I grew up near a small city called Deer Park, they were actually the rivals to my high school. There weren't really any deer there, though. But there is at least one place in the world that has lots and lots of deer in a park - and that place is Nara, Japan!
Somehow the local park in Nara, called Nara Park...very clever...is full of small brown sika deer that love crackers. Specially made deer crackers, to be exact. They are sold in bunches of six for 150 yen, or about $1.50 USD. There are several vendors spread throughout the park that sell them, so you won't have to worry about running out. James and I tried one, and they seem to be made of something similar to Cornflakes cereal.
Now, there is something special about these deer. Somehow, at some point in time, they were taught to bow in order to receive a cracker. Now all of them do it and there is a trick to maximize your bowing experience. First, hold the cracker above their head and they will bow once. Then, bring the cracker around behind your back where they can't see it (beware of another one sneaking up from behind to steal it at this point!), and the deer will bow again. After the second bow, bring the cracker once again up above their head and they will bow a third time. At that point, they can be rewarded with the cracker.
It it was awesome to see this learned motion and the deer were very, very pushy, so be careful not to get caught in the middle of a herd of them or cornered by a male. James actually got headbutted in the back by a male for not getting a cracker out fast enough, so it may be something to be careful having small kids around for. The deer definitely rule the park and we're even seen across the street wandering around outside (and even inside) the local souvenir shops and food stalls.
James and I made the Japanese town of Sendai our home base for a few days since it was between Cat Island and Fox Village - two places on our list of things to visit before we went home. After visiting Cat Island, we came back to the hotel to crash for the night and got up early to pack our things and head for the Shiroishi train station via the Sendai station. After reaching Shiroishi we stowed our luggage in one of the train station's lockers (cost 600 yen, or about $6 USD) and then called a taxi to take us the rest of the way to Fox Village, which is only accessible by a small two-lane divided road that heads up into the area's mountains.
It was about a 25 minute taxi ride and cost about 3800 yen, or just under $40 USD each way. The cab driver also gave us a business card with his cab number on it so the Fox Village staff could call him when we were ready to leave and he would return to get us, which was nice. Otherwise we were just at the mercy of an upcoming visitor who happened to arrive via taxi. Once we made it to the Village, we paid a small entry fee of 1000 yen per person, or about $10 USD each, and we also purchased some pre-bagged fox food and rabbit food, which was 200 yen per bag, or about $2 USD. We were also given a printed no-no sheet to read that explained the dos and don'ts once you were inside and also a small cloth bag to keep the food in, as the foxes can apparently hear the crinkling of the plastic food baggies and chase you down for them.
Once we entered the main fox area, we were immediately hit with the zoo-like smell of copious amounts of fox poop. Online descriptions about the place warned about needing to wear hiking boots or something rugged to tromp through the poop that was everywhere, but he main walking trails that you were asked to stay on were kept very clean. I could only see poop being a problem if you wandered off to places you weren't supposed to go. We were also asked not to feed the foxes until we made it to their designated feeding area.
There were probably over one hundred foxes in the village, and there were separate areas that housed rabbits and guinea pigs, most likely the source of food for the foxes when us visitors weren't around. All of the animals seemed well-kept and unstressed. The foxes got a bit nippy with each other when we started tossing food down from the elevated feeding platform, but no one was injured and it just seemed to be part of their hierarchy. At certain times of day there are also staff who stand with tame foxes that you can hold and pet, but other than that, you are not allowed to reach out and touch any of the animals other than to toss food out to them. They made for some nice pictures, though!
Hi, I'm Sarah and I'm a car nut, bird lover, and musician. I have recently transitioned from music teacher to automotive service manager, and there have been lots of cool stories and crazy characters along the way!