Those who came to Japan for the first time and had a chance to see the beautiful city of Kyōto, probably also had the experience of Nara as well. Nara is a place where you can run into deer along the way. That is, if you head into the city.
Still, the question stands: why are there so many deer inhabiting the city? Let us go back to the point where it all started…
In Nara, there is a Grand Shintō Shine named Kasuga which has a long history. There is a legend which says that during the construction of the Shrine, a certain god came down from heavens riding a white deer.
That god is known by the name of Takemikazuchi No Mikoto and he is worshiped at the Kashima Shrine in Ibaraki prefecture.
The Kashima Shrine is rich in history as well. So what is the connection? To put it simply, since the Kashima Shrine is pretty distant from from Kyōto, there was a need to create a sort of a “branch shrine”.
Usually, wild animals such as deer are driven into the mountains, away from the residential areas. However, deer being considered the messengers of Takemikazuchi No Mikoto, they have been carefully taken care of, resulting in an unusually high number (over 1000!) of them living in the city of Nara.
Even though these deer are quite familiar with the tourists, they do sometimes become aggressive. For that reason, a warning sign has been set…
If you treat them correctly (for example, they must not see you carrying around food), they can be quite a cute bunch. These deer being the symbol or Nara are generally beloved by everyone, and even though they can be a little naughty at times, please, think of them kindly 😊