Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. Nara, Japan

Meet the Sacred Deer of Nara

by Tsvete Popp

This post is part of the series Japan

Other posts in this series:

  1. Must Visit Places in Tokyo for First Time Visitors
  2. Interesting Facts About Tokyo You Probably Didn’t Know ~ Japan
  3. Things You Need to Know Before Travelling to Tokyo

Our next stop after visiting Kyoto for several days was the ancient capital of Japan – Nara! The city of Nara is home to history, culture, and nature and is most famous for its countless roaming deer. Nara is a unique and wonderful place in the Kansai area which you should definitely visit during your next trip to Japan! 


Nara is located 50 km south of Kyoto and only a little farther from Osaka, so many people decide to visit it on a one day trip. But Nara is filled with history and nature, and there are so many things to do here so we decided to stay there for two nights. Nara is filled with plenty of wonderful temples, shrines, parks, and amazing views! And above all, Nara is an excellent spot to get a break from the big bustling cities we visited before traveling to it.





One of the most interesting things to see in Nara is, of course, the large amount of deer which can be seen around Nara-Koen Park. But deer in Japan are not just some usual deer – they are considered to be sacred animals! Nara was established on the grounds of Kasuga Taisha Shrine, with deity Takemi Kajichi no Mikoto. It is believed that god Takemikazuchi rode upon a sacred white deer to Nara. Therefore, the deer are viewed as messengers and helpers of Gods in Japan’s mythology.



Nowadays, the deer of Nara coexist with humans and are still considered being sacred and are protected by the local government. The deer have free range over most of Nara Park and the surrounding mountains. I thought that it will be not that easy to find the deer, but it is actually only a short walk from Kintestu Station towards the Nara Park area (about 10 minutes). From here you can see deer everywhere, including Todai-ji Temple and Kasuga-Taisha temple and forest. 



There are more than 1200 deers roaming around Nara and although they love interacting with humans, they are still considered being wild animals and anyone should respect them as such. Sometimes they could even get a bit aggressive in their pursuit of food. The deer often try to bite your clothes and bags or push you in order to get some extra food.  Some deer have apparently even learned how to bow to people and beg for treats!



Although the deer of Nara don’t look like the wildest animals on Earth, they are wild animals. The deer eat different plants throughout the year. If you want to feed them, you can buy the special rice crackers called “shika senbeican” (rice crackers without sugar) from local vendors in the park.



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Enjoy the day!





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