When I first heard about the town of Nara, Japan, I thought it was a theme park. Or a zoo. I mean, all the pictures I saw were of people posing with deer. But turns out, the town’s just filled with deer! It’s amazing. I think they’ve gotten used to the people too, and they seem to like the attention. And the treats. Some of the deer are super aggressive (or maybe just hella hungry). If you’ve got a pack of treats, they’ll make sure you give it up real fast. But they will bow their heads to say thank you!
We took a train to Nara from Osaka and got there around 10am in the morning. We spent most of the morning taking pictures with the deer, haha. Definitely felt a little like Snow White. The deer just walk up to you! Unfortunately, I didn’t have any treats, so they left just as quickly. I never quite figured out how to get them to bow their heads. Actually, I think we did buy a pack of treats to split among the 3 of us. So what’s supposed to happen is: you bow your head, the deer bows back, you hand over treat. Or maybe the treat comes first. I don’t know. I clearly had no idea what I was doing. People walking by me were looking at me like I was crazy. It was just me bowing repeatedly to an unamused deer. No bows in return, whatsoever. At least they pretended to like me as I was handing over the treats 🙂
It’s pretty easy to get around to all the sights in Nara (as in, everything is walking distance, but it’s still a lot of walking). Everything is in Nara Park, including most of the deer. Our first stop was Kasuga-Taisha, a Shinto shrine from about 1300 years ago. It’s gorgeous! And there are lanterns everywhere. They had this one exhibit where you walk into a dark room lined with mirrors and filled with lanterns. It was like a scene straight out of Tangled. The pictures don’t do it justice. We stopped at two other temples later that afternoon: Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji. Todai-ji is where you’ll find the giant Buddha statue. It’s huge…they really weren’t kidding when they said “giant.” Can’t imagine what it took to build/sculpt it.
If you’re only in Nara for half a day and want to prioritize the temples, I recommend Kasuga-Taisha, Todai-ji, and Kofuku-ji—in that order. Kasuga-Taisha was definitely my favorite. It’s the oldest out of the three. Maybe that’s why? There’s definitely an air of ancient wisdom and magic that you won’t find at the other two temples. It’s also a bit more secluded and harder to get to. Makes the end destination more worth, in my opinion 🙂 Anyway, if you’re in Osaka for a few days, I highly recommend taking a day trip to Nara.