Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coexistence with Deer in Nara Park

Nara Park is a huge park  covering an area of about 502 hectare without any gates and any fences.  When Todai-ji, Kofuku-ji, and Kasuga Shrine, which are on the edges of the Park, are included, the area is about 660 hectare.  It is a natural woodland of fine turf and various kinds of trees.   About 1100 deer roam around the park freely as it is called "Deer Park".

Deer in Nara Park are designated as Natural Monuments for their unique habitat that they have lived so long so closely together with humans in spite of being wild animals.

at the top of Mt. Mikasa (taken by cell phone camera)

What if all the deer disappeared?    We will not only miss them a lot but also lose one of the main attractions of Nara.

We will also lose powerful “natural mowers”.   Deer not only graze but also keep the whole grass of Nara Park clean and healthy.   They eat grass, drop droplets on the grass, insects break down them, beneficial bacteria remain to enrich the soil, new grass grow on the fertile soil.   Hope this cycle will continue forever .... not being destroyed by humans.

Deer in Nara Park are wildlife: no one owns the deer.  They are protected and cared for by the Deer Protection Organization (鹿愛顧会) when necessary.   When deer and humans live closely together, problems stem from.  Giving scares to people by their antlers or entering  gardens to eat bulbs or flowers, or damaging trees is a few of them.  There are damages on deer side, too. Of  course it’s humans who are responsible for coexistence.

Male deer rub or scrape their antlers against the tree.  To protect trees from this, trees are wrapped by the plastic nets to some height.

Japanese Andromeda bloom long in spring. Japanese name “asebi”  is written 馬酔木, which literally means 馬(horse) 酔(get tipsy) 木(tree).  In contrast to its lovely flowers,  the leaves are poisonous, and livestock have avoided from eating them.   Maybe planting "asebi" in the gardens or around the property could be one of the ways to keep deer out of the territory without damaging them.

To keep them healthy and alive, people are expected to give deer crackers sold at vendors for 150 yen.  Don’t give anything salty, spicy, sweet, greasy, or anything wrapped in plastic.  Sometimes plastics are found in the stomach of the dead deer.  To avoid this, there are almost no trash boxes in Nara Park and tourists are expected to bring back their trash.

Don't give them foods when you find them in the town. When they learn no foods in the town, they get back to the Park.

Drivers must drive carefully on the roads which cut through their habitat.

Stags grow new antlers in spring and they have grown hard by autumn and can be dangerous.  Deer’s antlers are cut by the Shinto priest at the Deer Antler Cutting Ceremony usually held on the second weekend of October.  While I like to see manly stags with fine antlers, I feel it can't be helped for coexistence in Nara Park where many tourists visit and local people live.

late November
In autumn, deer cry for mating.  When autumn deepens, I always remember this tanka poem.

奥山に紅葉ふみわけ鳴く鹿の 声きくときぞ秋はかなしき  
猿丸太夫 (7-8th century)

Deep in the mountain
Treading through the crimson leaves,
The wandering stag calls
When I hear the lonely cry
Sad – how sad!- the autumn is

I understand that sentiment, however, you wouldn't feel sad or lonely at Nara Park.  You'd rather enjoy your time of solitude watching deer.   She has gentle eyes, so do all the deer.

The view from Mt. Wakakusa/Mikasa, Nara.  Beyond the  Mt. Ikoma (642.3m)  is Osaka

Legend has said that when the Fujiwara Clan built their family shrine, Kasuga Shrine, in 8th century, they invited a powerful God from the eastern country to add its value.  The God appeared on the back of a White Deer.  People welcomed the Deer with bows and soon the deer around the shrine started to bow as they do so to visitors now when asking for foods. 

Learn more about deer in Nara Park on the website of Foundation for the Protection of Deer in Nara Park,  here .  Sorry, only in Japanese.

And, learn more about our world from the icon of Our World on the sidebar.


  1. This post blows me away - it is so beautiful and reminds us of our responsibility to co-exist with all forms of life.

    What utterly magical shots!

  2. I'm impressed that there are many kinds of aspect of deers like human beings.
    They look kind and comfort.

  3. hello Yoko:
    This is such a beautifully written and illustrated post. Your writing conveyed such an atmospheric sense of place which was so powerful that we could have been right there in the park with you.

    The Deer are such magnificent creatures and look wonderful roaming at will through this vast parkland. How very fortunate you are to have all this so close to you.

    And, as you say, with just a little thought a peaceful co-existence between Man and Nature is possible but, too often this breaks down. This is, we fear, the global problem of our times!

