The first time I traveled to Japan, I was determined to visit Nara Park and get myself a kawaii deer selfie. I didn’t know what to expect once I got there. Would the park be teeming with deer? Do they really just wander around willy nilly? What about the….poop?
Let me tell you what it was like to be Snow White at Nara Park.
Nara Park is huge! The park, shrines, and temples surrounding it total about 660 hectares. That’s quite a bit of space for the more than 1,200 deer to roam freely on the grounds.
The deer were once considered divine and sacred because of local folklore describing a deity appearing at a mountain riding on the back of a deer. They are no longer considered sacred, but are natural national treasures in Japan and protected at the park. Visitors can now feed these once divine creatures, turned entitled millennials, deer-cookies/deer-crakers, called shika-senbi, sold at carts located throughout the park.
Do not let their cute looks and seemingly docile behavior fool you. There is a price to pay for cute deer selfies! When I first saw the warning sign, I was skeptical. The deer looked so cute and friendly, and they only prey on elderly women and children according to the sign, right? It’ll be fine…
I purchased a pack of deer cookies for 150 yen (under $2 CAD) and I immediately became the most popular tourist near the cart. Some of the more polite deer bowed for the cookie while others more urgently snapped it from my hand. As a way to communicate hunger and urgency, some even headbutt or bit me on the bum!
There is no hiding the fact that you have the deer-cookies on you. There is no “out of sight, out of mind.” The deer can either smell the bland rice crackers in your possession, or they can hear the special sound the treat makes as they chafe together in your pocket or bag. Frightening…
I really discourage allowing very small children to feed the deer. They are cute, but some are not very gentle (remember, butt biting) and I think the last thing a parent would want is for their child to forever be traumatized by deer.
People don’t only visit Nara Park for deer, although it is probably one of the more popular attractions. There are so many things other things to see and do such as, visiting shrines, museums, and walking through impeccably clean and manicured gardens.
I visited the park in early April so there were plenty of cherry blossoms to enjoy. It is such a beautiful park that it felt like I was in a movie- walking over the wooden bridge with petals floating through the air and koi swimming beneath. I would definitely return here some day. Ass biting deer and all.
If you were still wondering about the deer droppings, there are staff that sweeps up the poop. They even clear the paths of leaves! I have never seen a cleaner park in all my life.
What was the most beautiful park you’ve ever been to? Bonus points for non-aggressive wildlife!
Live large. Live Jennormously!