Japan's fondness for deer goes beyond simple affection. According to Shinto religion, deer were sacred and divine messengers from god. Today they're emblematic of the city of Nara, where the wild deer population of 1,200 freely roam the sprawling public grounds of Nara Park. And your fun fact of the day: Nara is a sister city with Canberra.
We made a day trip to Nara from Kyoto, an easy one-hour journey on the shinkansen bullet train. There are plenty of signs pointing you towards Nara Park. To get to the area where the deer roam, it's about a 30-minute walk from JR Nara station.
Wild deer at Nara Park
Our first sight of the deer is so surreal we think the deer are statues. They're completely still and unmoving despite the surrounding chaos of gawking tourists.
Feeding the wild deer with special deer senbei rice crackers
Visitors are instructed to only feed the deer special shika-senbei or deer rice crackers, made from rice bran and grain, purchased from vendors who dot the park.
Mother and child
On the day we visited it was a public holiday, which meant that thousands of tourists offering thousands of senbei rice crackers had already passed through the park. The deer all looked like they were in a food coma amidst the scattered remains of a rice cracker orgy.
Deer and paparazzi
It's still quite a magic sight to see herds of deer surrounding by eager tourists. The deer veer between patient and disinterested as people pat them eagerly and squawk with excitement.
Persisting with the rice crackers even though the deer were full
They definitely weren't interested in food, even when the kid in the photo above tried with earnest for a good ten minutes.
Johnny's Fried Chicken
Johnny's Fried Chicken might be hidden down an alleyway, but the photos of fried chicken near the entrance were like a beacon to our hungry stomachs.
Johnny's fried chicken set meal 750 yen / AU$8.25
All Johnny does is fried chicken: on the bone, thigh fillets or breast fillets as well as gizzards, cartilage and fried chicken necks if you're game.
Johnny's fried chicken on the bone 1,050yen / AU$11.50 for 6 pieces
The chicken arrives blistering hot from the fryer. There's no heavy batter over the meat, but more of a light crunch that works well with the juicy flesh. The meat has been marinated too, giving extra flavour as you sink your teeth into each golden fried piece of poultry.
Johnny's fried chicken on the bone 590 yen / AU$6.50 for 3 pieces;
boneless fried chicken with yuzu-kosho citron and pepper 390 yen / AU$4.30 for 4 pieces;
and boneless fried chicken thigh 440 yen / AU$4.80 for 4 pieces
The chicken on the bone is my favourite but there's also a tasty zing with the fillet sprinkled with yuzu citrus pepper. The accompanying wedges of lime and deep-fried peppers are a welcome touch.
We dig the casual atmosphere as we feast on fried chicken and beer, although Johnny's poodles parked in prams by the kitchen steal the show.
Johnny's Fried Chicken take out window
Syrups for kakigori shaved ice
And as we traipse through the park on a hot and humid day, our eyes light up at the sight of a street vendor selling kakigori shaved ice.
Adding cola syrup to kakigori shaved ice
The shaved ice is piled into a paper cup and then drenched with your choice of syrup.
Ladling lemon syrup to kakigori shaved ice
I have the Calpis one. It isn't overly strong in flavour, and the ice chips are rather large and crunchy, but our parched throats are more than happy with this icy salvation.
Hojicha soft serve 300 yen / AU$3.30
Today's soft serve (because we tried to have one every day) was hojicha, a green tea roasted over charcoal. There's a mild taste of caramelisation to the tea, less green and more toasted in flavour. It's a sweet end to a day in Nara.
>> Read the next Japan 2015 post: Osaka okonomiyaki and all-you-can-eat bbq
<< Read the first Japan 2015 post: Toyama black ramen and firefly squid
Japan 2015: Toyama > Kanazawa > Nagano > Kyoto > Nara > Osaka > Kobe > Kagoshima > Hakata > Hiroshima and Miyajima Island > Sapporo > Otaru > Hakodate > Tokyo
Johnny's Fried Chicken
Yubinbango, Nara, Japan 630-8224
Tel: +81 (074) 226 4421
Open 11.30am-8pm or until sold out
469 Zoshicho, Nara, Japan 630-8211
Free. Open 24 hours
18 comments - Add some comment love
6/21/2015 09:23:00 pm