October 10, 2011

Necessary Evil?

At the deer pen

There is a time when we have to accept necessary evils in our life.
I guess this  "Antler Cutting Ceremony" is one of them.  It takes place at  the deer pen in Kasuga Grand Shrine in Nara  annually in October. But if you know the reason why this ceremony started about 300 years ago, you will think it can not be helped. There are about 1100 wild deer roaming around Nara Park.

Autumn is the mating season for deer. Male deer become very wild and sharpen their antlers by thrusting them into gravels or the ground.  The antlers become as sharp and pointy as a knife. In 1671, to prevent the possible accidents and injuries to people and the deer themselves,  Nara Magistrate's Office ordered to cut their antlers annually.  Kofuku-ji Temple , the then strongest guardian of the deer, reluctantly accepted the order. 

The male deer are rounded up and put into the pen. The Seko(勢子) or attendants lasso the deer.

People pay 1000Yen as an entrance fee  to watch the ceremony, which will be the  financial sources to the Nara Deer Protection Organization.

The man in a traditional male costume cuts the antlers with a saw.
 It does not hurt the deer at all, just like  we cut the  hair or nails.

But, look at the desperate, panicking eyes of the deer.
How much stress and scare this ceremony gives to the deer・・・

without the antlers

Next spring, new antlers grow. Young antlers are soft and warm as the blood vessels are in the antlers to carry nutrition to them. When antlers stop to grow, the blood vessels disappear.

Just for your reference: A deer has gentle horizontal pupils.

From the 8th to the middle of the 19th centuries, the deer had been strictly  protected  as the divine messengers of the deity of Kasuga Grand Shrine by  Kofuku-ji Temple and the then authority. If you killed a deer, you were executed.

  Now, the world of wild deer and the one of people are intricately overlapped.  There, people have managed to live closely and peacefully with the wild deer overcoming various issues.  It is not easy task at all! Nara Park is said to be the only one precious and unique place in the world. I think this is the great experimental place to find out whether we can live with wild animals or not. I do hope we can do. The deer in Nara Park are designated as a national natural treasure and loved as the symbol of Nara by people.
 Not even subtle line between two worlds

 If you are interested in the deer in Nara Park, please read my other blogs.
From Country of Deer
Horn Gather Antlers
Nara deer are very smart!

My blog friend, Fairview posted her blog "Nara Deer Park"  where she visited a few years ago. Here, there are interesting information and lovely photos on the deer in Nara Park!  And Video too!
  Early sunset in the park

Visit "Our World" and learn more !!


  1. Thank you for sharing another story of your beautiful country. You continue to be a favorite blog of mine. Your photos are wonderful!

  2. Interesting information. So sad the deer are stressed and treated that way. But I guess it is the price they have to pay for living mingled with the humans who have claimed their home.

  3. This is a very interesting post. You find so many unusual and thought provoking things to write about. I love the first photo of the deer, showing them galloping, it's a great action shot. And then, the photographs of the men in their uniforms rounding up the deer - like nothing I have seen.

    Yes, the deer must be very afraid, and probably find it annoying to have their antlers cut. I think cats find it upsetting to have their claws trimmed, too.

    Here in England there is a ceremony called Swan Upping in which men put rings on the legs of the swans who live on the River Thames to show that they belong to the Queen. These men also wear special uniforms, etc. and have a beautiful boat which they ride in. They don't charge spectators anything becuase of course the Thames is a public river. The swans don't like being caught. I think, though, that birds and animals soon forget, once they realise that they have come to no harm!

  4. I can hardly look at the photos. It is hard for me to see the deer cornered like this. I don't mind if they are out in the wild and one hunter goes after them for food.

    Here too we have animal "culls" where people want to get rid of over population of mostly wild animals. Last night on television I saw a story about wild horses in the province next door. Some say the horses are wild, others say the horses are feral because they are only 200 years old in the wild.

    In any case, the province and many people want to kill them or capture them and no longer let them live wild. I guess they are ruining crops.

    Such is the story when man takes all the land and the animals have no where to go.

  5. The story and the pictures are both so good. A nice job!

  6. A terrific post and captures as always! I'm glad the deer are de-horned, but I know it must be a frightening experience for the deer. Wonderful to read about your world and I'm so glad you share it with us! Have a beautiful week!


  7. An interesting post. While it is understandable that the antlers need to be trimmed it does seem to really upset the deer. Thank you for this interesting story.

  8. Good morning
    I enjoyed your pictures and story very much. I have visited Nara twice and didn't think about the potential danger from the deer's horns.
    Is the wide open field with deer above the town of Nara?
    I am going to enjoy reading your blog further.

  9. What a gorgeous park. But I was sad to read about the cutting of the antlers. Isn't this somehow destroying nature's course?

    Your pictures are lovely as always.

  10. Hello Keiko,
    So,life goes on in Nara Park! It seems much larger than I first imagined.Autumn is definitely with us......the photo of the spidery lime(?) twigs with lacy leaves is beautiful.
    Enjoy your week!

  11. Thank you for sharing something so unique. My grandparents had visited this deer park in 1938, when very few people were allowed to visit Japan. I still cherish the photo of my grandparents with the deer.

