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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Nara deer and Johnny's Fried Chicken, Japan

Child with a deer at Nara Park, Japan

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.

Map of our journey from Tokyo to Nara

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, Japan
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 senbei rice crackers at Nara Park, Japan
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 deer at Nara Park, Japan
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.

Wild deer and tourists at Nara Park, Japan
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.

Child feeding the wild deer at Nara Park, Japan
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.

Wild deer at Nara Park, Japan
Peaceful deer

Johnny's Fried Chicken
Johnny's Fried Chicken in Nara, Japan

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 in Nara, Japan
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 in Nara, Japan
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 in Nara, Japan
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.

Poodles at Johnny's Fried Chicken in Nara, Japan
Canines in-residence

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 in Nara, Japan
Johnny's Fried Chicken take out window

Kakigori shaved ice syrups in Nara, Japan
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 cold syrup to kakigori shaved ice in Nara, Japan
Adding cola syrup to kakigori shaved ice

The shaved ice is piled into a paper cup and then drenched with your choice of syrup.

Adding lemon syrup to kakigori shaved ice in Nara, Japan
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 in Nara, Japan
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

Nara Park
469 Zoshicho, Nara, Japan 630-8211
Free. Open 24 hours
18 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 6/21/2015 09:23:00 pm


  • At 6/21/2015 9:37 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    naww man how cute is that shot of the little boy and the deers! also, the fried chicken looks just as a good too but in a different way haha

  • At 6/21/2015 10:48 pm, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    The deers are so damn cute! I am sooo visiting Johnny's fried chicken after I visit Nara Park!

  • At 6/21/2015 11:32 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    teehee love your shot of the poodles!

  • At 6/22/2015 8:09 am, Blogger Sarah said…

    I love Nara! Those deer are soooo cute!

    But now all I can think about is fried chicken! <3

    Yum yum.

  • At 6/22/2015 10:27 am, Anonymous Hotly Spiced said…

    I've just been visiting monkey in a forest in Ubud, Bali. Deers look a lot more appealing. Love how they're not hungry enough to beg and bother you for food. The chicken looks very good and I keep hearing about yuzu - must try some xx

  • At 6/22/2015 2:15 pm, Anonymous Martine @ Chompchomp said…

    Deer are as cute as buttons! Are they as cuddly as they look? I am obviously totally mis-educated by Bambi I think!

  • At 6/22/2015 2:58 pm, Anonymous Gourmet Getaways said…

    Aww...those kids are just adorable. And the deer - so friendly and welcoming. A nice encounter, indeed! Plus a great end to the park visit!

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

  • At 6/22/2015 9:14 pm, Anonymous Monique@The Urban Mum said…

    Our family loves fried chicken..It is great it is offered at Johnnys every which way. We went to Bird Land in Tokyo and they use every part of the fowl there too. I was quite brave, but couldn't get the kids to try the gizzards - if I hadn't mentioned what they were they probably would have enjoyed them. Lesson for next time, don't necessarily announce the dish to the kids in great detail...

  • At 6/22/2015 11:34 pm, Blogger Von said…

    I've been planning a holiday to Japan and I'm considering going to Nara- I'd love to see the deers though I'm not sure if we'll have time! I've heard that they're pretty good at crossing roads haha :) I love all the flavours for the shaved ice- quite unlike the ones you get here! I wonder if shaved ice with cola syrup tastes like frozen coke?

  • At 6/23/2015 7:41 am, Anonymous John | heneedsfood said…

    Hmmm, I'm wondering whether you were actually going to the fried chicken place that so happened to be near a dear park. I know what my priorities would be, anyway. Chicken!

  • At 6/23/2015 9:47 am, Anonymous Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said…

    Those deer are beautiful! I don't think I could be persuaded to leave if I got to see them.

    What a perfect name for a fried chicken place and how good it looks!

  • At 6/23/2015 3:37 pm, Anonymous Racy_staci said…

    Yummy fried chicken!

  • At 6/23/2015 6:13 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So want to visit this place. OH MY! The deer's look so cute.

  • At 6/30/2015 11:11 am, Anonymous Berny @ I Only Eat Desserts said…

    maybe it's a good thing they weren't too hungry :P We brought some deer crackers and all the big deers kept eating it so the little baby deer didn't get any. We brought some more and only fed the little baby deer but then one of the bigger mean deers ate my map from my pocket. I couldn't even get it back and had to just give it to him :(

  • At 6/30/2015 6:05 pm, Anonymous Amanda @lambsearsandhoney said…

    The only time I've been that close to deer has been when it is on my plate.
    We have a few deer farms around us, but they are not fat and quiet like these. More flighty and fast on their feet!

  • At 6/30/2015 7:38 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    omgosh I loved Nara when i went Japan!! Missed the delicious looking fried chicken tho :9

  • At 7/01/2015 4:20 pm, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    awww the deers are so adorable! fried chicken and hojicha ice cream to end is a good choice indeed!

  • At 7/04/2015 10:35 pm, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    You are lucky the deer were all in food comas. Last time I was there, less people around and very determined deers that were basically holding you up for food. No handbag was safe!


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