Nara Park: Where The Deers Roam Freely

 

After a grueling and long (albeit fun) day at Universal Studios Japan, we ventured out to Nara, for a more relaxing trip. Goodbye city, hello countryside (okay, more like town-side). The most popular thing about Nara are the deers. Not only are they used to humans, they roam freely around the park, temple and even some nearby housing areas. Aside from deers, the temples here are quite legendary as well, with long histories attached to each of them.

How do I get there?
Assuming you are within the Namba area in Osaka, I will use the main Namba Station as a reference point. Take the train from Osakananba Station (same building as the Namba (Nankai) Station) towards Kintetsunara Station on the Kintetsu Line. The ride costs JPY560/MYR17 per person, and it will take about 40 minutes to reach Nara. Upon arriving, you need to catch a bus for about JPY100/MYR3 per person (ask the bus station master which bus) that will take you to Nara Park.

What do I need to bring there?
As Nara is more to the suburb side, I suggest you bring an umbrella, a sun hat and bottled water. There are lesser vending machines there (except for tourist spots) and lesser shaded/covered areas to shade you from sun or rain. (Trust me, I know. You’ll see.)

Are the deers tame?
Tame isn’t the right word, as they are still wild creatures. However, they are accustomed to seeing and being around humans, so you can approach them and gently stroke them. Of course, if you are being purposefully rude, loud and obnoxious, the deers might kick you โ€“ and you probably deserve it. There are warnings about that around the park, you know.

I also have a map here to show you an overview of Nara, since I didn’t get a chance to visit the museums and some of the other temples (I had enough of temples after visiting Angkor Wat). You can easily see where everything is so you roughly know where you are. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you haven’t already, check outย my first post on Osakaย which contains travel tips and recommendations. That post also contains all the links to the other places I have visited during my trip.

 

See what I mean?

It was a nice and sunny day, about 24 Celsius if I’m not mistaken, when we arrived at the park. All we saw were deers, deers, deers and excited tourists. They are pretty huge deers too! Most of them are quite chill and would like you touch them. Watch out for the poop though, they’ll just poo and pee freely without warning, all over the place. It smells just a little but the park cleaners are quite prompt with the cleanup.

 

Deer crossings everywhere.

 

 

There are small stands all over the park, selling food for deers. Do not feed the deers with anything other than what you buy from the park. This is where I feel deers get a little more aggressive โ€“ when food is involved. My mom, who was so excited (bless her soul), bought a packet of food and wanted to slowly dole out food to the deers. But the deers, sensing free-food, swarmed her and tried to grab the food with their mouths. I think she was surrounded by at least 7 deers! Some of the deers nipped her back and her arms while trying to procure the food. My mom was so terrified she just spun left and right as deers from each side stole a bit of food each time, until there was nothing left โ€“ all in a short span of 5 minutes. It was during those 5 minutes that my sister and I were laughing so badly, we had tears rolling down our cheeks. My mom was annoyed we were laughing instead of helping her, but it was too funny!

All that drama aside, we learnt that buying food and keeping it in our bags quickly could help us avoid detection from greedy deers. Greedy deers will not hesitate to nibble your butt, arms or back if they suspect you are withholding food.

 

This is my mom, right before the deers attacked, so do not be fooled by the sweet serenity of this captured moment. See that greedy one on the right? He started the whole grab-food-from-human-hands frenzy and the one behind her bit her back.

After taking lots of photos with nonchalant deers (shows how much they’re used to all this attention), we made our way towards the famed Tลdai-ji Temple. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a big buddhist temple with lots of statues inside. It is said that the deers there roam freely because they are believed in the Shinto religion, to be the messengers of the Gods. A few locals come here daily for prayers, but most of them just pray elsewhere, away from all the tourists.

 

There’s a very beautiful, peaceful lake on the way in. There’s also a fountain in the middle of the lake, which you can’t see here.

 

 

 

 

Natural water flows out of an underground well โ€“ this water is safe and clean enough to drink.

 

 

School trips are very popular here as we can see students from various schools and ages pouring in for tours.

 

 

 

This is the famous support column that’s 20ft high, in the temple that has a hole at the bottom โ€“ for people to crawl through. Mostly, the students are the ones doing it because it is believed that if you can crawl in one side and out the other successfully, you will receive enlightenment and do everything in life well (or perhaps just do well in school?). We didn’t try it because, well it looked kinda small and there were a lot of kids in line.

 

 

 

Right outside, there was a statue of Pindola Bharadvฤja. He is one of the 16 disciples of Buddha believed to have mastered the power of the occult. The Japanese believed that by rubbing one area of the statue, and then the corresponding part of yourself, can cure your ailment. My right knee was sort of killing me that day, so I rubbed his and then mine. Can’t tell if it worked, but my knee did feel better the next day.

 

 

Right outside, there are areas where you can donate and pick your fortune (by random), and tie them onto these rods to have your wish fulfilled by the heavenly Gods.

There are deer-themed souvenirs and food stuff, everywhere. Look how much they love their deers. Some percentage of the sales of these cookies will go to the deers’ welfare, so do buy some, even though they don’t taste really good. Think of the deers, those greedy little deers.

 

We walked around a bit and then decided to venture to the main town area to look for food. Meanwhile, let me explain why you should bring an umbrella.

You see, my mom decided to be ‘clever’ and ‘adventurous’ so we walked around aimlessly within some housing areas which had a few restaurants, but didn’t look great. After walking for 30 minutes, we were completely lost, with no turning or landmarks in sight โ€“ just rows and rows of houses that looked more or less the same. It started raining, of course.

We were lucky enough to find a bus stop for shelter, though it was quite bare, and waited another 20 minutes or so for the bus. By then our good mood had already been ruined by the winds and rain and the cold โ€“ but we finally got to the town area in good time (it was quite a drive away). So folks, the lesson here is, bring your umbrellas to Nara and do not wander off into housing areas!

After having lunch, we walked around the streets, littered with souvenir shops that were more or less selling the same things. I got some of my more expensive souvenirs here for close friends and family. Some shops sell pretty unique items โ€“ but prices can be quite steep.

 

 

They have such beautiful trees here!ย 

 

 

This is my Nara haul, a black Neko coin pouch that came in so many colors I had a hard time choosing, along with the slip-wallet that features a lot of cute Neko drawings. I bought the deer figurine from the temple because it’s too cute, and an array of Meiji chocolates for Panda. Got that beautiful black lacquer box for his mom. Some other souvenirs like nail clippers and hair-sticks were also bought.

After some walking about, we decided to head back as it gets quite dark pretty early in Nara, and they close much earlier too. We were quite tired from all that ‘adventurous-walking’, so we had dinner in a nearby restaurant (Japanese fast food actually, their Japanese curry rice is pretty damn good) before plonking straight into bed right after.

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