Islands, 2, 3, 4

“A Grim Military Past on Japan’s Cuddly ‘Rabbit Island'”

The pretty little island of Okunoshima is known for two things: It was there that the Japanese military once cooked up chemical weapons, a mission so guarded that the spot did not exist on official World War II-era maps. And it is totally overrun by fluffy bunny rabbits.

. . . .

For animal lovers, this sounds downright precious, and it is. But on a gray day, with a chill in the air, it also feels something like the establishing scenes of a Hitchcock movie, before things go so horrifically wrong.

Wander past enough English signs labeled “Remains of the poison gas storehouse” and you can’t help wondering whether the two things that make this island so unusual are, in fact, grimly linked. In 1997, the former director of the poison gas museum told Tokyo journalists that the rabbits now on the island had nothing to do with lab animals in bygone weapons tests. Instead, the story goes, rabbits were left on the island decades ago by schoolchildren — and did what rabbits do so well.

Emily Alpert, Los Angeles Times, July 7, 2013


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