Nara (奈良) is probably less known to foreigners, who think of cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Okinawa when they think of Japan. However, open a guidebook or a Japanese textbook and you will quickly find out that Nara is worth at least a day trip. Why? Well, because it is the little known deer capital of the world. Seriously, they are absolutely everywhere in the city.
When a group of us were down in Kyoto for the weekend, we decided to hit Nara on our way home (well, back to Tokyo) on Sunday. A weekend of being a group of 8 gaijin who spoke relatively little Japanese and being constantly on the go was beginning to take its toll, so when we reached Nara we were ready to easily find the plethora of deer that had everyone talking.
We walked out of the train station and after only a few blocks we were bombarded with elderly women selling crackers to feed the deer to tourists. Being tourists, we thought this was the perfect time to buy some.
And then we walked some more. And a little farther. And, oh my gosh, there is a deer! But like a, singular, deer, surrounded by a million people. Ummm…. But that was OK, we decided to go feed it with all the crackers we had just bought. And of course, the deer is exhausted and stuffed from all the other people feeding it and petting it, so by the time we reach the deer it just sits there and stares at us (which in other words equals the most opportune selfie moment).
A little disappointed, our large group splits up, each thinking they know where to find the deer, and lets be honest, any reason to find Nara exciting. A friend and I decided to give up looking for deer and went in search of a hiking trail/forest area we had heard about, and while we had no luck finding that, we did find dozens or even hundreds of deer a fairly short time later.
Once we found the deer, we came across any number of exciting opportunities, though were only able to do a few things as our time was running short and we had a train to catch. One of the coolest things we saw was 東大寺 (Todai-ji), which is home to 奈良大仏 (Nara Daibutsu), or the Nara Buddha. This statue was created in 743 AD and is one of the biggest Daibutsu in Japan in addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although we had to leave the city far too soon, it was a great adventure and a great look at what other cities in Japan have to offer.
I have decided I like using the “gallery” mode for sharing a large number of pictures, so please comment below if you have questions about the content of any of the pictures!