Deer in Nara, Japan

The last day of my 2007 trip to Japan we visited the city of Nara just to the south of Kyoto. Nara is famous for two things: Todai-ji and the many tame deer that roam the city.

As you walk up the busy street from the train station toward Nara Park, which includes the Todai temple complex, the city fades away and you being to see trees and deer – everywhere. In the grass, on the sidewalk, in the road… 1200 sika deer rule the streets.

Vendors line the streets selling little biscuits (shika-senbei) for 100 Yen that the deer are happy to take directly from your hand… and happy to nudge or bite you when you run out.

Todai-ji is, ostensibly, the largest wooden structure on the planet. As you can tell from the photos, it is absolutely huge. The current structure dates from the 1709 and is 30% smaller than the original main building. I couldn’t find any actual measurements, but the Buddha alone is nearly 50 feet tall. It reputedly required all of the bronze in Japan to cast and bankrupt the Japanese government in 751 when it was completed.

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