Nara, Japan

October 15, 2016

I'm currently teaching at a high school in a southern province of South Korea. The majority of my students are privileged enough to have traveled to other countries, so I often chat with them about their trips - where they've been, what they did, did they like the food?  Many of my students have been to Nara, and when I polled them about their experiences, they unilaterally gave a thumbs down. "Teacher, the smell is so bad!" Why does Nara smell so bad? Because there is deer poop everywhere.

Nara is an ancient capital city in the Kansai region of Japan. Ryan and I went there during our brief trip to Kyoto in early August. Nara is teeming with interesting cultural and historical sites and temples, but most memorable were the deer, who wander freely throughout the city (particularly Nara Park) and interact with locals and visitors. The deer have held a holy status in Nara for centuries; these days, they are a major tourist attraction. Visitors can purchase biscuits to feed the deer or use them to fend off more aggressive individuals. I was nipped twice by a particularly eager fellow. 

Some might be put off by the exchanges between visitors and the deer, unnerved by so many tourists attempting to take selfies with wild animals, and I wondered how healthy it could be for deer to consume so many biscuits. But I couldn't resist the bizarre magic of the place, how it felt to look so many beautiful creatures in the eyes, the surreality of stroking the back of a huge buck while walking through a night market. It was utterly odd and joyful. I didn't care one bit about the poop nor about being just another tourist in a tourist trap. After unloading all of our biscuits, Ryan and I accidentally hiked a mountain in street clothes, only to arrive in late afternoon to a beautiful field overlooking the entire city. There were deer there, too. We hiked back down, had some beers and a delicious cheeseburger - a rare treat in this part of the world - watched the sunset, and listened to some live music before heading back to Kyoto.

This post includes a rare photo of me, taken by my handsome husband during a much needed rest from hiking. You can see that I was not properly dressed for hiking nor for wading through lawns of deer poop. No cares given; I'd do it again.

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  1. Love the pics and brief update. I'm sure the dress was breezy for the hike, at least, right!? Haha! I'm planning a trip to Japan this winter, so I may ask you and Ryan for some recommendations. The new layout is looking good too!

    1. Thank you!! It was so hot during that trip, I HAD to wear breezy things! Japan in August is pretty rough. Ask away! This was my third trip to Japan, so I have a bit of experience, haha!


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