Meet the Sacred Deer of Nara

by Tsvete Popp
Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. Nara, Japan

Welcome to Nara

The Sacred Deer of Nara is a unique and cherished symbol of Japan’s ancient city. Nara, with its deep-rooted traditions and breathtaking beauty, is home to a remarkable population of friendly deer that roam freely in Nara Park. In this article, we will explore the fascinating history and cultural significance of these majestic creatures, considered divine messengers in Shinto mythology. Join us as we unravel the enchanting tales surrounding the deer, their sacred connection to the city’s temples and shrines, and the delightful interactions visitors can have with them.

Where to Stay in Nara

As you would expect from a major travel destination in Asia, Japan has no shortage of options when it comes to accommodation. As always, I’d suggest you stay somewhere central, to make accessing all the attractions as easy as possible.

Best Luxury Hotels in Nara Japan

  • Nara Hotel: This historic luxury hotel is located in Nara Park, close to major attractions such as Todai-ji Temple and the Nara National Museum. The hotel features elegant rooms with traditional Japanese decor, exquisite dining options, a tea lounge, a beautiful garden, and impeccable service.
  • Hotel Nikko Nara: Situated near Nara Park, this luxury hotel offers spacious and comfortable rooms with modern amenities. Guests can enjoy panoramic views of the park or the city skyline. The hotel features a restaurant, a bar, a fitness center, and a souvenir shop.
  • Asukasou: This luxury ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) is located in the picturesque village of Asuka, known for its ancient temples and historic sites. The ryokan offers spacious rooms with tatami floors and private hot spring baths. Guests can savor traditional kaiseki cuisine and experience the warm hospitality of the staff.


Best Mid-Range Hotels in Nara Japan

  • Nara Washington Hotel Plaza: Conveniently located near Nara Station, this mid-range hotel offers comfortable rooms and easy access to Nara’s main attractions. The hotel features a restaurant, a café, and a souvenir shop. It provides a convenient base for exploring the city while offering modern amenities and reasonable rates.
  • Comfort Hotel Nara: Situated a short walk from Nara Station, this hotel offers cozy rooms with modern furnishings. Guests can enjoy a complimentary breakfast and access to amenities such as free Wi-Fi and a self-service laundry room. The hotel’s convenient location allows for easy exploration of Nara’s attractions.
  • Hotel Pagoda: Located near Nara Park, this mid-range hotel offers comfortable rooms with a mix of Western and Japanese-style decor. The hotel features a restaurant serving Japanese and Western cuisine, a souvenir shop, and a communal bath. It provides a convenient location for exploring Nara’s cultural treasures.


Best Hostels in Nara Japan

  • Guesthouse Nara Backpackers: Situated near Nara Station, this friendly hostel offers budget-friendly dormitory and private rooms. The hostel features a communal kitchen, a cozy lounge area, and a rooftop terrace. It provides a relaxed and social atmosphere, perfect for budget travelers looking to meet fellow explorers.
  • Nara Guesthouse 3F: Located within walking distance of Nara’s main attractions, this hostel offers a mix of dormitory and private rooms. The hostel features a communal kitchen, a lounge area, and a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city. The friendly staff can assist with travel information and recommendations.
  • Guesthouse Tamura: Situated in a quiet neighborhood near Nara Park, this cozy hostel offers comfortable dormitory and private rooms. The hostel features a communal kitchen, a common area, and a garden. Guests can enjoy a peaceful atmosphere and the convenience of nearby attractions.

Todai-ji Temple, Nara, Japan

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What to Know Before Visiting Nara

Our next stop after visiting Kyoto for several days was the ancient capital of Japan – Nara! The city of Nara is home to history, culture, and nature and is most famous for the Sacred Deer of Nara! Nara is a unique and wonderful place in the Kansai area which you should definitely visit during your next trip to Japan!

Nara is located 50 km south of Kyoto and only a little farther from Osaka, so many people decide to visit it on a one-day trip. But Nara is filled with history and nature, and there are so many things to do here so we decided to stay there for two nights. Nara is filled with plenty of wonderful temples, shrines, parks, and amazing views! And above all, Nara is an excellent spot to get a break from the big bustling cities we visited before travelling to it.

The Sacred Deer of Nara

One of the most interesting things to see in Nara is, of course, the large amount of deer which can be seen around Nara-Koen Park. But deer in Japan are not just some usual deer – they are considered to be sacred animals! Nara was established on the grounds of Kasuga Taisha Shrine, with the deity Takemi Kajichi no Mikoto. It is believed that god Takemikazuchi rode upon a sacred white deer to Nara. Therefore, the deer are viewed as messengers and helpers of Gods in Japan’s mythology.

Nowadays, the deer of Nara coexist with humans and are still considered sacred and are protected by the local government. The deer have free range over most of Nara Park and the surrounding mountains. I thought that it will be not that easy to find the deer, but it is actually only a short walk from Kintestu Station towards the Nara Park area (about 10 minutes). From here you can see deer everywhere, including Todai-ji Temple and Kasuga-Taisha temple and forest.

There are more than 1200 deers roaming around Nara and although they love interacting with humans, they are still considered wild animals and anyone should respect them as such. Sometimes the Sacred Deer of Nara could even get a bit aggressive in their pursuit of food. The deer often try to bite your clothes and bags or push you in order to get some extra food.  Some deer have apparently even learned how to bow to people and beg for treats!

Although the deer of Nara doesn’t look like the wildest animals on Earth, they are wild animals. The deer eat different plants throughout the year. If you want to feed them, you can buy special rice crackers called “shika senbeican” (rice crackers without sugar) from local vendors in the park.

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Enjoy the day!

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