Nara’s Famous Deer Wander Streets, Station In Search Of Food After Coronavirus Tourism Drop
Nara, Japan boasts the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue and the UNESCO World Heritage Site it is enshrined at, Todaiji Temple, but tourists may be equally enamored by the famous free-roaming deer that reside in the nearby Nara Park. At least 1,500 deer roam around the park, and have become the symbolic animal of the surrounding area (sometimes even regarded as messengers of Shinto deities).
While exploring the park or on their way to Todaiji Temple, many tourists purchase shika senbei (deer crackers) to feed the deer and get attention. Although many who have visited the park will readily inform you that you don’t need to buy them in order to be approached for food by the deer.
However, the deer’s dependence on snacks given to them by tourists has been impacted by recent response to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. With many people avoiding large public gathering spaces such as parks, as well as a drop in tourism in general, the deer are now desperately traveling further away from the park in search of food.
As they search for food, the deer are traveling in herd, wading into parking lots and even the middle of streets regardless of traffic.
The Nara Deer Preservation Foundation has stated that there’s no statistical reason to believe any more deer than usual are straying from the park, and that deer in Nara naturally eat a wide variety of food outside the park and don’t get much of a nutritional benefit from the crackers.