I promised you I would share my mistakes and travel tips and tricks, so let’s start. If you have your own opinion, that’s very good. I would really want to hear it in the comments.
The most crucial point to remember is that the deer in Nara are living there because they have been considered sacred animals. Yes, they are used to the presence of humans but they are not domesticated, and they aren’t pets. They will bite or kick if they don’t like what you are doing to them.
Nara’s deer are small if you compare them to the deer we are used to seeing on postcards or in the zoo. You will probably want to pet them because they look cute and innocent. When they lay down to relax, they might even let you touch them, but they usually do not enjoy being petted.
If that doesn’t convince you to keep your hand off the deer, you want to try it anyway. Then slowly approach the deer with your hand extended toward it. If it turns away or shows that it doesn’t want to be touched, you should step back and refrain from petting the deer to avoid accidents.
And for the cheap seats, please do not leave your children alone with the deer. Children might try to approach the deer from behind or make fast movements. And as I said before, those are wild animals, and deer might bite or kick, which will cause severe injuries.
There are shops around Nara Park where you can buy deer snacks, also known as deer crackers. As soon as you get them, you will be surrounded by deer. And yes, sometimes it’s scary as… Because deer can act like piranas. So my suggestion,
find a secure place where you can face them. Meaning that you won’t be in the circle of deer. Deer will smell the crackers so they will want your attention. And If they are behind you, they might headbutt you or pull on your clothes.
While feeding the deer in front of you, try to keep alert. It can be pretty overwhelming as other deer might try to approach you from all sides.
Refrain from going backward if you are not sure there is no deer behind you. The Nara deer are not very aggressive, but if you accidentally hurt them, they might hurt you.
Another tip to keep them calm is to make them do what they are famous for – bowing. If you bend to them, they will probably bow back and expect a cracker for it.
How about this hack, that worked for us in 9 of 10 cases.
1. Bow to the deer.
2. Let the deer bow back.
3. Feed the deer a cracker.
It will surprise you how well-behaved they suddenly are 🤣
They are smart and know they will be fed if they bow. They will only pull at your clothes if they feel left out after this.
Sometimes you might even encounter a small deer just learning how to bow back at you. Young ones don’t quite grasp the concept yet, and they will get overrun by the older deer, so try to award them a cracker for their cute attempt.
This point ties in with the first point. The deer are wild animals, and it can be incredibly dangerous to tease them. I have encountered people putting deer crackers in their mouths to make the deer get it from there or holding them over their head so the deer can’t reach them. If you do this to a deer with a short temper, they might simply headbutt you in the stomach or bite you to get the cracker. It has been reported that some people even tried to ride the deer.
The legend related to the Nara deer says that a god came riding into Nara on a deer’s back, which is why they are considered sacred animals. However, it is not recommended to reenact this legend. No deer will enjoy this attempt. Besides hurting yourself if you try something like this, you might also hurt the animal. As mentioned before, they are quite small and cannot carry a human.(and yes, I did see people who tried to do that 😣)
So please treat them with respect and keep a good distance.
The deer crackers you can buy at the shops contain only ingredients that are safe for the deer to eat. They are not made for human consumption, so please avoid trying them yourself. They aren’t bad for you, but they will probably not taste delicious.
The deer are herbivores so they can eat various leaves, fruit, nuts, and seeds. However, if you are not sure what they can eat, it’s better to feed them only the recommended crackers.
If you try to feed them anything meant for human consumption, they might eat it because they are curious, but it can make them very sick or even kill them.
As mentioned before, deer aren’t domesticated and don’t belong to anyone so there are no doctor visits or health checks for them. Therefore, please only feed them snacks their body can handle.( This year 9 deer died already).
Yes, I know that is probably the most obvious point, but believe me 99% of people somehow forget about it.
So if you get a meal on your way to the park, I recommend finishing it before entering the park. The deer are curious, and they will think it’s meant for them if you have something in your hand. They might even try to eat it, and if they succeed, your snack will be gone, and the deer might get sick. As I previously mentioned, 9 deer died because of as much as three kilos of plastic in their stomach. And I guess that it’s the fault of people who forgot that or didn’t find a trash bin and tossed their trash somewhere in the bushes.
Because they are living in Nara Park because they have been considered sacred animals and protected since ancient times. If you follow these simple tips and treat them as the national treasures they are, you make sure that you and the deer will genuinely enjoy your time in Nara.
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