How to say deer in Japanese

Japan study trips

The city of Nara is located in the south of the Japanese main island of Honshu and is populated by around 400,000 people as well as around 1,200 deer and roe deer. The deer and roe deer of Nara not only arouse the interest of many tourists, but also have a very special status for locals. The animals have been part of the cityscape for centuries and are venerated as sacred by the residents of Nara.

A look at history

To understand the reasons for the continued veneration of the deer and deer of Nara, one has to go back thousands of years in Japanese history. Nara was once an important residential city and the important noble Fujiwara family owned a shrine there for ancestor worship. The shrine that still exists today is called Kasuga Taisha, but is better known as the Kasuga Shrine. As is customary for a holy shrine, the Fujiwara family also had theirs protected by deities. A peculiarity of the deities of the Kasuga shrine is that they ride deer. That gods were associated with different animals was common in many early cultures, and that deer were chosen in the case of the Kasuga Shrine is no coincidence, according to legends that are thousands of years old. Deer and roe deer were of great value to the Fujiwara family, these animals were under their special protection and were not allowed to be hunted by anyone in the adjacent forest. So it came about that deer and roe deer were able to move freely around the Fujiwara estate and put aside their natural shyness towards people.

Some consider the view that this rather unusual human-animal relationship from Nara's early days is supposed to have persisted until today as a peculiar, curious phenomenon that hardly seems possible. The fact is, however, that the roe deer and deer still live among the people of the city and seem to feel comfortable. How and when exactly they found their way there can no longer be reconstructed from today's perspective - clues can only be found in the legends that have been handed down.

Occurrence, number, distribution

It is not known how many deer and roe deer were to be found in the vicinity of the Fujiwara family. Since the animals were not allowed to be hunted, it can be assumed that they multiplied strongly over time. Today the number of deer and roe deer living in Nara is 1200. It is interesting that the population remains relatively constant without animals being killed or sterilized by human hands. The fact that some animals are killed due to traffic cannot be avoided, but this is not a decisive factor in the course of the conservation of the population. In Nara, in any case, the impression arises that the animals regulate their population in the best possible way and do not need human intervention at all.

The forest near the Kasuga Shrine is still the preferred habitat of the roe deer and deer, but you can also meet them in all squares and streets in the urban area of ​​Naras. The animals are exceptionally trusting, mingle with people and are fed with rice cakes that are baked especially for them.

In Nara you can hardly find animals with mighty deer antlers, as all antlers are cut once a year. This takes place as part of a large festival that takes place in the Kasuga Shrine. Through this practice, the risk of injury to people is extremely low.

Biological factors: food, habitat, reproduction

The animals called sacred roe deer and stags in Nara belong to the Sika deer. Sika deer originally come from the East Asian region, but can now be found in many places around the world. Those animals that do not feed on biscuits baked especially for them, as in Nara, prefer leaves, fruits, berries, shoots and buds. Aquatic plants and reed stalks serve as valuable food for the animals that live in wetlands.

The male Sika deer spends most of the year solitary, while females, on the other hand, form smaller packs with young animals. In autumn, the males create territories that they share with around twelve females. If another male invades their area, they defend themselves with combative means, which often leads to injuries.

Sika deer have been introduced to many regions of the world, especially those areas where red deer are unable to survive. Sika deer are among the most adaptable deer species and are much sought-after game. Their preferred habitat are forests with dense undergrowth. However, they are also found in swamp and wetlands as well as grasslands. Because they are good swimmers, they can sometimes even be found in coastal areas, where they take refuge in the water from their enemies.