Translated by Moeko Noda
Are There Really Deer Everywhere In Nara Park?
Nara Park has a reputation for being populated by tame deer that will eat right out of your hand. Let's check it out together!
Written by UCHACA
Nara is the ancient capital of Japan. A number of temples, shrines and other cultural heritage spots can be found within walking distance of one another.Each year more visitors come to see this city of historical landmarks.
At the heart of Nara is Nara Park, which includes the Kofukuji Temple, the Kasuga Grand Shrine, and the Nara National Museum. This park is famous for its spaciousness and perhaps even more so for its deer.
Where are the Deer?
You might ask “They are in cages, aren’t they?”
Here is the sight that greets you as you enter the park.
Getting a little closer...
Soon you will see something moving among the trees and hear faint crunches of the fallen leaves. Yes indeed, there are wild deer living freely in the park.
Playing with the Deer
They may be quietly resting among the trees,
or walking around the temple and observing the visitors.
Some deer even check how the shops are doing.
By visiting this park, you can see the way they act, what sounds they make and get to know more about their expressions and patterns of the fur.
Although the deer are very well-tempered, please do not tease them, ride on them, or give them any food other than deer snacks.
Why are the Deer There?
Around 710 A.D. when the capital was set in Nara, the ruler at the time moved the God (who is supposed to be living in a temple) from the Kashima Shrine in Ibaraki prefecture to Kasugayama, Nara. It is said that the God came to Nara riding on a deer’s back. Since then, deer were treasured as the messenger of this God. As they are sacred animals, they have been protected since ancient times. In the Muromachi era, (around 1473 A.D.), one who killed a deer was sentenced to death whether or not it was an accident.
As of now, there are about 1200 deer living in Nara Park under the protection of the government.
You can also purchase the deer senbei (deer rice crackers) sold at shops and freely interact with them.
Some of the deer have been seen bowing when someone gives them a deer senbei, making these deer even more popular, especially on the Internet.
If you have a chance to go to Nara, why not meet these friendly, cute deer?