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Nara Deer

As you may know, one of the main attractions to Nara is the thousands of wild yet tame deer that roam around Nara park. Designated as a National Treasure, and historically considered sacred, there are over 1,200 wild deer (Shika) wandering around Nara Park and you can pet them, feed them, and even take a selfie with them. They will even bow their heads to ask for Shika sembei (a tasteless biscuit that you can buy to feed them for 100 yen!).

They used to be considered sacred animals. According to local folklore, they are considered sacred due to a visit from one of the gods of the Kasuga Shrine. His name was Takemikazuchi-no-Mikoto and appeared on Mt Mikasa riding a white Deer. From then onward they were considered divine and sacred by the Kasuga Shrine and Kōfuku-ji. Killing one of these deer was a capital offence and punishable by death up until 1637 which was the last recorded incident.

After WWII, the deer were designated national treasures by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).

me making new friends

me making new friends

A young deer playing peek-a-boo for the camera!

A young deer playing peek-a-boo for the camera!

The biscuits you can buy to feed the deer are made of rice bran and wheat flour and cost around 100 yen (70-80 cents).

Recently, problems have arisen from plastic trash, specifically plastic bags. With the rapid rise in tourism in Japan (especially to places like Nara) levels of trash and litter have inevitably risen, and so far 6 deer have died in 2019 after consuming plastic trash left behind by tourists. One deer had 4.3kg of plastic in its stomach. So please please tidy up after yourselves and don't leave any trash!

Feeding time!

Feeding time!

The Shika sembei. The Nara deer love these! Humans.. not so much

The Shika sembei. The Nara deer love these! Humans.. not so much

One of the big old male deer of Nara park. Notice how he does not have his antlers. The fall off every season.

One of the big old male deer of Nara park. Notice how he does not have his antlers. The fall off every season.

Fun deer facts!

►About 150 deer a year get injured in traffic accidents as they are very free-roaming, and not afraid of human presence and indeed vehicles.

►Nobody clears the deer poo. It is naturally cleared by dung-eating insects!

►Nara Park does not need its grass mowed thanks to the deer.

►The deer will bow their heads as a way of asking politely for the biscuits! If they don't, you can simply demonstrate by bowing your head, and they will do the same.

►Some of the older deer have better manners, and I have found will allow you to take a selfie with them. Maybe they're just dozy but try it out! But first, make sure you bow!

Selfie time with the big old boy. One of the oldest deer in Nara park

Selfie time with the big old boy. One of the oldest deer in Nara park

Little deer family!

Little deer family!

You can't eat my camera I'm afraid

You can't eat my camera I'm afraid

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