(TMU) – Famous for its temples and free roaming Sika Deer, Nara Park, established in 1880, is one of the oldest parks in Japan. Located in the city of Nara, at the foot of Mount Wakakusa, Nara Park is one of the ‘Places of Scenic Beauty’, as designated by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). The more than 1,200 wild, free roaming Sika deer in the park are classified as natural treasures and also under designation of MEXT.
Sika deer from the area were considered sacred after, according to local folklore, a visit from Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto, one of the four gods of Kasuga Shrine, who appeared on Mount Wakakusa riding a white deer. Killing one of these sacred deer was a capital offense punishable by death until 1637.
The deer where officially stripped from their sacred status after World War II, and designated as national treasures and are protected as such. Visitors to the park can buy specially made ‘deer crackers’ to feed the deer in the park, which they do in large numbers.
Nara Park covers 660 acres and visitors flock to the park, not only for the deer but also for the historic temples, and in April, particularly for its beautiful cherry blossoms, which, with over 1700 cherry trees in the park, is quite a sight to behold and a particular favorite spot for photographs.
While now is not the time for travel due to the global pandemic, the number of tourists who would usually buy deer crackers to feed the deer dropped drastically at the beginning of March and locals stayed home and observed social distancing. The deer, used to being fed the biscuit treats, starting leaving the park and roamed the streets looking for food. But in April, with spring in the air, more people went to visit the park and the deer returned to their natural home, in full bloom.
Japanese photographer, Kazuki Ikeda, shared video footage of the Sika deer enjoying the peace and beauty of the cherry trees in bloom on social media and people all over the world absolutely loved it.
Ikeda was actually in the park that day for a photo shoot to take beautiful photographs of a couple before their wedding and took a video of the deer enjoying the peace and quiet under the cherry blossoms. In spite of the stunning pictures he took of the couple, for the internet users, the deer definitely stole the show.
By sharing his videos and photographs of his beautiful city and the park’s amazing scenery on his social media accounts, Ikeda hopes to encourage people to visit Nara as soon as possible once the coronavirus threat has passed, so they can enjoy being in nature again.