Nara Deer

Just lots of pictures…of deer

14 July, 2011 by

As the ancient capital of Japan, Nara is known for its rich culture and many historical landmarks. But it is also well (if not more) known for the hordes of free roaming deer. Tourists from all over are almost always immediately amused when they step into Nara only to be greeted by these curious creatures. Read on, for just lots of pictures of deer.

Nara is a small quiet city of about 400,000 people. You’ll find more deer, than any ethnic minority here. The deer here are considered sacred animals and in ancient Nara, accidentally killing a deer would had been punishable by death. These days, Nara’s deer have been collectively deemed a national treasure by the Japanese government.

Nara's free roaming deer.

Free to harass people.

Approximately 1,200 deer roam the streets of Nara. It’s a pretty surreal sight that makes Nara look like one giant wildlife park or zoo. Thankfully, the deer tend to keep off of personal property. Keep in mind, these are still wild animals so they occasionally still bite and can get aggressive when provoted. Through the generations though, the deer have actually evolved a certain level of intelligence that allows them to live in this urban setting.

Pretty much everywhere.

Makes parking a challenge.

Camping by the biscuit stands.

Waiting for people to purchase the biscuits.

Fairly tame.

The largest herd of deer (about 200) spend their days at Nara Park in the vicinity of Todaiji Temple. They hang around this heavily trafficked tourist destination in hopes of being fed by visitors. Stands here sell “Shika Senbei”, rice crackers which patrons can purchase to feed the deer. While apparently not their main source of nutrition, the deer have grown accustomed to accepting these biscuits.

Towards the main temple.

The temple grounds has the greatest concentration of deer.

They naturally stay out of the temple and shops though.

In fact, the deer have grown so accustomed that they spend most of their time beside the senbei stands. Amusingly, many deer have even learned to bow in response to people feeding them. Or rather the deer have trained tourists to feed them when they bow. Some deer also bow when they want food, or when bowed at. Deceptively, polite.

Another neat trick the deer at Nara have learned is that they will immediately stop pestering anyone if you were to life both of your hands up in the air in surrender. This tells them that you have no food on hand and they will leave, unless they know you’re lying, in which case they will continue provoking you regardless of how submissive you are.

Preying on tourists.

A victim.

Photogenic deer.

One of the more intelligent ones.

It's safe to get close to them. Except when you're carrying food.

Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.

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Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.