Thursday, 5 June 2014

Osaka, Hiroshima & Ōkunoshima (aka Bunny Island)

We were reluctant to leave the vegan foodie paradise that is Kyoto, four days really didn't seem like enough time and we definitely hadn't seen and eaten everything on our long lists. But our journey had to continue and we were excited about the change of pace that would come along with our next destination, Osaka. Situated just 30 minutes by train from Kyoto Osaka is slightly further off of the well beaten tourist path but it was high up on our must visit list due to the promise of neon lit streets, great shopping and lively nightlife districts. They also have a small but thriving veggie food scene and we headed for Green Earth first due to it's proximity to the youth fashion district of Amerikamura, one of the first stops on our Osakan shopping adventure.

On this occasion Nick chose a simple creamy soy sausage spaghetti dish which he loved.

I enjoyed the daily lunch plate which came with a stir fried veggie chicken dish, two salads, brown rice and a side of miso soup.

Dessert was the standout of this meal for me as I had chosen the tofu cheesecake, something I was enjoying a lot of on our trip around Japan. I need to learn to bake one so if anyone has a tried and tested recipe send it my way! I've never been a fan of the super sweet US style cheesecakes and this lightly sweetened slice was one of my favourites of the whole trip.

Green Earth is a great little family run spot with a varied menu, perfect for our first lunch in the city. We loved chatting to owner Ryoji and on our second visit we also met his wife Junko and talked more about international veganism, baking, travel and, of course, my tattoos. They're truly wonderful people and if we're in the city again we'll definitely be swinging by to say hi.

One place we needed to try just for the novelty factor was Chabuton, a ramen joint where you order at the machine. We headed to the location in a food court on one of the top levels of a huge mall after a long afternoon exploring Shinsaibashi Suji, Osaka's main undercover shopping area. We were sad to discover that the spring special ramen, the only one apparently made with vegetable stock, was no longer on the menu. Chabuton have another veggie ramen on the regular menu but it's made with fish stock so we ended up ordering 4 plates of their vegan friendly vegetarian gyoza.

The soy sauce that comes with the gyoza is reported as containing fish on Happy Cow but of course we were carrying the handy tiny bottle of Kikkoman we had picked up at a 7/11 on the first day of the trip. These were really great gyoza and I'm sure they'd be delicious sauce free if carrying your own condiments is a step too far for you!

The next day, the last of our flyby visit, we headed back to Green Earth for sandwiches and pastries. Green Earth make their own vegan cheese but they only had enough left for half a sandwich so I had cheese on the bottom half and avocado on the top half, a perfect compromise, and this was a great sandwich. They should totally add this mix and match option to the menu permanently!

We both had apple pies for dessert which were served hand pie style. I love apple pie in any format and these shortcrust pastry pies were light, warm and comforting.

Green Earth also sell scones, tea cakes, muffins and cookies to take away.

We picked up an earl grey cookie, two matcha tea cake slices and a pumpkin muffin. We saved most of them for breakfast the next day and enjoyed them all especially the pumpkin muffin, that was definitely my favourite.

That night after more exploring (um, shopping) we sat outside Starbucks for some matcha soy lattes and a spot of people watching. I swear I could sit and people watch for hours when I travel, especially in a city like Osaka where the youth fashion is so fascinating.

The next morning we bid adiau to Osaka and headed for Hiroshima. First stop, the Peace Memorial Park and Museum. It's hard to put our experience there into words, it's certainly the most hard hitting museum I've ever visited and it certainly didn't shift my anti war / anti nuke stance. I will never understand why people think nuclear weapons (or any weapons!) are okay. Whenever a country conducts nuclear weapons tests the mayor of Hiroshima writes to them asking them to stop and to never do it again, these letters are all displayed in the museum. Once you've seen the devastation caused by these bombs I don't know how you could support testing nukes. It makes no sense to me.

After a long walk and some peaceful time spent reflecting on the horrors of war it was time to check into our hostel before scoping out Hiroshima's cruelty free dining options. We picked K's House hostel both because of it's proximity to the station and the centre of the city and because they had private traditional rooms which meant we were able to have the tatami mat sleeping experience without shelling out a fortune at a more upscale ryokan.

There aren't many vegan friendly spots in Hiroshima and sadly the place we did try, Vegan Cafe, had closed before we'd even left the country. I'll show you the food I ate anyway because it was delicious.

