You would think that after having stroked and fed deer in several countries around the world I would be content to seek other kinds of touristic pleasures. Well you would be wrong. When I heard for the first time that there was a park in Japan where you could go and feed and stroke the hundreds of beautiful deer there, I jumped around like a little girl with the promise of a fluffy toy in the near future. Even after I visited Miyajima, where there’s a healthy population of deer which will eat your map, plastic bag and jacket if you let them get too close, I was still looking forward to Nara park.
So when the day came, and I took the quick train from Osaka to Nara, I was ready to not have lunch just to have enough spending money to buy, like, a whole bag deer cookies. My lunch that day was an ice scream cone, and it was totally worth it.
Legend has it that the park deer are heavenly animals, and most surprisingly, they do something their cousins on Miyajima island don’t do: They bow. They see you holding a cookie and they will bow for it. Sometimes you’ll bow and they’ll bow in return. While they are generally quite lovely, they can turn aggressive, and some of them are more skittish than others. I don’t blame them though – Nara park is generally filled with students on school trips who can be quite rough and disrespectful to the animals.
But how adorable are they? Look at those eyes!!!!
Shops around the park sell deer cookies. Be prepared to be surrounded by deer whenever you show them off, so if you want your little packet to last, hide the stuff and feed them biscuit by biscuit. And always watch your back – some of them bite!
Apart from the deer, another reason to visit the park is for its many pagodas, shrines and temples, the most famous of them all being the Todai-ji which houses the daibutsu, a giant bronze Buddha weighing 500 metric tonnes. The approach to the temple structure is quite dramatic, and despite the crowds, they move forward efficiently, and with the Buddha being so huge, you’ll always be able to have a good look at it (as well as the slightly tacky souvenir stalls).
The area between the train station and Nara park has got some cute covered streets and heaps of traditional souvenir shops and eateries. If you have time, take a bit of a wander, and if you’re broke after spending all your money on deer cookies, you can always buy a cheap bento box from the many convenience stores, just like I did.
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-Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @www.theartofslowtravel.com. All rights reserved. This is part of Travel Photo Thursday.