The Bowingest Deer of Nara Park

Also two weeks ago, I went to Nara Park for the second time in my life. Home to the famous bowing deer, they freely roam around without a care in the world. You can buy a stack of shika senbei (deer rice crackers) for a cool 150 yen, or $1.50 USD. If you can get a deer’s attention, they will usually come up to you and bow. To thank them for their class, hospitality, and manners, you promptly give them a cracker. News of your generosity rapidly spreads, and you soon find yourself surrounded by 5 or 6 more polite deer-samas, machine-gun bowing like you just held a door open for them from 200 feet away. “Senbei all around,” you say, “this round’s on me!”


Then, you run out. Although bowing truly is one of the epitomes of Japanese respect and politeness, it only goes skin-deep for these deer. If you don’t keep up your end of the bargain, they get pretty aggressive. They will bite, kick, poke with antlers, even threaten your family in the mail. One deer bit me in the love handle, and another one jabbed me in the back with his single antler. So just like life, everyone only wants you for your rice crackers and they will backstab you once you run out.

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