Flooded disaster-struck region in Japan urges people to use hashtag to tell everyone they’re okay

After dealing with a natural disaster, this part of Japan is now struggling to prevent financial disaster as well.

In late June and early July, a large swathe of southwestern Japan was devastated by floods and mudslides following a series of heavy downpours, leaving over 200 dead and more than 40 missing, after millions of people in 23 prefectures were urged to evacuate.

One of the hardest hit areas was the Mabicho district of Kurashiki in Okayama Prefecture, where dozens of people were killed and thousands of houses were affected after nearly 30 percent of the town became flooded with water from the Oda River, which broke its banks in the early hours of 7 July.

Scenes of devastation in the area were broadcast on TV news programmes around the country, but what hasn’t been as widely publicised is the state of the area now, particularly in the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, which is one of the region’s most popular sightseeing spots.

According to Yuurin-An, a cafe and guesthouse in the historical quarter that suffered nothing more than a roof leak during the crisis, the canal-lined district escaped severe damage and is perfectly fine and open for business, but there’s one problem: now there are hardly any visitors.

After receiving successive cancellations, the owners became so concerned about the reputation of the area that they decided to take action, printing out a notice to let everyone know the area was fine, and handing the leaflets out to visitors.

The notice says “Please let people know that it’s business as usual in the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter!” and goes on to explain the cancellations received after the disaster and the importance of the district as one of the representative tourist areas of not just Kurashiki, but Okayama Prefecture as a whole. In order to help preserve the future of the area, and Okayama itself, they ask that people post photos of the historical quarter on social media with the hashtag #美観地区は元気だったよ (bikan chiku wa genki datta yo, which translates to “The Bikan District was healthy!”).

This photo from Yuurin-An shows that the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter really is fine and open for business as usual.

After sending out the request online, people were quick to act and show their support for the area.

“I hesitated to attend an academic conference here, but everything was normal in the area around Kurashiki Station.”

“It’s concerning that less people are here. There’s no damage in the Bikan District and at Korakuen (one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, located in Okayama). By all means, please stop by.”

“We stopped by Kurashiki and saw no real change in the area, apart from the colour of the water in the river. We finally got to eat the parfait with a whole peach in it, which was delicious and fresh, and made a small donation by buying a peach juice afterwards.”

“We came to Kurashiki. The Bikan district was unchanged, but there was noticeably less pedestrian traffic. We got some delicious things and bought a lot of souvenirs.”

“I went to the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter today. The financial damage there is real…it was a weekday, but I only saw about one visitor every ten minutes…the denim burger was as delicious as always, and I had fun going around the stores picking out some Bizen pottery. Somehow I felt like crying.”

The situation in the area, and the support it’s currently receiving from visitors, is enough to bring a tear to anyone’s eye. If you were intending to visit the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, then rest assured that you don’t need to cancel your holiday plans, and if you’re looking to support the region, you might want to book a trip there soon. And if you do visit, don’t forget to post your photos online with the hashtag #美観地区は元気だったよ!

Source: Net Lab
Featured image: Twitter/@uurin_an

The top 30 restaurants in Japan, as chosen by foreign visitors

In case you’re wondering: Sukiyabashi Jiro is not on the list.

Every year, TripAdvisor publishes lists to help travellers find some of the best hotels, restaurants and sightseeing spots around the country. Their latest collection of the best of the best focuses on Japan’s best restaurants, as chosen by foreign visitors, and with options ranging from traditional Japanese to vegan, Italian, and Indian cuisine, this top 30 proves that the local dining scene is filled with tasty surprises.

As always, not everyone who visits Japan can speak Japanese, so these restaurants are particularly notable for having English-language menus, English-speaking waitstaff and a foreigner-friendly vibe that’s perfect for travellers on a budget. Let’s take a look at the details below!

30. Trattoria Dai Paesani (Shinjuku, Tokyo)

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Coming in at number 30 is an Italian restaurant that showcases wines and dishes from the Abruzzo region of Southern Italy. Diners rave about the authentic flavours and the fresh handmade pasta and handmade cold cuts.

29. Terakawa ( Nara, Nara Prefecture)

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Serving up soba and a variety of regional dishes, all presented beautifully by a highly skilled chef, dinner sets start at just 2,000 yen (US$18.28), which is an absolute bargain for the quality you get here. With only 12 seats in the restaurant, diners are advised to make a booking before visiting, which the staff are happy to do for you in English.

