Nara Deer Park, located in Nara Park (奈良公園 Nara Kōen), Japan is a wonderful attraction for adults and children alike. Over 1,200 wild sika deer (シカ or 鹿 shika) roam free so if you are at all interested in animals (or have kids that are), you should really consider a visit to this park to feed the deer. These deer have been designated as a ‘national treasure’.
We loved being able to feed so many deer and couldn’t go past the opportunity to visit these free roaming deer on our visit to Nara. Whilst the deer are ‘wild’ they really have been semi-domesticated with all the human interaction. There are deer of various ages from young fawns to older does and bucks. Mostly we found them to be friendly and not at all dangerous. But of course, bear in mind, technically they are wild animals.
This article will tell you, how to get to the Nara Deer Park, what to feed the deer at Nara in Japan and show you our personal experience of being with these lovely animals including the the famous Japanese deer bow that we had heard about and now saw for ourselves!
But first directions on how to get to Nara Deer Park.
How to get from Osaka to Nara
If you’re staying in Osaka, and planning a visit to Nara Deer Park, this is what you need to know about how to get there. Head over to Osaka train station, and take the Yamatoji Line, or the Kintetsu Line, to get to Nara. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can take the Yamatoji Line, for approximately 50 minutes to JR Nara Station.
It will cost you around about ¥800 if you don’t have the JR Rail Pass. The Kintetsu Nara Line does not support the Japan Rail pass, but it will only take you roughly 30 minutes to get to Kintetsu Nara Station. It will cost you ¥1,200.
How to get from Kyoto to Nara
If you’re staying in Kyoto, and wish to visit the Nara Deer, we have the information that you want to know. Take a trip to Kyoto Station, and find either the JR Nara Line, or the Kintetsu Kyoto Line. Taking the JR Nara Line, on the Miyakoji Rapid train, it takes roughly 45 minutes to travel between the two cities. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, this is the best way to get there.
However, there are 21 stops on this line, if you get on a local train. It’ll take you and extra 25 minutes to get there, so make sure you hop on a rapid train. It’ll cost you about ¥710. Taking the Kintetsu Kyoto Line, will take about 47 minutes to get from Kyoto to Nara, You can pay ¥1130 to get there faster though. It’s ¥660 for the normal service.
Where is Nara Deer Park in Japan
Nara Park is a public park located in the city of Nara, Japan, at the foot of Mount Wakakusa. Established in 1880 it is one of the oldest parks in Japan. It is managed by the Nara Prefecture. Including the 2 shrines the park is over 600 hectares large.
The park is home to the Nara National Museum and Todai-ji, where the largest wooden building in the world houses a 15-metre (50 ft) tall statue of Buddha. You can also find the Kōfuku-ji Temple within the park’s grounds.
How to get from Nara JR Station to Nara Deer Park
Here are the best directions to get from Nara JR Station to the Nara Deer Park.
Walking from Nara JR Station to feed the deer at Nara Deer Park
If you decide you want to walk to the Nara Deer Park, it is an easy, flat 30 minute walk from JR Nara station to Nara Deer Park. If you use our map ^^^, it’ll take you along the main street, with lots of shops and restaurants. There are plenty of deer souvenirs to buy too. If you look at the shops though, obviously, it’ll take you more than 30 minutes to walk to Nara Deer Park. You cannot buy the deer food here… you will need to wait until you are inside the park – they have official sellers.
Catching the local bus to feed the deer
If you don’t feel like the 30 minute walk, you can take the bus, that stops right outside the train station. It costs adults ¥210 and children ¥110. It’s a special loop line for tourists that takes 10 minutes. There was a big sign at the front of the bus saying where it was going, so we found it quite easy to locate…. but we did actually decide to walk to enjoy the street on the way up and back!
What do the deer eat at Nara Deer Park?
When you arrive at Nara Deer Park, you’ll need to wander around for a bit, looking for a stand selling (鹿煎餅 Shika-senbei) or translated to ‘deer crackers’. You can get a pack of 10 crackers, that can be broken into smaller pieces. We broke each cracker into quarters, so we ended up with 40 pieces to feed the deer. Please note that this is the ONLY food that is allowed to be fed to the deer.
How much does it cost to feed the Nara Deer?
When purchasing your deer crackers, look for a stand selling packs of 10 for ¥150. We didn’t see any more expensive ones, but you never know. We loved feeding the deer so much, we came back to buy some more crackers.
How to feed the deer at Nara Deer Park
The deer at Nara Deer Park, have to be the most respectful deer I’ve ever met. A Japanese guide told us the routine for feeding the deer:
Steps for feeding the deer at Nara
- Before giving them a cracker, hold it above their heads, and wait for them to bow.
- Then hold the cracker behind your back and bow with the deer for the second bow.
- Hold it above their heads once more for the third bow.
- He said that ideally you want the three bows from the deer. Then you may reward them with the cracker.
Sometimes the deer will wonder over to you, and just start bowing. Sometimes the deer will try to get into your pockets, headbutt you, or even jump up at the crackers in your hand, so be careful. We kept our crackers in mum’s backpack and she took little pieces out each time we wanted to feed the deer.
Watch our video to see the Nara bowing deer
Nara Deer Park hours
Nara Deer Park is open 24 hours.
Although the deer start their day at sunrise and spend morning to evening feeding on grass (and crackers!), they do sometimes head into the woods to sleep at night. As they often use woods in the park as their sleeping place, you may see them in the woods even in nighttime.
The deer also have special ‘leave me alone’ areas that are fenced (or roped) off so humans cannot interact with them. Please respect their ‘down time’ and do not enter these enclosures.
Nara Deer Park entrance fee
To enter the park, is completely free, but purchasing crackers will cost you ¥150 for 10.
What to do if you see an injured deer
If you see an injured deer you are asked to please contact the Nara Park deer consultation desk (phone: 0742-26-7755).
Other Nara attractions near Nara Deer Park
Once you’ve finished enjoying feeding the deer, you can visit the temples – there are 2 (Tōdai-ji Temple and Kōfuku-ji Temple) within the grounds.
You could have something to eat or go shopping (and buy those deer souvenirs we mentioned earlier!). Mum thought the local cafes were a bit pricey, so we got some food from the FamilyMart (like a 7/11)on the main street.