Shikayose or deer calling is a winter event in Nara, the ancient capital of Japan. This event held every morning (except on Monday) during February to mid-March, starting from 1892 until now. Shikayose is also held for a few days during the summer.
As we know, deer in Nara city are a protected species since, according to folklore, they are considered a sacred animal. People believe that the deer were messengers of the gods who have a deep connection with Kasuga Taisha, one of the grand shrines in Nara city. That’s why all the wild deer roam freely in the city, especially around Nara park and Kasuga Taisha. More than 1000 deer live in this area.
Shikayose is an event in which all deer are gathered around at Tobihino (part of Nara Park) and fed acorns. This is because during winter time it is difficult for the deer to find grass or other food around the park.
At 10:00 in the morning, as people wait at Tobihino, a man blows a horn, playing Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. During this time, those waiting can see an amazing view! Suddenly hundreds of wild deer begin running from all directions to gather around that man. The man then throws some acorns to feed the hungry deer.
Visitors can play with the deer, pet them or take pictures with them. It’s all safe, even though the deer are wild, they are tame and friendly. Buy some shika senbei (deer crackers) for 150 yen/pack, and get ready to be followed by a bunch of deer. You can easily find shika senbei vendors around the park, and the deer never bother them, but once you buy the crackers, they will know it and follow you around, hoping to get a snack.
The Shikayose event only lasts for about a half an hour. After that, most of the deer will leave Tobihino, and go back to their routine. So if you are in Nara during winter time, don’t miss this amazing event in the fresh winter morning, to get close with hundreds of deer, the cute Nara city mascot.
Venue: Tobihino in Nara Park, near Kasuga Taisha
Access: Take city loop bus from JR/Kintetsu Nara Station, and get off at Kasuga Taisha Omotesando bus stop
Date: During February 1 – March 16 (excluding Mondays)
Time: Start at 10:00 AM (around 30 minutes)