whether the atmosphere is sad or happy. On the one hand, there are rabbits eager to be feeded and happy children playing with them, which contributes to the idea of a cozy place. However, on the other hand, the state of rabbits and the ruins may leave you with an odd feeling. At the end, this place is just one of these mix-feeling spots that are worth going, either to hate it or love it.