If you search for the city of Nara online, the very first images you’ll find are of photogenic deer — their bright brown fur dotted with speckles of white — posing elegantly for the camera. These aren’t difficult shots to land, because at Nara Park, visitors are able to walk around and interact with a colony of over 1000 of these semi-tame animals!
When you enter, grab a pack of deer crackers from one of the street vendors. You’ll probably see some deer waiting eagerly next to the carts, trying to snatch a few freebies when the owner isn’t looking. Let that be a warning: these deer get a little impatient at times, so it’s best to give up the goods when they ask.
They’re not always so pushy however; most of the time they’ll politely approach, and even return the gesture if you bow to them! It’s thought that they learned to do this from the monks and priests at the local temples and shrines, who were the first to start feeding them long ago.
Although the deer now get the vast majority of their treats from tourists, the shrines and temples still stand on the park grounds. In fact these are some of the best sights in the prefecture, including the Nara National Museum, Kasuga Taisha Shrine, and Todaiji Temple.
A day of exploring Nara Deer Park’s attractions, while stopping off every now and then to pet and feed the deer, is a fantastic day out for anyone from lone travelers to families.