If you will be holidaying around Osaka or Kyoto and enjoy nature and animals, you won’t want to miss Nara Park.
A public park located in the city of Nara, Japan, Nara Park has temples, lovely scenery, and free-roaming shika, or deer.
Though wild, these deer are still tame enough to come up to you and nudge your pockets for food. The deer in Nara Park are more than used to people taking photos and interacting with them, and the more docile ones are even partial to hugs. Like goats, the deer do help themselves to paper items, like maps, so make sure you keep your belongings in your bags before going near a shika!
Visitors to the park can purchase shika senbei, rice crackers baked especially for the deer, from vendors all over Nara Park. The approximately 502 hectare park houses around 1,200 deer of the Sika variety, and these wild deer live and reproduce in the area, so if you’re lucky, you can get to see two males fight, or better still, pet a fawn!
You don’t have to spend all day feeding the deer, though. One can also pay a visit to the various temples in the vicinity of Nara Park: Todai-ji, Kofukuji, and the Kasuga Shrine. These temples are ancient and imposing, and well worth a visit even though they don’t have deer roaming their compounds. Guided tours are unfortunately not available for these temples, and you have to pay a small entrance fee if you wish to enter
If history is not your thing, you can take your pick of street food from the vendors lining the streets. These outdoor street stalls offer a wide variety of traditional Japanese snacks and souvenirs, and the food served is satisfying enough to replace a sit-down lunch. However beware the roaming deer! They will happily help themselves to your food if you’re not careful.
The city of Nara is a short train ride away from Osaka and Kyoto via the JR line, and Nara Park is easily accessible by foot from the train station. While you can choose to stay there, a day trip is more than enough to enjoy both the deer and the temples. This little adventure is highly recommended for adults and children both!