— Feathers and Wax

Among the wild deer in Nara

There’s a kind of unique delight and appreciation for all kinds of animals in Japanese culture — but especially the cute ones. With that in mind it’s not all that surprising that in addition to the proliferation of cat, owl and  hedgehog cafes found throughout the country, there are also several locations in Japan that serve as refuges for specific breeds of animals. There is a bunny island, a cat island, a monkey park and even a fox village. Get thee to youtube to see videos of all these adorable wonders.

But perhaps most famous of all is the town of Nara, which is home to more than 1,200 sika deer that are technically wild animals, but are so used to humans that they walk right up to you. Especially if you buy the deer biscuits sold on practically every corner.

We did more in Nara than just pet and feed the deer, of course. But it amazed me how many there were, everywhere, on every sidewalk and path and open field, even on the steps leading up to temples. Eventually they just blended into the background as we focused on our sightseeing, which seems so strange to me now, to ignore the fact that deer were literally EVERYWHERE around us.

First we visited the Todai-ji temple, which is home to the largest bronze buddha statue on earth. I loved the ornate details on the huge temple doors and the bright red dye on its columns. Second was a trip to the Kasuga shinto shrine, which has hundreds of stone lanterns leading up to it, all overgrown with moss, while the temple itself has dozens of beautiful bronze lanterns. It must look incredible when they are all lit up for festivals!

After we had our fill of deer, buddhas and lanterns, we found an adorable restaurant for lunch and then headed to a sake tasting!

This was only our second day in Japan but for me it set the tone for our whole trip. Each day seemed filled with wonder and new experiences that were so vastly different from anything I had ever done or seen before. I’m definitely hooked on Japan’s magic now.

More next week!


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