Walking around Nara Park from Nara Station to Todaiji Temple, we encountered many free-roaming deer. Nara is famous for free-range deer and you can see them everywhere. They are really free and can be seen taking a rest in the hedges.
Feeding deer was the most exciting part of this Nara trip. My kids couldn’t stop feeding special deer crackers and the deer were so gentle and well-behaved. My kids had vivid impressions of deer at Nara Park. They would remember only the moment to play with deer not the Great Buddha at Todaiji Temple.
In the 9th century, the Fujiwara clan transferred worship of the local deity from Kashima Shrine in Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo, to Kasugayama in Nara Park. It was said that the deity came to Kasugayama on a deer, so deer became the holy animal in Nara and are thought to bring happiness. About 1,200 deer are living, eating, resting, fighting, being fed and playing at Nara Park. I took over 200 photos for the first 30 mins after entering Nara Park. It is rare to see such a large amount of deer at once, but gradually I became accustomed to being surrounded by deer.We saw some young deer who were relaxing and playing together with their parents near small ponds. A young, naughty male deer jumped in the big pond and could not get out.
How to Prosper
Every year, about 90 volunteers spend 2 days counting how many deer are living in Nara Park. I wondered how they could tell them apart because there were too many deer look-alikes. The costs and efforts are incredible and I somehow understand how locals protect deer as holy animals. I’d be disappointed if people stop taking care of them and deer disappeared from Nara Park.
You can also see Sento-kun, a special local mascot in Nara, featuring deer and the Great Buddha. “Sento” means capital transition from Nara to Nagaoka in 784. Sento-kun has the biggest impact on me among the various new local mascots emerging as bamboo shoots growing in Japan, because people put deer horn on the head of holy Buddha. The combination is astonishing. Sento-kun also has some similarities to my kid’s face. I got tired of local mascots on view everywhere, but I bought a key holder of Sento-kun as an exception.