28. Itouya (Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture)

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Another small eatery, this restaurant seats just 10 people, and is famed for its delicious oden hotpot dishes. The female owner serves diners while dressed in kimono, adding to the ages-old atmosphere inside, which fits in perfectly with the surrounding Nakamachi historical district.

27. Kourin Sushi (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)

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This small counter-style sushi bar is loved by both Japanese locals and foreign visitors, who come for the fresh food and excellent prices and stay for the warm atmosphere and friendly service.

26. Parco della Pace (Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture)

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If you’ve ever had Neapolitan-style woodfired pizza in Japan, you’ll know just how mind-blowingly delicious it can be. Visitors to Hiroshima are getting a taste for Japan’s pizza-making expertise at Parco della Pace, praising their fast, cheap and filling meals.

25. Gyozaoh! Dotonbori (Osaka-shi, Osaka)

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Diners are in love with the gyoza pot stickers at this small eatery located at the entrance to Osaka’s lively Dotonbori district. Not only do they do a variety of specialty fillings and styles here, they also serve them up with some friendly hospitality. Be sure to try their exclusive plum wine and finish it all off with some special dessert gyoza!

24. Shou (Chuo-ku, Tokyo)

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Located at the famous Tsukiji fish markets, this sushi restaurant may not be as well-known as its insanely popular neighbour Sushi Dai, but visitors say the food here is just as fresh and delicious. The great service and shorter wait times here have diners saying they will definitely be back for more.

23. Wholefood Cafe Apprivoiser (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)

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This bright and cosy cafe located near Gion is pleasing guests from abroad with its variety of menu options, which range from granola to Japanese curry rice and vegan-friendly dishes.

22. Gluten-free Cafe Little Bird (Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)

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It’s not easy to find a lot of gluten-free options in Japan, so diners with food restrictions have been singing the praises of Little Bird. Generous servings and tasty fare make for fuss-free eating which diners are keen to come back for.

21. Oedo Ayatori (Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo)

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Located in the heart of Shinjuku’s lively Kabukicho district, this sleek restaurant serves up delicate kaiseki courses ranging in price from 3,800-5,500 yen. The interiors are equally beautiful, with sliding screens and wooden lamps creating a modern Japanese feel.

20. Okonomiyaki Chitose (Osaka-shi, Osaka)

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If you’re having trouble deciding which okonomiyaki restaurant to try in its homeland of Osaka, head to this 12-seater joint, where you’ll find a friendly owner at the teppan making generously sized okonomiyaki at very reasonable prices. Be sure to get there early to avoid the queues at the door!

19. Teppan Tavern Tenamonya (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)

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The blurb on the website for this cosy basement eatery says “Grab beer with Japanese traditional soul food okonomiyaki” but for visitors, there’s plenty more to enjoy here, including well-priced wagyu beef steak, and a warm and friendly atmosphere.

18. Premium Pound Sanjo-Kiyamachi (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)

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This restaurant specialises in dry-aged beef cooked on the teppan, and their most popular selections are Kobe beef steaks, which are reasonably priced and delicious. Diners describe the meals here as “mind-blowing”.

17. Sushi Naritaya (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture City)

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Tucked away in an alley off Arashiyama’s main street, this small restaurant serves up “absolutely amazing sushi!!!” As much as they love the food here, diners are equally enamoured by the chef behind the counter, and his adorable sign inviting diners to converse with him in English.

16. Han no Daidokoro (Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)

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The Dogenzaka branch of this popular grilled beef chain ranks highly with foreign visitors who come here for thick, succulent chunks of high-quality wagyu beef.

15. LBK Craft (Nara, Nara Prefecture)

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On the other side of the herbivore/carnivore spectrum is this bright and airy joint, which dishes out vegan fare and delicious craft beers.

14. Heianraku (Takayama, Gifu Prefecture)

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This family-run restaurant serves Chinese and Japanese dishes made with local ingredients, and a number of vegetarian options are also available. Diners rave about the friendly customer service here, which is said to make you feel like a family member as soon as you walk in the door!

13. Arash’s Kitchen (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)

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This is the place to go for delicious and authentic Persian meals, which visiting Persians have likened to their grandma’s cooking back home. On Saturday nights, the place comes alive with energy, thanks to their belly-dancing performers.

