Kissing Sacred Deer


During Golden Week the Good Doctor and I took three Thai nursing students to Nara (奈良). Nara was once the capitol of Japan and now is a wonderful historical site.

Currently the capitol is Tokyo (東京) which used to be called Edo (江戸). It became the capitol in 1603.

Before that Kyoto (京都) was the capitol. In 794, when it became the capitol, it was called Heian (平安) or Heian Kyou (平安京). I will translate that amusingly as “Peaceful Safe Capitol”, a rather profound name but a little too big to live up to.

Before Kyoto, Nara was the capitol. Nara is very profound because it was the first “permanent capitol” of Japan. Of course, in life nothing is permanent but that was the plan. The city was planned on a grid making it fairly easy to get around in; pretty novel for 710. More modern castle towns were actually designed to be difficult to get around in for defense purposes. It is very amusing because the same roads are often used today.

There were a number of other capitols in between these, but they are considered less historically significant.

Nara has a number of sacred deer. They belonged to the emperor and so are now protected. You can buy shikasenbei (鹿せんべい), or “deer biscuits”, to feed them. Most foreigners are afraid of the deer, which over the centuries have become quite bold. They have no qualms about head-butting anyone that looks like they might drop something to eat. Occasionally they will go after your baggage as well. Sometimes they are quite slobbery too.

Always up to a challenge I put a piece of deer biscuit in my lips and let a deer take it. I tried it two or three times actually; always successfully avoiding deer lips. The Good Doctor snapped a picture; hopefully it turned out well.

My friend’s dog Milo likes to like peoples ears, nostrils, and mouths. I often stick out my tongue around him to test his speed. So far I have avoided the consequences. The deer are far slower than Milo and I think they had no desire to french me, so it really wasn’t so challenging.

I clearly explained the purpose of the deer biscuits before passing them out but one of the nursing students managed to take a huge bite out of one. He was quite concerned after that and needed to rinse his mouth well even though I assured him they were safe for human consumption (but not so tasty.) He received several portions of grief from the female students every time we discussed getting biscuits out to feed the deer.


One Response to “Kissing Sacred Deer”

  1. Neo-新びっくりブログ » Blog Archive » Moving to Miyako Says:

    […] I noted how Kyoto used to be called Heian Kyou, but it also was called Miyako (都) which means “capitol”. […]

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