Explore the Nara Deer Park


Added by Nicholas Adam

You can hang out with Deer!

There are many ways to get to Nara, but if you're a tourist, you'd likely arrive on public transportation via train or bus. Most will drop you near the city center, and if so, wander east, following any of the major roads, and you'll eventually run into many acres of public park. All which are free to enter.

The park grounds are typical to city parks, with walking paths winding through large areas of nicely manicured grass and trees. The enticing part is that there are deer all over this park. The deer, known as Sika Deer, which roam the park grounds, are considered sacred due to Japanese folklore, and because of this, they are classified as National Treasures and protected as such.

The deer are tame from generations of living within the park and interacting with humans. They mostly lie around and meander through the park. They will also gladly approach you with the expectation that you may have food for them, so be prepared. Its common to purchase some deer crackers from local vendors (you'll see them) and feed those to the deer. They will happily nibble these out of your hand as you snap a few selfies with them.

While you're in the park, be sure to check out the Tōdai-ji Temple. It is a huge Buddhist temple which houses the largest bronze statue of buddha (50ft tall). Definitely a sight to see, as well as the various other temples and tea houses surrounding the park.

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Even Deer Have Manners

The deer have bipoolar personalities. One second they're content to nibble, the next they're butting and prodding you to hurry up and give them their crackers. But if they're in a good mood, try holding a cracker high and bowing to them like the Japanese do. Chances are, the deer will bow back! While some may not prefer up-close animals, the deer are only waist high and aside from butting, not harmful. Just promptly leave if it's obnoxious.

Warning: Watch Your Butt!

While visiting Nara and Tōdai-ji should definitely be near the top of anyone's bucket list while staying in or near Kyoto, be warned: these deer can be fierce! While they may seem tame, it's important to remember that they are still wild animals, and they are not afraid of humans. If you purchase senbei to feed the deer, they will likely crowd you and push you, and on occasion (speaking from experience here) bite your behind in an attempt to get the food from you. So if animals make you easily nervous, this may be one to skip.

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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