There’s something odd about the Japanese city of Nara.
There’s a certain magic in the air, for between the ancient temples, storefronts, and chaos of urban society, deer roam freely, unphased by the humans living among them.
Now the deer that I’ve come to know won’t let humans get near them, so what is going on here?
Over 1,300 years ago legend has it that a god appeared on the mountain overlooking the city riding a white deer. From this moment on, the deer were considered sacred and divine, believed to be messengers of the Shinto gods that inhabit the city’s shrines and surrounding mountains.
Harming the deer was deemed a capital offense and up to present day they are still protected animals.
So the result of not hunting deer for 1,300 years? The deer have absolutely no fear of humans. They can be seen casually strolling in the city, the parks, and the surrounding mountains. Of course, the local economy has jumped on the opportunity to sell deer snacks that I am sure keep the level of deer in the city artificially high, but even the deer that I saw while hiking in the mountains were equally as friendly.
The deer truly give this city a unique, magical feeling, as I am not sure you can experience something quite like it anywhere else in the world.
It’s beautiful to see the humans and deer coexisting and goes to show the relationship that man can have with animals when they are treated as equals.
So, on my last day in Japan, I went to Nara to experience the enchanting deer for myself.