12. Yasaka-dori Enraku (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)

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People are absolutely raving about this restaurant, as it involves a meal with a maiko, a working geisha apprentice, who entertains guests with traditional games, music and dance. This unforgettable cultural experience is so good it gets a 100 percent satisfaction score from all 189 reviewers on Trip Advisor.

11. Doon Shokudo Indoyama (Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture)

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This cosy family-run restaurant is getting rave reviews for its delicious North Indian cuisine, cooked by an owner who uses secret family recipes.

10. Izakaya High Spirits (Yamanashi Prefecture, Fujikawaguchiko Town)

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If you’re looking for a bite to eat while in the Mt Fuji region, this is the place to go, with reviewers praising the taste of everything on the menu, from the fresh sashimi to the braised pork.

9. Matsukiya (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)

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This restaurant specialises in Omi beef, which is said to be the top wagyu beef brand in Japan, boasting the longest history of more than 400 years. The low melting point of Omi beef fat means it melts even with the temperature of human skin, creating a meltingly delicious taste when cooked.

8. Steak Aoyama (Hyogo prefecture Kobe City)

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Another beef specialty restaurant, this one is a family-owned business that is renowned for its delicious Kobe beef.

7. Ise Sueyoshi (Minato-ku, Tokyo)

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With only six tables and five seats at the counter, this is one of the harder kaiseki restaurants to get into, but those who do get to dine here will be able to enjoy beautifully prepared seasonal dishes from a highly respected Japanese chef.

6. Okonomiyaki Katsu (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)

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Another small family-run restaurant, this one has a homely atmosphere thanks to its charming staff, who serve up okonomiyaki that diners say is utterly delicious.

5. Nino (Nara, Nara Prefecture)

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According to diners, the chef and his wife who run this restaurant are incredibly kind, with a life philosophy to “smile and be kind to people and let other people smile”. They also dish out some delicious Italian fare too, as chef Nino spent time honing his cooking skills in Milan.

4. Sakurajaya (Takayama, Gifu Prefecture)

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Visitors have been heaping praise on this restaurant for years, calling it Takayama’s best restaurant. Not only do chef Hiroshi and his mother create spectacular Japanese meals, they also take the time to explain each dish to diners so they can understand how it’s been made.

3. Hamburg & Steak Pound, Umekoji (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)

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If you’re craving a good burger in Kyoto, this joint has what you’re looking for, using top ingredients like Kobe beef and aged Japanese Black beef.

2. Nabezo (Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo)

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Nabe hot pot dishes like shabu shabu are the specialty at this restaurant, and with all-you-can-eat deals offering up mouthwatering cuts of meat, this is an incredibly popular destination for diners.

1. Han no Daidokoro Kadochika (Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)

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And finally, taking the coveted top spot on the list of foreign visitors’ favourite restaurants is this yakiniku grilled BBQ joint, conveniently located just a few minutes’ walk from Shibuya Station. Wagyu beef from Yamagata Prefecture is the star of the menu here, with diners raving about the top quality of the melt-in-the-mouth beef.

So there you have it – 30 of the best restaurants from around the country, as chosen by foreign visitors. Whether you’re craving Italian, Indian, Chinese, Persian, or traditional Japanese meals, these places will please the palate and the back pocket while you travel around Japan. And if you’re travelling further abroad, there are plenty of good restaurants waiting for you throughout Asia and the rest of the world too!

Source: TripAdvisor
Featured image: Instagram/bugbugsleepy

Japanese town suffers population decline, turns its local elementary school into an aquarium

Yes, those really are sharks swimming around in the school pool.

For years, areas outside of Japan’s big cities have been dealing with the problem of population decline, with fewer births and few employment opportunities leading to abandoned housing and the closure of facilities, including schools.

In an effort to deal with the problem, regional groups are constantly coming up with clever solutions, including NPOs set up to assist new residents and the offer of free homes, but for one enterprising group of thinkers in Kochi Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, their solution has been to turn the defunct local elementary school into an aquarium.

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Called the Muroto Schoolhouse Aquarium, the new sightseeing spot is located in Muroto City on the Japanese island of Shikoku, and is housed in the old school buildings of Shiina Elementary School, which closed in 2006 due to a low number of young children in the area.

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After being left abandoned for over a decade, the old school is now teeming with life again, only this time it’s fish and marine animals that can be found around the school grounds.

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The three-storey school building reopened as an aquarium on 26 April, coinciding with Japan’s nine-day Golden Week holiday period, during which time they received over a million visitors. With more than 15,000 people people visiting the aquarium each day, locals say the new site has brought a new sense of vitality to the sleepy rural town.

