Feeding Deer in Nara Park, Japan

Entering into the heart of Nara Park we are greeted by a small, friendly deer wandering freely throughout the grounds. Approaching us, the deer bows its head down, as if to say hello.

travelyesplease.com | Feeding Deer in Nara Park
travelyesplease.com | Feeding Deer in Nara Park

“Oh, so cute! Look how she’s bowing her head,” I enthusiastically announced to Mike. “I think she’s politely asking for some deer crackers.”

Mike extends his hand out and the deer quickly, yet gently, takes the cracker from his hand.

travelyesplease.com | Feeding Deer in Nara Park

This was quite the contrast to our first experience with deer in Japan, a few days earlier. In Miyajima, the deer that wander the island were much more aggressive, munching on backpacks in an attempt to wrangle away any food or loose pieces of paper.

Luckily, this was not so in Nara. The deer in Nara Park are far better behaved, even demonstrating some manners when asking to be fed. Surprisingly tame, I can see why Nara’s deer are greatly beloved. They are so darn cute!

travelyesplease.com | Feeding Deer in Nara Park
travelyesplease.com | Feeding Deer in Nara Park

In actuality, the reverence for Nara’s deer probably stems more from Shinto religion, rather than their adorable appearance. In Shinto, deer are considered to be messengers of the gods. At one point, way back in ancient times, killing a deer in Nara was considered a terrible crime, punishable by death.

travelyesplease.com | Feeding Deer in Nara Park

Although they are no longer considered sacred, the deer in Nara Park are so special that they have been protected as a national treasure.

travelyesplease.com | Feeding Deer in Nara Park

Even though there are many things to see and do in Nara Park, feeding the deer is definitely my favourite memory.

travelyesplease.com | Feeding Deer in Nara Park

There was one deer I fed for quite a while, under the shade of a blossoming cherry tree. Raising my hand up to put the cracker over my head, the deer would bow its head down, politely asking to be fed. This deer, my little Japanese Bambi as I liked to call it, eventually trusted me enough to let me pet it. It was such a sweetheart!

travelyesplease.com | Feeding Deer in Nara Park

Admittedly, not all of the deer were so polite as to bow their heads when asking for a cracker, or allow you to pet them. Yet, even when I was surrounded by a small group of hungry deer, none of them got aggressive. Maybe the key is to be relaxed and not tease them with the crackers.

travelyesplease.com | Feeding Deer in Nara Park

I don’t even want to know how much money we shelled out for deer crackers, but as an animal lover, it was money well spent. I probably would have fed each of the 1,200 deer in the park, if it were possible!

travelyesplease.com | Feeding Deer in Nara Park

Tips for Feeding Deer in Nara Park

  • The deer can be found freely roaming through most parts of Nara Park, so you never have to go far to find them.
  • Special deer crackers (shika senbei) are for sale in packs of about 10 for 150 yen. Just look for the carts/kiosks scattered throughout the park.
  • To ask the deer to bow its head, hold the cracker overhead. They sometimes would also bow when we’d put it behind our back. Be sure to reward their good manners with a cracker!
  • Even though we didn’t experience or witness any aggressive behavior from the deer in Nara Park, it can happen. Keep your paper maps tucked away and don’t panic if a deer nips at your clothing.

travelyesplease.com | Feeding Deer in Nara Park

Accommodations in Nara

For your convenience, here is a list of hotels in Nara. Please consider booking your Nara accommodations through the included link. It costs nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you!

 

 

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By Rhonda Krause
Arpita Garg - July 21, 2016 - 10:32 am

deer is looking so cute and beautiful photos of nara park.
http://www.hoteldolphinnagra.com

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