Oh deer. Nara.

a deer sniffs my hand

Last time we were in Kyoto, I got sick and Niaal went to Nara without me. NOT THIS TIME, BUDDY. We spent New Year’s Eve afternoon in Nara, roughly a 40-minute JRail train ride out of Kyoto. From the station, it’s a moderate walk down a long, shop-lined street towards the national park.

lake with ducks and turtles

a clock by the turtle lake

little turtle, sunbaking

You know you’re about there when you reach a small lake, surrounded by built-up stuff like houses and walls and a clock. Unable to read the signs, we nicknamed it “Turtle Lake”, because apparently there are heaps of turtles when the weather is warmer. Not yesterday, though. We saw just this one guy sunning on a rock as we approached.

This lake is kind of the first significant landmark you see in the general park area. As you continue walking, you reach the Kokufuji Temple grounds.

stairs leading to Kokufuji Temple

small customer service building with twiggy awning

an octagonal hall on temple grounds

larger customer service building with twiggy awning

stone lamp on temple grounds

five storey pagoda from afar

five storey pagoda from closer

It’s quite marvellous being close to giant things.

deer sitting beside a tree

Kokufuji is within the park, just ahead of the main deer zone. The fun started when we saw this guy getting some sun and wetting himself under a tree.

deer showing me his butt

Ah, authentic deer wet patch.

deer crossing sign by the road

red torii gate entrance to the deer park area

A short walk down from the temple is where lots of deer happens.

deer warning for visitors

deer getting ready to snoop in woman's handbag

deer at park entrance

deer scratching his back with his mouth

bridge over stream

stream view from bridge

deer crossing the road

gaijin tourist taking photo of deer

deer showing me his butt

deer scat on road

deer food hut and cafe

I can confirm that deer aren’t the loving, gentle, fawning creatures you get in fairytales and Disney movies. They are not exactly violent, but you’ll find them grumpy, belligerent, stubborn and rather business-like. They’re just not interested unless you’ve paid 150 yen for a deer biscuits at one of the many biscuit huts throughout the park.

deer wanting biscuits

deer asking very politely for a snack

deer hanging around near the biscuit hut

many deer enjoying sunshine

stone tablet for Todaiji Temple

The big big temple attraction here is the Todaiji Temple, which got so powerful in its time that the country’s capital had to move to somewhere else to reduce the temple’s influence on government.

gate leading to temple grounds

giant gate up close

temple grounds frontage

front gateway (pedestrian entrance to the left)

walking to pedestrian entrance

main temple building

temple front from up close

giant Buddha inside temple

giant, but smaller Buddha

huge Japanese statue

another huge Japanese statue

Everything was big. Big statues, big structures, big crowds. The only small things were trinkets sold at the many souvenir stalls.

deer sitting by the stream

deer watching us watching them

As we left, we enjoyed a few quiet moments with some deer by the stream.

On the way back to the station is Tabi-ji, a little shop selling tabi ninja shoes! Some are really cute, some are super stylish, some are more durable for harder walking, running and martial arts.

cute tabi on shelf

many cute tabi on shelves\ tiny tabi for kids

All in all, a nice afternoon out. It gets bloody cold as the day wears on – colder than Tokyo even though it was the warmest day we’ve had in Japan so far. Must be because there’s fewer tall buildings and city features to keep the heat in. If you go out to Nara in cooler weather, rug the fuck up.