Green Smoothie made with soy milk, greens and bananas. Nick loved this, if I even detect the slightest milkiness in my smoothies I have to force it down but aside from my weirdness I'm sure it was great!

Lunch plate, you picked three dished from the menu and then they came with brown rice, salad and miso soup to make a complete meal.

Dessert was a toasted chocolate chip muffin and a gorgeous slice of pineapple cake. I am a little allergic to pineapple but this tiny sugar-glaze covered piece was fine and there was no way I could skip such a beautifully presented dessert.

Hiroshima does have one vegetarian cafe and a couple of veg friendly spots left so don't despair and check Happy Cow before heading out to eat.

Another reason for our trip to Hiroshima was that it's day trip distance from Ōkunoshima aka Bunny Island. To get there we took a Sanyō Shinkansen train to Mihara followed by a local Kure line train to Tadanoumi. You can tell you're in the right place as soon as you alight the train!

It's then a short walk (just out of the station, turn right and follow the road around) to the small port where we purchased tickets from the booth and boarded a tiny boat heading for the island. We felt so lucky to have ended up making this journey on the most beautiful day of the entire trip, it was perfect.

There are a couple of stories addressing how and why Ōkunoshima came to be overrun by rabbits but the most realistic and believable is that during the war Ōkunoshima housed a poison gas factory and their chemical weapons were tested on rabbits. Once the war came to an end the factories shut up shop and released the bunnies. As the old adage goes they bred like rabbits and soon the island was full of the gorgeous little creatures.

As soon as you hop off of the boat you can hop onto the mini bus which will drive you (very slowly) around to the spa hotel which is where you will find one of the largest concentrations of bunnies on the island. You can see bunnies as soon as you arrive at the port and the bus drives slowly so as not to frighten or disturb our furry friends. Apparently you can buy food for the rabbits at the hotel but we could not work out what, where or how and nor did we see anyone else doing this but it didn't matter because we had carrots (a small amount as we know bunnies shouldn't have too much carrot) and a lovely Japanese family shared some of their huge bag of cabbage with us.

You can hire bicycles and no cars are allowed on the island as it is part of the Inland Sea National Park. We chose to walk and we got around the whole thing on foot with no trouble. Everywhere we went there were more bunnies.

As well as being full of adorable rabbits Ōkunoshima is beautiful and I loved the juxtaposition of stunning scenery and creepy dilapidated buildings.

As we had arrived towards the end of March it was bunny season and the little tiny rabbits were everywhere. It took us hours to walk around the island because we obviously had to stop and interact with every rabbit we saw.

Pictures don't do the bunnies justice so I'll leave you with the video Nick and I put together, I hope you like the music it's one of my favourite Kyary Pamyu Pamyu songs!


  1. I cannot handle any of this. Like not even any of it. I want to liiiive on Bunny Island. I actually squeeled out loud when they all come running at you in the video. I can't even...I've never....omg.

  2. Those baby bunnies; I want to eat them all up- in the most vegan way possible. I am truly enjoying your descriptions of everywhere you've been thus far; the Hiroshima museum sounds particularly fascinating and awful. Why humans keep making the same mistakes, I'll never know.

  3. OH MY GOD!!!
    The video is too cute for woods!
    How did you control yourself?!
    p.s. Love your socks-very cute!

  4. Words I mean!
    See, I was in cute shock from the video! haha

  5. Oh my god those bunnies!! I love how they come bounding towards you, haha!
    The food all looks great - especially those gyoza. I have matcha that I bought to bake with..this reminds me it's time for another round.

  6. Squeeeeeeeee! I want to go baaaaaack!

  7. Those bunnies are just TOO MUCH!

  8. A bunny island! Oh my gosh, I want to be there!

  9. Squeeeee! Bunny Island! I just heard about this on Gawker (or one of those sites). My friend Cassi just got back from Osaka, and she brought me back instant ramen from the ramen museum there. But bunnies!!!

  10. OMG I NEED to go to bunny island!

  11. looks like you're having a fun and delicious time! what cute little bunnies!! :D

  12. I clearly need to get back to Japan and see much more of the country. I didn't even know that Bunny Island existed! Oh my god, death by cuteness.

  13. Bunny island, I love it. There's a small island in the oslo fjord that is totally crowded with black bunnies, too. They are very shy though.

  14. Bunny Island is the cutest place on Earth! and the song totally goes with the video! :-)

  15. this is the greatest thing in the history of the internet. i want to move to bunny island. thanks for all the pictures and the video! <3


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