All we knew about Nara before getting there was about its temples, its history and its UNESCO World Heritage sites. Plenty of reasons to go, at least so we thought.
Considering that getting to Nara from Kyoto by the JR Nara Line was super easy and quick (especially for us using our JR passes), we had no excuses not to go.
What a cute surprise!
To get to the temples area we walked through the Nara Park – Nara Koen – where we soon noticed that there weren’t only people there but also deer, and a lot of them.
My face lit up and I got super excited, ANGLO/Dale would say that I looked like a kid at the zoo for his first time. I love animals therefore seeing so many, and especially free to walk around without any restrictions, made me very happy indeed. 🙂
There were warning signs about how the deer could be aggressive, and how important is to be careful and not to challenge them especially if holding food.
They looked so cute that I personally couldn’t believe they could have attacked people, until I have actually witnessed different scenes.
There were a lot of tourists and Japanese school children, almost all of them were feeding the deer with some ‘deer crackers’ – shika sembei. A packet didn’t last very long, in fact as soon as it was open the deer surrounded the feeders until there was nothing left to beg for. We didn’t see any aggression from the deer, but they were quite insistent, especially with who was teasing them pretending to feed them and then hide the biscuit away. Cheeky!
How to choose who to fed when you have so many all around you begging for food?
Tough choice! Very tough!
Most of the deer were simply chilling out underneath a tree enjoying the shade, they looked not bothered at all about the food probably because already stuffed considering the amount of people feeding them.
I almost lost interest in going ahead, I would have happily stayed with the deer for the rest of the day.
We learnt that the freely roaming deer were considered sacred animals in the area and today they are a symbol of the city and a national treasure.
How we could have possibly missed that, I have no idea. I guess we didn’t do our homework properly. I didn’t mind it too much though, I actually liked finding out about them only once in Nara, it made it a lovely surprise!
Apparently in October there also is a Deer-horn cutting ceremony where the horns are cut off to avoid people from being hurt. Not sure I would enjoy that kind of show, but if you are in Japan and you’d love to attend, it’s quite a popular thing to do in Nara.