Thursday, August 03, 2006

Dear Deer!

Nara is famous as the oldest capital of Japan, with lots of temples and sightseeing spots. However, one of the most interesting attractions in Nara is its free-roaming deer.

The Nara park, spanning an area of about 8 square kilometers from close to the railway stations upto the peak of Mount Wakauksa, is a sanctuary for deer. Hundreds of deer can be seen around here.

At first sight, you will find the deer quite friendly, calm, and easy to take photos with. However, the situation changes completely once you try to give them some food. You can buy deer biscuits from vendors everywhere in the park, to feed them (see the stand with an umbrella, in the photo above). Unless your photo-taking friend is well prepared, you will find that the biscuits are gone before you have a decent photo :-p.

Find a place with only a few deer, preferrably fawns, if you want to feed them slowly and take a photo. It is very difficult to feed the smaller ones, as the bigger ones will grab your food.

They have great skills in recognizing food, so it is difficult to fool them showing something else. However, one of them did try to eat my jacket since I was slow in feeding them. :o)

Since the deer tend to fight with each other and damge trees when the antlers are fully grown, they are cut annually. This is done in a ceremony conducted by the Kasuga shrines of the Nara city, during the first week of October. You can get to see some rodeo action here.

The stadium for the antler-cutting ceremony


Sawing the antlers off

The antlers are shown to the crowd after sawing

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