The Dos and Don’ts of the Deer in Nara Park

The Dos and Don’ts of the Deer in Nara Park

Nara Park is a five minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station, or about a twenty minute walk from JR Nara station. It is well known for having over one thousand free-roaming deer. It is one of the must-see areas in Nara city, which has a certain charm that draws you in.

Even though they are very friendly and cute, you need to keep in mind that the deer living in Nara Park are not domesticated, and most importantly, they are considered sacred animals and so have been protected since ancient times.

The deer are very curious and if you have something in your hand, they will think you are about to feed them. They might even try to eat your phone or any paper you are carrying. Try to keep your hands free so they don’t follow you thinking that you have food. If you have no food, they will usually leave you alone. 

Here are some “Donts” you might want to know before your trip to Nara Park.

  • Do not give them any food other than the special crackers on sale around the park. The deer are herbivores, and the deer crackers are made from rice bran and flour.
  • Do not tease or harass them when feeding. They will attack you if they don’t like your behavior toward them.
  • Do not litter in the park. The deer might eat the garbage and get sick. A number of deer have died after swallowing plastic bags. The paper bands for the crackers are deer-friendly and edible.
  • Do not leave small children alone with the deer. Children are easily put in danger.
  • Do not get close to fawns or touch them. Mother deer will stop nursing them if they smell a human’s scent on their babies.
     

One interesting thing you’ll find is that the deer in the park bow to you when being fed. They know that they are more likely to get crackers if they do so. They look very polite and cute, but please remember they are not actually so polite, and their quirk of bowing is just a sign of their irritation. 

Feeding tips:

  • Stay away from the street vendor right after buying the deer crackers. Hide the crackers in your bag quickly! They will follow you, but the farther you go, the fewer deer will follow.
  • Move on until you find a secure place where you can feed them without rushing.
  • Split the cracker in two and feed half of it to each deer kindly, but quickly. Don’t keep them waiting!

★In case you get swarmed by a group of aggressive deer and they are out of control, just scatter the crackers away and leave quickly showing that your hands are empty.

Extra tips:

  • Male deer tend to be aggressive from September to November, the mating season.
  • Female deer tend to be sensitive from May to July, when they have newborn babies.
  • The deer will act aggressively towards people who are visibly timid or nervous. Stroll through the park with confidence. Don’t run, or they’ll chase you.

Nara is a rare place where deer and humans coexist. If you follow these cautionary points, and treat them as national treasures, you’ll have a safe and enjoyable trip.

Mari.H

By Mari.H

A resident of Nara Prefecture.

4 comments

  1. Mari-san Thank you for the wonderful information.
    It seems that we can enjoy getting along with the deer in Nara Park by being taught various tips.
    When Corona has settled down, I’m looking forward to going to Nara.
    I also learned some English words.
    I cannot wait next Nara information !

    1. Thank you for reading. The deer park is a great place for a change of pace. You’ll like the small shops around the park as well. If you treat the deer nicely, they’re typically calm. I hope we can get back to normal even if it’s only a day sooner and you enjoy your next trip to Nara.

  2. Really enjoyed the article. I hope to go to Japan later this year, COVID providing. I intend to visit Nara and feed the deer. I remember many years ago on my first trip to Nara I got into some trouble with a group of hungry deer when I ran out of crackers and they started biting my clothes. I wish I could have read your article before that visit.

    1. I recommend that you wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty to come into contact with the deer. I hope you fully enjoy feeding them next time.

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