A Day Trip to Nara Japan: Sacred Deer & Todaji Temple

January 2017

Did you know there are freely roaming sacred deer in Japan that you can feed?!  Once I found out that such a thing existed I was sure to add that to my Japan itinerary.

Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture located in the Kansai region of Japan. The city occupies the northern part of Nara Prefecture, bordering Kyoto Prefecture.


It is an easy one-day trip if you are coming from Kyoto or other nearby cities in Japan.

Map from Kyoto to Nara

From Kyoto you would use your JR rail pass and take the JR line. It is 45 minutes by express (Kaisoku) or 70 minutes by local (Futsu) and departs from JR Kyoto Station in Kyoto and arrives at JR Nara Station in Nara.

If you don’t have a JR rail pass the Kintetsu is the fastest and most comfortable way to get there. Just be sure to take a direct express (Tokkyu).

CLICK HERE for more in-depth info on how to get to Nara.


Nara Station

Staircase at Nara Station

Once you arrive at the Nara station, take a bus to Nara Park.   There are signs and you can ask people for directions in case you are confused.

We didn’t know which stop to get off at but once you are headed to Nara Park you will begin to see deer in the surrounding park. So we got off when it felt right HAHA.

Our intuition was right; there were food vendors nearby and people selling deer biscuits in the park.

The deer biscuits are 150 yen ($1.20) per pack.

Food vendors at Nara Park

Food vendors at Nara Park (Photo by: Perry)


The Sika deer in Nara are considered sacred because of their significance in the Shinto religion. Legend has it that the Gods of the grand shrine have been sending messengers to watch over the city in the form of Sika deer ever since.

These deer are highly protected under law and flourish due to the tourists buying “deer biscuits” and feeding them.

Sacred Deer

Bambi waiting for her treat (Photo by Perry)


I highly suggest you arrive early, which may work out in your favor. My reason for this is because when it gets closer to the evening all the deer are so full from all the people feeding them lol! So get there when the deer are hungry.

I tried feeding the deer again later in the day after exploring Todaji temple and they just turned their head away totally uninterested. So funny!

feeding the deer

Feeding the hungry deer


It was such a cool experience to see all the deer freely roaming around the park in harmony with humans. None of them were chained up or in an enclosed cage or anything, just totally free.

Villn and I walked around and observed people feeding the deer first. Some would swarm a person once the deer knew they had food.

There were deer that were much more aggressive and would try to steal the food right out of your hand. Other deer would try to nibble and yank at your clothes telling you, “Hurry up! I’m hungry!”


Be aware of your goodies

So we devised a plan, to buy the biscuits and hide them in our pockets and fed them one at a time. Well, that didn’t really work.

There was a moment when I was watching Villn feed a deer and another deer straight up went behind Villn, put his head under his backpack and rammed him in the butt LOL! Hilarious!

We found that most of the deer have learned to bow to you before giving them a treat. Super cute to watch these deer bow!

Also, when you are “all done” with your biscuits, you shake both hands in front of the deer, so they clearly see you have no more food and they will move on.

some are friendly

Some were friendly enough to pet

We met up with our friend Perry from college who was in Japan the same time we were. I witnessed him feed a deer while holding the biscuit in his mouth and attempted this later.

 feed by mouth

Perry showing off his skills 

Too bad all the deer were too full by the time I built up the courage to try.


After feeding the deer we took a sake break.  We ordered hot sake in a glass cup where they peel open the aluminum top and heat it up for you. It was the first time I sipped on sake as if it was hot tea while roaming the park.

I clearly remember enjoying the hot sake going down my throat while being in the chilly park all bundled up. The sake was warm and so smooth! We chilled near a stream, shot some footage for our creative travel video and watched the deer nearby.

hot sake in the park

Hot Sake in the park, best idea ever!


The Todaji temple was built in the year 743 and has the world’s largest gilded bronze Buddha at 49 feet high. It is housed in an all-wood building, which is 157 feet high, making it the largest wooden building in the world.

Todaji temple

Biggest wooden temple in the world!

Drinkable blessed water was available as you entered the temple area. The blessed water was ery cold and refreshing.

blessing water

Taking a sip of the drinkable blessing water

The temple had a large pillar with a hole in it. Based on cultural belief if you can crawl through the hole, which is supposed to be equivalent in size as the Buddha’s nostril, then you will blessed with health and happiness.

Buddha in Todaji

Buddha looked way bigger in person

I was able to slide through the hole, while my friend Perry who is taller than Villn,  almost got stuck! It was so funny! I was about to help pull him out!

When we thought all hope was lost, Perry finally, somehow managed to get through. It was as if we were witnessing him being born again, as he pushed and wiggled his way out of the hole HAHA. He definitely worked for his blessing!


 Our day trip to Nara was interactive, memorable and overall a fun experience! I will never forget feeding and watching the deer roam around the park. They are beautiful creatures that I feel everyone visiting Japan should experience. Being able to live in harmony with other creatures is so beautiful to witness.

Deer in the crowds

Deer in the crowds (Photo by Perry)

There was also a lesson to be learned while we were there. Nara proved that it is possible to coexist with other creatures without harming them or caging them up. So go bow to and feed the deer in Nara, I’m sure they’d be happy you came

-Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for my creative travel video Japan Edition! – Val Pal




  1. Perry Guerrero

    For as long as I’ve gone there, I didn’t know nearly as much as you wrote about. Haha. Good stuff and I’m happy to be a part of your experience in Japan.i look forward to more of your trips.

    • Aww thanks so much Perry! Thanks to you for telling us about this awesome place, and for your amazing photos! I appreciate you taking time to comment 🙂

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