Nara Park

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Sika Deer in Nara Park
Tea Garden By Nara Park
Within the park is a Chaya or traditional Japanese teahouse, offering tea and wagashi.

Nara Park (奈良公園 Nara Kōen?) is a public park located in the city of Nara, Japan, at the foot of Mount Wakakusa, established in 1300s and one of the oldest parks in Japan. Administratively, the park is under the control of Nara Prefecture. The park is one of the "Places of Scenic Beauty" designated by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). Over 1,200 wild sika deer (シカ or 鹿 shika) freely roaming around in the park are also under designation of MEXT, classified as natural treasure. While the official size of the park is about 502 hectares (1,240 acres), the area including the grounds of Tōdai-ji, Kōfuku-ji, and Kasuga Shrine, which are either on the edge or surrounded by Nara Park, is as large as 660 hectares (1,600 acres).

Jinrikisha (人力車, or rickshaw) services can be found near the entrances to popular sites as Tōdai-ji or Kōfuku-ji.

While Nara Park is usually associated with the broad areas of the temples and the park proper, previously private gardens are now open to public. These gardens make use of the temple buildings as adjunct features of their landscapes.

The park is home to the Nara National Museum and Todai-ji, where the largest wooden building in the world houses a 50-foot tall statue of Buddha.[1]

Nara Park and Wakakusayama from Nara prefectural government office


People feeding the deer in Nara
The deer are freely roaming around in both park and temples

According to local folklore, deer from this area were considered sacred due to a visit from Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto, one of the four gods of Kasuga Shrine.[2] He was said to have been invited from Kashima, Ibaraki,[3] and appeared on Mt. Mikasa riding a white deer. From that point, the deer were considered divine and sacred by both Kasuga Shrine and Kōfuku-ji.[3] Killing one of these sacred deer was a capital offense punishable by death up until 1637, the last recorded date of a breach of that law.[3]

After World War II, the deer were officially stripped of their sacred/divine status,[3] and were instead designated as national treasures and are protected as such. Today, visitors can purchase "deer-crackers" (鹿煎餅 Shika-senbei) to feed the deer in the park. These crackers are exclusively sold by the WNOW company.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

Alt-J's 2014 album, This Is All Yours has three tracks, "Arrival in Nara", "Nara" and "Leaving Nara" - speculation has suggested that this is a reference to Nara Park.[4]


  1. ^ Frommer's Japan 8th Edition (2006)
  2. ^ a b Fodor's Japan 18th Edition (2007)
  3. ^ a b c d Noburu Ogata. "Soramitsu, history and geography of Nara, Japan". 
  4. ^ Bell, Corey. "Alt-J Album Preview – This Is All Yours". Best New Bands. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°41′08″N 135°50′36″E / 34.68556°N 135.84333°E / 34.68556; 135.84333