  12. 素早い動きの一瞬一瞬がよくとらえられていますね。パニック状態の牡鹿の目の表情も初めて目にします。

  13. I never like it when man interfers with nature. How do they know it doesn't hurt? The interference alsways fails, and creates havoc. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  14. A beautiful post, although I do not like to see the deer without their male crowning glory.

  15. i feel sorry for the male deer. such gentle, beautiful animals. i wish there's another way to avoid accidents with their antlers.

  16. A very interesting post. It informs about the real lives of people and animals together. The photos are beautiful.

  17. It is always a pure pleasure to visit your world. I don't like that the deer are frightened, but it must be done to insure the safety of all. they aren't harmed or pained, but their fear is unfortunate. the look in the one's eyes is unforgettable. thanks for sharing your world! happy week to you.

  18. Jill,
    I’m glad you like my blog!

    Yes, they are paying for living with people side by side. The deer are never hunted as long as they live here.

    Yes, good point. Some dogs also have their hair trimmed and are put some dresses on by their owners. These must be annoying for them.
    It is a great relief for me to think animals and birds forget soon after being released safely.

    What a sad story about the wild horses it is! People have to share the earth or nature with other species.

    Thanks a lot for linking my blog to yours.

  19. Hello,Snow white.
    先日たまたまTVのニュースで見ました。Snow Whiteさんが見にきておられるかなあ、写真撮っておられるかなあと、思っていました。8月のGreen Tomatoに、お優しいコメントありがとうございました。
    I am so glad to visit your post again.

  20. Sylvia,
    My world in Nara is always with the deer. They are beautiful animals

    I hope people will find better way how to live together with wild animals. Till then, this ceremony will continue as necessary evil.

    The danger from the deer’s antlers exists for only deer’s mating season.
    I climbed up Mt. Wakakusa which is about 350-meter-high hill. From the top, we can enjoy the entire Nara City. Especially at sunset or dusk, the scenery becomes more profound and peaceful.

    The deer had lived in Nara before people lived there. The long history of the deer and people tells us how this unusual situation had been made gradually. I do hope this does not interfere or destroy nature’s course.

    Forest Dream Weaver,
    Nara Park is the largest city park and covers huge area, extending about 4 kilometers from east to west and 2 kilometers from north to south. There are temples, shrines, museums, Japanese gardens and more in the park.

    In 1938!! Please post their great photos. I can imagine how rare it was to travel abroad in 1938. I really want to see them! They are very, very precious photos. I wonder whether the park changed a lot or remains the same.


    I agree with you 100%. I do not know what to do as these kinds of interferes have continued for more than 1200 years.

    Me neither! I think only the deer in Nara have their antlers cut off. It is an very unusual situation or condition. Behind, there is a long history of the deer in Nara.

    I do hope near future people will find another way to solve this issue.

    What you said is very true, yes, these are real lives of the people and the deer. Behind, there is about 1200-year history of the deer in Nara.

    I thought about whether I would put frightened deer photo or not. But, I concluded the reality is reality. Sorry, I left it to all of you.

    Red Rose,
    お久しぶりです!私たちの年齢になると、本当にいろいろありますね。一番いいと思われる方法で受け入れていくしかないのでしょうね・・・green tomatoさんのお写真はもうすごい境地に達しています。

  21. Hi Snow White,

    Thank you so much for the link.

    As you can tell, your photos and stories inspire me. Thank you for explaining about the crackers for the deers. Did not know they depend on the crackers for survival during the winter months.

  22. It is hard to see, yes. but I do understand why they feel the need to do this. I wonder what would happen if they broke tradition for a year & see what happens. I hope the deer forget as it must be quite traumatizing for them, and they look so sad with no antlers. It is amazing though that they can otherwise be free to roam in a park so close to such a large city. As the human population continues to grow, I imagine the wild animals will have less & less space, and that makes me feel sad for them.

  23. Becky,
    I also feel very sad whenever I see male deer without antlers. Many of visitors to Nara come to see the deer and Great Buddha. Nara is not only ancient capital with historical temples and shrines, but also very precious place where people and wild animal live side by side. I hope someday people will find another way.

  24. Nice story, nice end and beautiful pictures!

  25. You write with such fascinating information about your world. The deer are certainly afraid, but even domestic animals must have interventions sometimes and are fearful as a procedure is happening. Hopefully, when they romp once again in lovely Nara Park, they forget their fear. Your last photo says "autumn" to me.

  26. 時候が良く紅葉が美しくなる季節、奈良、京都へまた訪れたくなります。
    奈良の都に古くから住む鹿は 健康管理に懸命になっておられる方々がいるおかげで守られているのですね。古都の風景に溶け込む鹿の美しさを当然のように楽しませてもらっていました。多くの方々の努力に感謝しなければなりませんね。

  27. This post is very interesting as I had no idea that this ceremony took place at Nara Park. And your post does present a very thought provoking question...and all I can say is that I HOPE we are able to live as one with nature and its creatures. Thank you for this insightful post :)

  28. Very interesting story and good photos.
    Have a good week.


Thanks a lot for visiting my blog and leaving warm messages. I will visit your site soon. keiko