The other day, I saw this charming post on Twitter.
This Twitter feed comes from a monk from the famous Kōfukuji Temple in Nara, Japan, one of my favorite (I should repost my old photos about my trip there in 2015?). The photo shows the famous “Nara Deer” (shinroku in Japanese, 神鹿) munching on some weeds along the greenway. The monk also jokes “the other day these deer were in my yard, and a lot of plants were made bare (lol)”.
Nara Deer are an interesting cultural phenomenon from Japanese antiquity: they are a subspecies of the common Sika Deer in Asia, but in the ancient capitol of Nara, they were considered messengers of the gods (Shinto religion), and therefore sacred. Thus, within the park limits of old Nara, they are treated as a protected species and have been since antiquity.
The deer are generally tame, but they will swarm you if you have any food, and sometimes they will butt you with their horns if they deem you a threat. So, you have to be somewhat careful around them. Nonetheless, they are an integral part of the “Nara culture”. References to these “sacred deer” can be found in Japanese culture, and even Japanese games. In the old Super Nintendo game, Legend of the Mystical Ninja, there are a couple levels which have sacred deer in them. The deer will attack you, but if you attack them, you get penalized, so you have to just dodge them and move on.
Speaking as someone who’s visited Nara twice (2005 and 2010), I have learned to do the same. 😅