Is it their unassuming nature, their innocence, or sweet little nose that makes us fall in love with the rabbit. I just watched two large wild rabbits on my back hill take a luscious breakfast of newly green grasses. I am hoping they were part of the family of five that grew up in our wildflowers last summer. We watched these, then bunnies, grow fewer in number all summer. These two survived the winter eating birdseed and apples I threw out. I watched their tracks circle the house and hoped for the best. I was very glad to see them today and hope they will start families in the wildflowers this spring. If we are lucky we will see them with their mates doing the rabbit dance. The dance involves a chase, circling and the male jumping like an Olympic high jumper.
I have learned of a place….a rabbit lovers paradise. This place is Okunoshima (大久野島) Island, Japan. It is a small island in the Sea of Japan. Okunoshima is part of the Hiroshima Prefecture. Sadly this island has a dark past. During World War II Okunoshima was the site of a poison gas (mustard gas and tear gas) factory. The gas being manufactured was used in warfare with China. The project was top secret and one of the many horrors of WWII. In 1988 The Okunoshima Poison Gas Museum was opened on the island to teach all who come about poison gases and their effect on the world.
Today Okunoshima has a kinder gentler name, Usagi Jima, (うさぎ島) Rabbit Island. There are 700 feral rabbits roaming this island. How they got there no one is quite sure. The rabbits are somewhat tame and will come readily to humans. The mere rustling of a bag will bring hundreds your way. Tourists line up to be rushed by rabbits. People are encouraged to feed the rabbits and bring them water as well. Some of the soil and water on the island is toxic due to the gas production.
Usagi Jima is now part of Japan’s Inland Sea National Park system. It can only be reached only by ferry and boasts of campsites. walking trails, golf courses and hotels. It also means there is no hunting on the island. In addition cats and dogs are not allowed to accompany their humans on this trip. With few predators these rabbits can look forward to a long happy life and if you are lucky enough to visit they will give you a great deal of joy. One of my many dreams.