If you give a deer a cookie… [Nara Park, Japan]

If you give a deer a cookie, he’ll wanna nuzzle your nookie.

Somewhere around the time Tate sat me down and made me watch some YouTube video of bowing deer and insisting we go see them whilst in Japan that I realized he really, truly did have my best interests in mind.

IMG_1414These infamous deer hail from Nara Park, just south of Kyoto, and are considered messengers of the Gods in Shinto religion, although after leaving the park I think it’s safe to say they only messages they deliver are from the book of Good Touch / Bad Touch.

The deer wander freely all through this park, alongside a gorgeous, gigantic temple.

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Over the years, the deer (who have been roaming these lands for centuries) have learned to bow upon approaching a human. In multiple areas around the park you can buy a packet of crackers, shika-senbei, for the deer.  Once they realize you’ve got a snack, they will approach you, bow as if to say hello, and wait for their treat.

Sounds all cutesy fun and games, right? Wrong. The damn deer are smart enough to watch you stand in line for crackers and immediately approach you.  When you give them a bite of cookie following a bow, they immediately nod their heads again expecting more. If you ignore it, they bow again, then nudge your hip and crotch area incessantly until you oblige them and shower them with more cookies.

It’s hilarious as a bystander, incredibly awkward as a participant. They’ve become so well-versed with humans that they will often go stand in the middle of the path, or in front of the temple, offering what you think is the perfect Instagram-worthy photo, then immediately insist you treat them to cookies.

The ornery little things will even take it upon themselves to open your purse or handbag in search of stashed treats you may be holding out from them.


It was a challenge to catch the deer bowing, as they were SO insistent to get their treats right away. In my neverending quest to #musttouchalltheanimals , Nara Park truly was a one of a kind experience. At the end of the day, we had a really fun time wandering around and laughing at their antics.

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