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The first floor of the old school building now acts as a reception area for guests, while the second floor is home to a number of tanks, including a huge circular tank of mackerel in the middle of one of the old classrooms.

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An old washbasin once used for rinsing calligraphy brushes and brushing teeth (schoolchildren in Japan often brush their teeth after eating lunch) has now been converted into a seawater touch pool filled with starfish and sea cucumbers.

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The third floor is an “exhibition zone” containing skeletal specimens and books about marine life, while outside in the school swimming pool, sea turtles, sharks and fish can be found, making for an unusual sight.

Since the above video was posted online, it’s received 3 million views on Twitter, with viewers leaving comments like:

“Those are hammerhead sharks in there!”
“To combat the depopulation problem they’ve created a breeding farm!”
“Omg this is like a dream I had when I was at school.”
“When I was in elementary school, we kept crocodiles at the school, no joke.”
“At our school we kept koi fish in the pool when it wasn’t being used, but I’ve never seen sharks in a school pool before!”

▼ Those really are sharks inside the school pool.

Muroto hopes that the Schoolhouse Aquarium will increase visitors and revitalise the area, and their project seems to be doing just that. The aquarium shows that abandoned schoolhouses still have a lot of life left in them, even after the children have left, and if you’re looking to stay overnight in one of them, there’s a place where you can do that too!

Source: Net Lab
Featured image: Twitter/@INO_R18

Muroto Schoolhouse Aquarium / むろと廃校水族館
Address: Kōchi-ken, Muroto-shi, Murotomisakicho, 533-2
Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily

JR West unveils new Japanese long distance train with special features for passengers

This is an extra special rail experience, even by Japanese standards.

We’ve always had a soft spot for Japanese trains, but now there’s a new addition to the rails that’s set to blow everyone away, with stylish interiors, private rooms, bunk beds and break areas designed to provide optimal comfort for long-journey passengers.

Designed by West Japan Railway Company as part of their 2022 Middle Management Project, the new train is a six-carriage remodelled 117 series with all-reserved seating for 90 passengers. The interior design will be based around three themes: Diversity, Casual, and Comfort.

Each carriage will feature a different setup, to cater for passengers with different requirements. In the second carriage, there will be reserved seating for the exclusive use of women, with a bright interior, comfortable chairs, and plenty of leg room.

The third carriage will have private compartments, where travelling families can relax with their small children. Furnished with a mat that can be used as either a seat or a mattress, these private spaces will be a godsend for parents on long journeys.

The fourth carriage will be set up as a “free space area”,with tables, booths and an open-plan design.

The first and sixth carriages will be designated “green cars”, which offer a more luxurious style of seating. In the first carriage there will be booth-style seats that can be adjusted to form a bed, so you can enjoy a snooze anytime of the day or night.

The sixth car will offer even more luxury, with private rooms that can be set up in a number of different styles, according to your needs.

The fifth carriage will have dormitory-style rooms fitted out with fixed flat beds.

The new long-distance train is set to operate from Keihanshin (the metropolitan area of Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe) out to the San’in and Sanyo districts in Japan’s southwest. Scheduled to make its debut in the spring of 2020, the train will be ready in time to welcome visitors to the country for the 2020 Olympics.

Source, images: JR West Press Release

Hey! Say! JUMP appointed as Miyagi tourism ambassadors, PR video released

Hey! Say! JUMP are appointed as tourism ambassadors for Miyagi Prefecture and on the 23rd, the group held a “Miyagi Prefecture × Hey! Say! JUMP Tourism Campaign” press conference. Member Yaotome Hikaru, who hails from Miyagi, shared his thoughts on the reconstruction efforts since the Tohoku disaster and his role as a PR ambassador.

A dedicated official site and Youtube account were opened for the campaign. A 4 and a half minute PR video “Hey! Say! JUMP Natsu Tabi Migayi” featuring the group and the scenic spots of Miyagi Prefecture were released. Watch the video and catch some member quirks such as Inoo Kei and Yaotome Hikaru with cats and Okamoto Keito speaking English. More videos and info can be found at the official site heysayjumpmiyagi.jp

This will only be the start of the several projects planned for the said campaign, which will also include guide book distribution, poster and video ads in Tokyo metro, Yamanote line ads, smartphone stamp rally etc.

