A Former Japanese Military Base Is Now Overrun By Tame?
Ōkunoshima is a small island off the coast of Japan that has a dark past, but has been reborn with a rather friendly mascot. The small island was selected by the Japanese government in the 1920s to serve as a secret base for the chemical weapon initiatives orchestrated by the Imperial Japanese Army’s Institute of Science and Technology. The isolation of the island, its distance from Tokyo, and the ease in which it could be guarded were all critical to the mission: Japan was one of the signatories on the Geneva Protocol which forbade the use of chemical weapons. Very few people knew about the project on the island, and those that worked in the gas manufacturing plant there were kept in the dark about their work for decades. The gas produced there was used primarily in China, and after World War II, Allied forces disposed of the gas and burned the facilities.
After the war, Japan began the process of rehabilitating the island for non-military use. Part of the rehabilitation process was the redevelopment of the island as an enormous park and tourist destination. During that process, the Japanese government released rabbits on the island which bred like, well, rabbits. Those original rabbits now have hundreds of descendants that, thanks to prohibitions against hunting or otherwise harming them, have become tame and very used to the thousands of visitors that come to Ōkunoshima, now known more commonly as “Usagi Jima” (Rabbit Island); visitors that are more than happy to hand feed and pet the hordes of adorable bunnies.
Image courtesy of Vitaly Petrukhin.