Our Japan Jaunt – Part 2: Nara
The main reason we chose the Kansai region was because of the multiple cities in close proximity to each other. So after a day and a half in Osaka, we decided to take a day trip out to the ancient city of Nara. With our trusty Kansai Thru Pass, the trip only took about 45 minutes using the express lines on the regular subway system. As with the rest of our Japan visit, we went in with a minimal amount of planning and expectations, but were pleasantly surprised by everything Nara had to offer.
Nara is famous for the deer that wander freely, harassing visitors for treats. People consider them messengers of Buddha, so they are never to be harmed… or something like that. As I said, we did a minimal amount of research on this trip. The result is hundreds, perhaps thousands (millions?) of deer that have lost their fear of humans.
The deer mostly just graze or lie around in the numerous parks and beautiful scenic areas in the city. However, visitors can buy a stack of deer cookies to feed the animals, which makes them beg for food with the aggressiveness of crazed goats at a petting zoo. They will only bother you if they see or smell the cookies, but when they do they’re capable of anything from respectful bowing to headbutting to biting to a full-on mob of deer chasing people down.
Most of the male deer have had their antlers shaved down, which I think is an absolute necessity. With the way some of these tourists panicked, threw their stack of cookies in the air and ran, you would see impailments on a daily basis. However, there are a few docile bucks in some of the more secluded areas of the parks that have been allowed to keep their antlers.
Nara is filled with walking trails around misty forests, temples, monuments and gardens. Many of the trees appear to be hundreds of years old, with their roots wrapping around religious markers and ancient stones. The crisp air was a world away from the Daegu sludge we’re used to. The whole town just has a mystical feel to it. One day isn’t enough to see everything there is to see in Nara, but unless you’re content with just strolling around and taking pictures of deer and trees for multiple days, one day might be just fine.