Nature & Culture of Japan

To make your trip to Japan more interesting

Nature (general) Shrines & Shinto Religion

Animals in shrines as messengers from the god

Shrines are facilities of the Shinto religion. Based on the worship of nature, every shrine has a kind of “God’s messenger” animal. The ancients believed that the harvest and natural disasters were caused by the power of the god. The god himself did not appear, but people believed that he conveyed his will to the people of this world through these animals.
There are many kinds of animals. Shrines in one of the most common sect, Inari shrines, designate their animals as foxes. Isonokami Shrine in Tenri City, Nara Prefecture does chickens, and there are many chickens in the shrine courtyard.
There are a lot of deer in Nara Park, because Kasuga Taisha Shrine’s animal are deer. But we can’t see such deer as accustomed to people as anywhere in Japan. The number of wild deer in Japan is increasing, and the grass on the forest floor is eaten up, causing major problems in the ecosystem. However, even if we happened to see them in the wild mountains, they soon escape into the forest.

The deer in Nara, especially those near tourist attractions such as Todaiji Temple and Kofukuji Temple, actively approach people. Most of the reason is that there are deer cake seller around.

Deer cake


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