UNESCO World Heritage-listed ancient Nara
Walking along the lantern-lined avenues between the Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples of Nara, it’s impossible not to notice the number of spotted Sika deer. They roam unhindered and some even appear to bow as you pass. According to local legend, the mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijo-kyo. Deer have since been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the surrounding countryside. But perhaps not the sanctity of your pockets – some of the deer will try to nuzzle out any food you might have. Snack vendors sell small biscuits, sika sembei, to feed the deer and, as a consequence, some of the deer have learned to bow in response to your bows and the hope of being fed. Bow at the deer and see if they’ll return the gesture, but if they do, you best have a treat ready to avoid being jostled or bitten.