JAPAN’S Nara Park is located in Nara, at the foot of Mount Wakakusa. Established in the 1300s, it’s one of the oldest parks in Japan.
The sprawling, picturesque park has been designated as one of the “Places of Scenic Beauty” by the country’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology – and it’s easy to see why.
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It’s home to the grounds of the Nara National Museum, Tōdai-ji, Kōfuku-ji, and Kasuga Shrine, as well as more than 1,200 species of plants and over 1,200 wild sika deer.
In fact, Nara Park became such a symbolic and a popular tourist destination because of its herds of freely-roaming deer, considered in Shinto to be messengers of the gods.
Deer crackers are for sale around the park as tourists often flock to the area to feed the animals and take pictures with them. The furry four-legged friends have grown so accustomed to being fed by humans that some deer have even learned how to bow to ask to be fed.
Clearly, they are loved by both locals and tourists alike.
Nara Park’s deer are tame and mostly harmless, but not when provoked.
Last year, a record 180 cases of those injured by deer were reported and 138 of the injured were foreigners. Most of the injuries were minor, with tourists having their hands bitten lightly while feeding the animals.
Prefectural government official Yuichiro Kitabata blamed tourists’ increasing eagerness to stage good pictures with the deer.
“According to Kitabata, many tourists lure the deer with shika senbei (deer crackers), which are sold in Nara Park. But once the deer approach the tourists hide the snack, making the animals wait as they try to snap the perfect shot. And that makes for some irritated deer,” The Japan Times wrote.
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As such, the park’s authorities have put up instruction panels in English, Chinese and Japanese titled, “A polite request from the deer when feeding them” at the stalls where the deer crackers are sold.
For example, when feeding a deer, don’t tease them as they’re wild animals and can get irritated, and on pure animal instinct, might bite you.
Here are some other tips to help you have a safer deer-feeding experience:
- If you’re driving in the vicinity of Nara Park, please do so with great caution as the deer are known to jump out.
- Small children should be accompanied by adults and “deer sign language” (showing both hands to the animals when feeding time is over) should be employed.
- The deer can’t digest human food so just stick to feeding them deer crackers.
- Be gentle with the deer and never, ever chase them lest they retaliate and land a kick on you.
- Got trash on you, such as paper wrappers and plastic bags? Don’t feed it to the deer.
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