We’ve all seen the videos online of deer bowing their heads to people as they video them. But did you know they are bowing because they want what you have….food! I don’t know why they don’t all have huge necks from the amount of bowing that they do. I mean really……..it’s a lot!
Nara Park is a public park in the city of Nara. Easy enough to remember right? With our JP rail pass we made a straight ride from Kyoto to there in about 45 minutes. This park and many others are known as “Places of Scenic Beauty”. I’m sure it sounds cooler in the native tongue than in the translation.
In Nara Park we see over a thousand wild sika deer roaming the area. Now they are not just in the park but pretty much all over the city. They don’t go to the shops are harass people on the street. There are just a lot of park areas for them to enjoy in the city. Now key word here is “wild”. While some may be more comfortable around humans, most are just there for the food and will not pose for photos or allow you to pet them.
I know Gabi hates the photo above but I love it. She was trying to feed a smaller deer that she deemed was “cute” and in going there was cutoff by a horde of hungry, zombiefied, feed me more sika deer. She barely escaped….well she got away easily once they realized that she didn’t have any food. I did have one nip at my jacket to get my attention. Apparently they will give you a little nudge to see if you have anything they may want to partake in.
The deer in this area are considered sacred as folklore says one of the four gods of the Kasuga Shrine visited the area riding a white deer. Killing one of these deer was punishable by death. It’s clear the people of the region have great respect for the animals.
Near the park stands the Todai-ji, a Buddhist temple. Deer an also be found here roaming the grounds as they are considered messengers of the gods. The Todai-jo is considered of the of Seven Great Temples and had a large role in early Japanese Buddhism. Now this site has been rebuilt a few times due to fire but still the fact that people have been using the site since the year 728 says something.
Well it can’t be all fun and games in Nara park. Although its possible deer like to but heads for fun. Needless to say our time with the sika deer was drawing a close and we had to catch our ride back to Kyoto to continue our trip in Japan.