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Have you ever wanted to know how to make new friends? Look no further! This is how you do it. Granted, they will be deer, not people, but who doesn’t want a deer friend? My point exactly. Everyone does.
I didn’t do pretty much any sort of planning going into Japan, but I sort of knew about the Nara Deer Park between Kyoto and Osaka. What to expect at it? I had no idea. Deer, I guess. Turns out a trip from Kyoto to the Nara Deer Park was one of my favorite parts of my time in Japan.
Just a train and bus ride away, we found out these weren’t just any deer. These deer are friendly, pushy, and not afraid of anything.
There are ladies around selling the little biscuit cookie things that you can feed the deer for just 150 Yen. This is a solid investment as they can go pretty quick. We both ended up buying two because we had to use some to get the deer away from us. But didn’t we want the deer by us? Well, sort of. Sometimes.
The deer here are of all ages and the big ones can be a little (a lot) intimidating. These are the more aggressive ones that will pull on your sweater, tug on your purse, or bite you on the butt. I’m not even kidding. I saw that happen.
Once you feed one on the main walkway you become Snow White and have a following of at least four more. The only way to get them to leave you alone was to throw some biscuits on the ground to distract them. Sometimes they would still chase us as we ran away. That was when we vowed to only feed the small deer. They were far less intimidating and much more adorable.
The park is actually pretty huge and we could have spent all day there I’m sure, but we just had the afternoon on the sprawling grounds. There were quite a few temples to explore when you wanted a break from feeding deer, but those will come later. This is for the deer.
We found a few that would stand and almost pose for you so you could take their pictures then give them their hard-earned payment of a biscuit. Some would move on, others would stick around, and some would even follow you.
We had one stop and pose for us and being as friendly as we are, we both thanked it and told it how cute it was and went on our way. But wait! He wasn’t done with us yet. He hopped down and trotted after us begging for more. What’s one more going to hurt?
Well, five minutes later he was still walking with us. We kept giving him biscuits to see how long he would follow. We stopped and eventually, he realized that was the end and it was time to say our goodbyes. It was the end of a short friendship and he was off to find new biscuits and better friends.
I would like to note that these are wild deer. There are signs warning about this that they will attack you, kick you, knock you down, you know, deer things. So when I was told that they bow to you if you don’t feed them, I wasn’t sure I believed it.
Then I saw them actually do it. These wild deer bow to you if you hold out a biscuit and don’t give it to them. What!? How do they know how to do that!? Why did they start doing that!?
Seriously, if anyone knows, please share!
And for just one biscuit, you can take selfies with them! I mean, how could you pass that opportunity up? Having a wild deer mere inches from your face? We obviously couldn’t along with countless other park visitors. It might take a few tries, but it’s totally worth it.
Overall this was one of my favorite things in Japan, if not my entire trip. Once we even suggested the park, I knew I had to go. It’s just too cool and perfectly, weirdly, Japan! I would highly recommend going to Nara, even if it’s just for a couple hours.
How to get from Kyoto to Nara Deer Park
We took the JR line, even though we didn’t have the JR pass. It’s ten(ish) minutes slower than the other line, but I thought it was fine and would do it again.
JR Nara Line: It costs about 690 Yen and should take about 45 minutes by express train (kaisoku). The other JR option is about 70 minutes on a local train (futsu). Both depart from JR Kyoto Station in Kyoto and arrive at the JR Nara Station in Nara.
Kintetsu Nara Line: The private Kintetsu line will cost about 1110 Yen and take about 35 minutes by express train (tokkyu) . It departs from the Kintetsu Kyoto Station (on the south side of JR Kyoto Station) in Kyoto and arrives at Kintetsu Nara Station in Nara.
How much is Nara Deer Park?
Free! But the deer biscuits are, I believe, 150 Yen and temples may have entrance fees as well. You’ll need money for food, drink, and transportation.
How long do you need for a trip from Kyoto to Nara Deer Park?
We were ambitious during our visit and spent the morning at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and the Monkey Park then went to the deer park in the afternoon and it was perfect. If you want to do more in Nara than see the deer park, I would go for a whole day.
Nara Deer Park in winter
I would definitely recommend still going to Nara Deer Park in winter. While we didn’t have any snow, it was still pretty cold. I had to buy a hat and gloves in Arashiyama. Just be prepared and maybe dress in layers in case it warms up.
What to bring to Nara Deer Park in winter
Of course, this can depend on specific weather at the time, but when we went in early February, it was quite chilly and rainy, but it didn’t snow. You can find my full packing list here.
Hand and toe warmers – If you don’t want to get thicker gloves, bring some hand warmers. If your feet get really cold really easily, definitely bring toe warmers. They’re a game-changer. Buy hand warmers here.
Cozy Sweatshirt – I have a few different Patagonia sweatshirts and love them all. They’re great for layering in cold weather. I have two Re-tools, a Better Sweater, and a Synchilla. Sometimes you can find them on sale on REI or Backcountry. I also like to keep an eye out for them on Poshmark (use code REDAROUNDWORLD for $10 off your first purchase) and Mercari (you can save $10 with that link as well!) I’ve found some really good deals on both.
Long sleeve shirt – I just have one that’s like Underarmour but not. I think I found it at TJ Maxx. I also just like these from Parks Project.
Have you been to Nara? What did you think of it? Do you want to go?