Nara: The City with the Deer

So as part of that trip to Japan a month ago, I also had a chance to visit Nara. We technically stayed in Nara, but the prefecture and not the city. However we did take some time and go to the actual city to go sightseeing because it’s actually a sightseeing city in Japan.

For one main reason really: the deer. When people think of other cities in Japan, they think of these giant modern cities or these super traditional ones. Nara is like, I guess more on the traditional side, but the main thing people seem to take away from the city is that they have this giant park with a lot of deer in it.

Entrance of Nara Park featuring a bunch of deer.

So obviously we had to go. Now I’m no stranger to Japanese deer. Back in 2014 I went on a graduation trip to Japan and part of that was to Miyajima, which is in Hiroshima. They also had a bunch of deer there too. I’m no deer expert but they could even be the same deer cause they look the same.

Anyways, we went to Nara. First impression of the place was that it felt like a proper suburb. It made me think a tiny bit actually, because it seems like most places people go to when they travel are to big cities because well, they’re big cities, or to some small village in the middle of nowhere because they have this one thing that’s kinda neat.

Nara doesn’t really feel like that. It kinda has a similar atmosphere to where I live back home in Canada, except obviously it’s in Japan. It just has this big suburban city feel you know? Not too many cars on the road, some big buildings that don’t feel too clustered together, and just overall has this calm and peaceful atmosphere.

Nara Station, not super fancy but still kinda interesting.

It was a somewhat rainy day when we went so we were worried the deer weren’t even going to show up because they could just all be hiding from the rain. Luckily that wasn’t the case because the deer were there. It was kinda neat because one moment we were just walking and there were no deer, and then the next moment there they were, just a bunch of deer chilling and eating stuff.

They had some people selling “deer food” so that people could feed the deer. The deer were clearly expecting people to give them this food even though I have a hard time calling it food. It honestly looks like a wafer made of paper and some of my friends even ate some themselves and said it tasted like paper. Gross I know, but one of the people with me said it was so that they don’t gain weight, which makes sense I guess.

The deer were cool though. There were more than the ones at Miyajima and these were obviously very used to seeing humans and so they came straight up at you, especially if you had food.

Me trying to explain to a deer that I have no more food.

Aside from the deer there were some traditional temples and stuff you can check out in Nara Park. That’s also the park where the deer are so most people just end up staying there. It was nice. The temples that were there were kinda neat but the best part was the deer obviously.

The main temple that we went to see was Todaiji, which is a relatively big temple with three big Buddha statues inside. The statues were pretty neat but one of the more interesting things we saw in there was that they had a wooden pillar with a hole in it. Apparently if you could fit yourself through the hole you get your wish granted or something? It was weird but a lot of people lined up to do it. If there was less people I could’ve probably done it I think, but there was a lot of people.

Todaiji temple.

Aside from the park there was also this traditional street in between the park and the station that had a lot of souvenirs and other traditional things, like mochi. There was also this shopping arcade near there that was alright too. Like a less busy, smaller version of the ones you might find in Osaka.

Honestly we didn’t do too much in Nara but I figured it was worth it’s own post. Overall it was worth visiting I think. At least for what we saw and did a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto is definitely¬†possible and recommended, but I think there’s probably more stuff to do too if you actually looked it up.