For those who are interested– there are more photos on my tumblr!
There’s this little city about an hour outside of Kyoto called Nara. Nara is famous for its several temples, its numerous stone lanterns, and its countless deer.
Deer, according to legend, are heavenly animals. They protect the people and the city of Nara. As a result, Nara residents have historically revered deer, and do not harm them.
So the deer take advantage of it.
Modern day Nara is swarmed with deer. Deer have grown accustomed to humans, since we feed and pet and don’t harm them. It’s gotten to the point where they’re a huge tourist attraction for both Japanese and non-Japanese alike.
They were a tourist attraction for us, too. One day in Kyoto, we decided to escape to Nara instead. We hopped on a train to Nara, where our sensei had set up volunteer English tour guides to take us around the city.
We started with the Sarusawa-ike pond, where captured fish is often released. I saw more turtles than carp, though.
And then we moved on to Kohfukuji, one of the many famous shrines in Nara.
I saw them.
There are stands all over Nara selling senbei, crackers that tourists can feed the deer. Deer tend to hang around these stands. There was a stand at Kohfukuji, and thus a little patch of deer just chillin’.
My first reaction was to scream.
Second was to run up and pet them.
And then I immediately purchased some senbei. Which seemed like an excellent idea, until…
If you have food, these deer will get it. They will chase you. They will push you. They will eat your clothes.
And I was thus harassed by deer in Nara.
This wasn’t going to work. I was saved by the ingenuity of a fellow student:
I quickly passed out the remainder of my senbei so the deer could go and bother other kids.
In all honesty, though, Nara was kind of…super awesome yo. The deer, especially the adults, are friendly and let you casually walk up and pet them. And the deer bow. The deer bow. There is actually a correct way to feed the deer, besides running-away-while-frantically-holding-out-bits-of-cracker, which looks like this:
I took a video, which I wish I could post—but here in Sapporo, I’ve been unable to connect my laptop to the internet. The old computer they have here is a bit too slow to handle youtube uploads. Perhaps when I get home. But I swear it’s true—the deer will bow to you to ask for food.
Nara’s got more to it than just deer, though. There are several shrines, including the Todaiji, the largest wooden structure in the world:
There’s also a forest path lined with hundreds of stone lanterns. During Obon, every single lantern is lit with candles. It was already quite a sight in the daytime.
A big thing at temples is to purchase small wooden tablets on which you can write wishes to the shrine’s god. In Nara, perhaps because it’s swarmed by schoolkids, love wishes seemed to be popular. Very popular.
So yes, Nara was pretty darn cool. I’ve never been anywhere like it—but I suppose that’s a common theme on this trip of mine. And on that note—please enjoy this plethora of deer photos!