  4. Plastic is such a huge problem everywhere, isn’t it? Many birds and other wildlife die regularly from swallowing it. It is amazing to see such coexistence with the deer. The problem we have here in some parts of my world in BC is that they do proliferate and cause damage to trees and gardens. But in Japan I can see a significant effort to weave the species into the culture. It takes a bit of ingenuity and work but certainly looks worth it in the end. They are beautiful creatures on the hill with their brown soulful eyes looking towards the city. :)

  5. Such a pleasant post. Such wonderful pics. Shows us the importance of co existance, it makes the surroundings so so beautiful.
    Totally loved Nara Park, Thanks for giving us a glimpse into it.
    Have a fabulous week ahead Yoko:)

  6. Hi,Stardust.
    Have a good day!
    Red Rose.

  7. Precioso!! bss...

  8. i have read of these deer in Nara park before and would love to visit. I think I would like to have our Canada Geese replaced with these deer in our parks!

  9. very beautiful place. i hope the deer remain healthy for generations to come.

  10. Stardust,
    If you talk with visitors or even tour guides from different prefectures even from Nara, you will be surprised to know the most of them do not know the deer in Nara Park are wild animals and how many people are giving them inappropriate food to them. Once I met one elderly man who was giving candy to deer. To take photos of the deer, he wanted them to come close to him. I politely asked him not to give candy to the deer and explained the reasons. He loudly spoke back. While taking photos of the deer, I have experienced this kind of things several times. I think this is not people’s fault, but the lack of awareness about the deer. That’s why I have written about the deer in my blogs.

    Thanks a lot for sharing the story about the deer.

  11. What a lovely story and beautiful pictures of the deer. It is good to see them in harmony with their environment.

  12. Hello Yoko, I think I need some of your “asebi” here in my high altitude gardens! Your deer in Nara Park look so different from the mule deer that wander my forests. Yours seem smaller and more delicate. Though the deer that venture into my yard sometimes stand their ground and watch when I come outside, they would move away quickly if I approached too closely. The Nara Deer seem much tamer - more acclimated to humans. I enjoyed your informative post. I liked the photos of the deer grazing amid the fallen pink blossoms and the deer framed by fall leaves.

  13. your entries are always so beautiful and thoughtful. i especially love this one as i have a very soft spot for deer!!

  14. Wspaniale postępujecie z jeleniami w parku . Robicie wszystko żeby jelenie nie szkodziły ludziom. Ludzie jednak nie zawsze mądrze postępują, dokarmiając je. Piękne jest przedostatnie zdjęcie. Pozdrawiam

  15. The deer around us may strip by rosebushes of buds each PSpring, but this means that I have roses late in the Summer and Autumn. there are often two sides to a coin.
    They are so decorative and don't pose danger apart form Lyme disease possibly. I love seeing them even in large numbers.
    Nicely presented post. Thank you.

  16. You've given us some wonderful photos to view, Yoko. It was nice seeing how numerous they are in the first photo. The deer by the moss covered rocks, with the company of a bird was a sweet photo, but my favorite was the deer with his head turned, looking downward. Such a peaceful look he has and I loved the white fluff in his ears!

  17. 長年培ってきた貴重な共存ですから、知恵をしぼって平和的な共存が続くことを願っています。

  18. Hi Yoko
    this is a lovely post with the deer in the park and open spaces. I wasn't aware that the park extended so far.
    I loved the park and walked for hours on quiet tracks as well as seeing the sights. The deer at the gates by the stalls are very cheeky. One put his nose into my daughter's pockets while I was attempting to take their photo.
    It is nice to see the park in Spring with deer grazing. Both times I have been were autumn.

  19. I can't believe that such a place is possible in real life. It seems like a fairy tale. You are such a lucky girl to see all of that and take photos. Thank you for the visual delight.

  20. Dear Yoko!

    I enjoyed this post immensely! The first photograph, so stunning brilliant in color and sharpness captured my heart. I didn't think the post could get better, but it gorgeous photos of these delightful animals, so gentle and limber are a wonder to behold.

    What a park this is. And the Andromeda flowers - wow! I hope with you that humans don't trash the place and destroy its animals and its beauty!

  21. 奈良公園の春秋が、鹿たちとともに素敵に表わされていて、見慣れているはずなのに改めてこの環境の素晴らしさを思いました。

  22. snowwhite  -  私も同じことを経験してきました。無邪気な子供たちがポップコーンらしきものをあげていました。キャラメルコーンでした。親たちは嬉しそうにそんな子供たちを見つめていました。
    鹿も子供も親も満足している・・・でも、これでいいのでしょうか? 小学校では社会の時間に郷土のことを学ぶはずですから、せめて奈良の学校ではきちんと教育してほしいです。奈良市の観光課、広報も鹿愛護会だけにまかせずに、もっと広く世間に知らせてほしいです。snowwhite さんの鹿についてのポストを読んできましたが、思いが伝わってきます。 私もポストの一部に鹿のことに触れてきましたが、一度鹿についてまとまったものをと思い、投稿しました。 コメントありがとうございます。

  23. Such a lovely, gentle post about this endearing deer herd.I think perhaps people are amongst the less advanced animals of this world as they so often feed wild animals and them wonder when they are trained to beg, that they can be dangerous. So thoughtless to feed them inappropriate foods as well. Perhaps a sign should tell people to feed only fruit that has been organically grown. I find the same problem in our wildlife parks here.

