THE DEER OF NARA PARK
I can't function without caffeine, so it's kind of essential that my adventure partners be coffee addicts as well. While the 711 stores in Japan have a surprisingly decent amount of options for breakfast on the go, their coffee is C+ grade. Sorry, I can't help it -- I'm a HUGE coffee snob. Still, when it comes to drinking my way to a quicker response time, crappy coffee will suffice.
Today was a national holiday so we braced ourselves for the worst, but the drive from The Westin Miyako Kyoto to Nara took less than an hour. After parking next to a large museum and wandering around the outskirts of the park, we were astonished to see that we were the only people there. Just minutes after leaving the car, we stumbled across nearly two dozen deer, none of whom seem fazed by our presence. As we explored the more wooded section nearby, we couldn't believe how many animals were roaming around and napping in between the trees.
This was the Nara experience I hoped for, but what happened next made me feel kinda gross. There are a few streets and squares lined with shops and restaurants next to the park, and the deer are all over these areas. So are the people who visit this place. That's fine. However, next to vendors and eateries are little stands where you can purchase rice cookies and feed to the deer. Locals and tourists alike were snapping up the treats, and the deer would swarm around them within seconds. I saw at least two kids get knocked over or bitten by deer, and it seemed like everyone who fed the animals got far more than they bargained for.
I don't support zoos and I absolutely don't support feeding animals for photography. In fact, I've been pretty vocal about my disapproval of the photographers/influencers with huge global audiences who routinely bait wildlife and post photos of it. Even though I laughed at the idiocy of some of the visitors, I felt a bit nauseous after witnessing the frenzy and I would have preferred ending my visit to Nara Park before coming across all the cookie stands. But...that's just the way things are. The deer are used to this, and so are the people. Maybe I shouldn't get my panties in such a bunch over it, but I definitely preferred the quiet moments I had with this buck (who was not baited for any of my shots) to the mayhem that is unleashed when the deer find a visitor with snacks.