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'Rabbit Island' Is Japan's Bunny-Filled Draw For Tourists (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Japan's 'Rabbit Island' Looks Cute But Has A Dark Past

How's this for island hopping?

The island of Ōkunoshima once served as a secret military installation responsible for pumping out toxic chemicals during World War II. Decades later, the Japanese island is now renowned for its tourism -- but not the kind associated with former military bases and abandoned factories. Instead, tourists travel to the island in search of one thing: bunnies.

Okay, technically they're rabbits; hence Ōkunoshima's moniker of "Rabbit Island", but whatever travellers want to call them doesn't change the fact that the island's fluffy inhabitants are all sorts of cute.

For 16 years, Japan's Imperial Army used the island to produce kilotons of deadly mustard gas. The island was selected for its remoteness and in case there was an accident, major cities like Tokyo would be spared from disaster. As with the ugliness of war, Japanese researchers brought rabbits to the island as test subjects for the poison, according to Amusing Planet.

After the Empire of The Rising Sun was defeated by the Allies at the end of World War II, the facility was shut down and the bunnies were released back into the wild, while the Los Angeles Times suggests it was a group of school children who released eight test bunnies into the predator-free wild where they've multiplied to over 300 long-eared little critters.

Today, "Rabbit Island's" 700,000 square-meter estate is home to a golf course, beaches, parks and even a resort hotel, notes, despite the island's grim military past. As for the rabbits, they're technically wild but years of captivity have made them used to the presence of humans, so much that they'll even hop onto your lap in hopes of carrots, cabbage or rabbit feed which travellers can buy at the island's resort hotel, Mother Nature Network reports. (You can watch the video above to see it in action.)

The island's many furry little residents have created something of a tourism boom for Ōkunoshima, drawing in thousands of travellers either to take photos of the hordes of bunnies by their feet or to see the island's other attraction: the national Poison Gas Museum. For more information on the island, check out Ōkunoshima's website here. For photos of hungry little bunnies in action; check out the gallery below.

Ōkunoshima: 'Japan's Rabbit Island'

Ōkunoshima: 'Japan's Rabbit Island'

Ōkunoshima: 'Japan's Rabbit Island'

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