    Thank you for your very sweet comment and wish. Only a miracle can lift my particular cloud . . . so I am praying for a miracle and doing the best I can for my sister meanwhile. I send her absent Reiki every day . . .

  24. Hello Yoko,

    Thank you very much for your visit and your comment! I am happy that you liked the song I posted. It is called "Autumn was never..." and if you want, you can listen to it with a translation in English here:
    I want to appologise for the confusion I made when I left my comment to your post "View Japan" (I also used Google translation). Because I got there using a link from "Calligraphy on the landscape" blog and due to my complete lack of knowledge of Japanese language, I assumed it was ruma's blog in Japanese... I am sorry for that!

    I am following your Enghlish blog for a while and I just want to say that I greatly admire you for your sensibility. I think you have the soul of a poet, extremely proud and in love with her country. And this is admirable!...
    Warm wishes and have a good weekend!

  25. Olá, Lindo seu blog seguindo aqui do Brasil.

  26. Wow Yoko, I want to go there. It's looks so beautiful, so peaceful. Your photos are lovely. Autumn colours - sigh, so beautiful. Thank you for the tour, Evelyn

  27. roxana – You are right. View Japan is ruma’s blog in Japanese language. I was invited there, so I post only one picture once in a while. We are supposed to link it back with our original post. When you click on the photo, you can know where it is from. I was impressed by your comment, so I felt like visiting your blog. I think It’s me who caused confusion. Sorry for that.

  28. Hi Yoko...again a wonderful post! To think that deer can live like that in today's age! Without gates and's amazing! Your photos are really beautiful.

    It's also interesting to learn about the Deer Antler Cutting Ceremony. And I loved the words of the tanka poem.

    Just got back from my holiday yesterday...I'll be posting regularly from tomorrow.:)

    Have a great Sunday!

  29. Those are wonderful photos of a beautiful location. That photo of the deer among the flowering trees is stunning. I have to watch out for deer every day when I drive to work, as the speed limit on one two-lane winding road through a forest is approximately 90 kph and deer are common.

  30. Lovely shots of the deer. Such soft, gentle eyes--beautiful creatures. Hope your weekend is going well. Mickie :)

  31. What stunning photographs. I had heard of the deer but never realised that there were so many, and that they were wild. I imagine that these photographs were taken at different times in the year. It is remarkable how beautiful the place is all year round.

  32. Hello, Yoko!
    Nara Park is very interesting place, with its interesting combination of history, legend and nature. Thank you for sharing. This is such a beautifully written and illustrated post. Beautiful series of photos.

  33. How beautiful to see the deer running free - they are such timid creatures.

  34. Your park is quite beautiful, and I love the fact that the deer can roam at will through the area. But I don't think I would like to drive along the road through the park at night. Are there many deer/car accidents?

  35. Great photos and I always love learning about the many beautiful areas in Japan. We have deer here, but they live in the wild. Sometimes they run onto roads in the countryside. Unfortunately some get hit by motorists.

  36. My beloved friend Yoko, hi
    It's incredible!!
    Coexisting with humans!
    It is very beautiful, but I love your photos!
    Got a special way to capture the beauty of nature!
    I am fascinated!
    Many greetings and kisses

  37. So great that there are such places on Earth where humans and animals can actually live together in peace. I especially like how the deer keep lawns in order ^.^ So eco!

    The photo with two deer and a pigeon is just wonderful. It's like a scene from a movie where deer are main characters. They look so special there, I'm not sure how to describe my feeling. Photo-magic?

  38. Shammickite - Sorry for the delay of the reply. Sadly, some deer are killed by automobiles. Especially the fawns are run over by cars. Incidentally, some of the main causes of deer’s death is being attacked by stray dogs, being run over by cars, and diseases. Victims are mostly fawns. Some of deer are suffering from gum disease.

  39. Eakterina – I like the word, "photo-magic". The moment is frozen into the soundless, motionless photos. It’s not me who can have good captures but with the help of nature or the invisible life-giving-source.

  40. I really appreciate a feedback from each of you. Deer’s way of life has been changed influenced by modern civilization. Humans have engineered this world for the advantage of us. I hope deer live out their natural life of about 20 years healthily – it’s our responsibility.

  41. はじめまして。

  42. Thank you for pointing me in the direction of this post Yoko. I find it very interesting that over the centuries these deer, although living wild in Nara Park, have also adapted to living with humans and no longer stand aloof or have any fear of them.

  43. dear Yoko i just revisited Nara Park post and two others including this one
    how can i thank you enough for soothing my senses with elegance of your delightful surroundings :)

    i am standing speechless in your gorgeous wold and thinking i should visit Japan some day :)
    blessings to you my friend!


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