At the press conference, a presentation tournament was held and the group was divided into 4 teams representing 4 areas in Miyagi: Sanriku, Sendai/ Matsushima, Kennan, and Kenpoku. Judged by Miyagi Governor Murai Yoshihiro, the tandem of Yamada Ryosuke and Chinen Yuri won and they were presented with “date masayume”, rice produce from Miyagi. A dialect quiz was also  held moderated by member Yaotome.

(via Modelpress)

The post Hey! Say! JUMP appointed as Miyagi tourism ambassadors, PR video released appeared first on ARAMA! JAPAN.


Travel through Japanese festivals and tourist sites with this stunning 8K highlight reel 【Video】

You’ll want to watch this astounding video more than once to soak in all the beauty they’ve packed into two-and-a-half minutes.

We’re no strangers to the power of a good camera. Last year’s 4K introductory video to San’in prefecture, with its gorgeous foliage and eerily perfect beaches, set an incredibly high standard. Now, Akita-based cinematics company Armadas is here to push that standard doubly high, with eye-searing, gorgeous shots from a number of locales around Japan – in 8K resolution!

Armadas partnered with Nakanihon Air Service to get these breathtaking aerial views from all around Japan. Naturally, we start out with our favorite and most famous of the Japanese mountains, Mt. Fuji. Standing proudly between Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures, this titanic peak is one of the beautiful landmarks of the country, even when missing its signature cap of snow. But what an angle to admire it from!

We transition to Goryokaku Park in Hakodate, known for the fleeting beauty of its cherry blossoms and the permanent beauty of its fort.

▼ Here you can see both Hakodate highlights at once!

The fort was built in the 19th century and has a unique star shape that can be best appreciated from above. We’re in luck, then! The camera lovingly captures every fluttering petal of cherry blossom and highlights the geometric charms of the fort too.

Moving swiftly on, our new desination is the verdant wilderness of Yakushima, an island just off of the coast of Kyushu.

▼ This little friend looks like something right out of a Ghibli movie, but real, and in high-def.

The dense forests of cedar trees famously inspired Hayao Miyazaki with his animated masterpiece, Princess Mononoke – and it isn’t hard to see why from the shots we see in the video. Monkeys ruminate, deer pick their way over the rocky floor and the waterfalls gush in powerful, constant sprays. Yakushima doesn’t feature in many English-language holiday brochures, but every holiday sees Japanese nationals head there to enjoy its sub-tropical delights.

Next, we’re treated to a front-row seat to one of Toyokawa’s Tezutsu festivals: patrons are treated to a spectacular show where fireworks artisans from each district bring their handcrafted cannons and fire them, in hopes it will protect the city from misfortune. The video even gives us a fly-on-the-wall eyeful of the creative process before said cannons are fired.

▼ All of those firework cannons are handmade!

As the video winds down, it’s time for the RED Weapon 8K camera to train its eye on the capital city.

▼ How many Tokyo landmarks can you spot from up here?

Even a classic shot like Tokyo’s skyline looks jaw-dropping from this unique angle, and the high resolution creates a dreamlike effect as though you’re truly soaring through the sky above it. The video concludes with a series of nightscape views from the places we’ve toured in the previous minutes, and before you know it, it’s over.

Once you’ve whet your appetite for high-quality tourism footage, it’s hard to stop with just one video. Make sure to stop by the HD video library to scout out Japan’s most scenic hotspots, and then unwind in the Onsen town in Guma. You might want to make sure you’re alone before you watch Saga’s take on hyper-realistic ads, but they’re stuffed full of sensual… scenery, and come highly recommended.

Source: YouTube/Armadas via Japaaan
Images: YouTube/Armadas

Deer in Nara refuse crackers after Golden Week visitors leave them too full to eat【Photos】

Tourists were shocked to see the usually ravenous deer turn down their favourite treats.

The city of Nara, located in Kyoto’s bordering Nara Prefecture, is a well-known tourist destination, most famous for the iconic Todai-ji temple and its giant buddha, and a large population of wild-roaming deer.

Considered to be messengers of the Shinto gods, the deer in Nara are a protected species within the city, and visiting tourists delight in feeding the animals special senbei crackers sold specifically for their consumption.

The deer are so accustomed to receiving food from visitors that they’ve learnt to greet people with a bow during the interaction, and they’re usually so keen on the crackers that they’ve been known to crowd around and pursue their feeders, who can be so intimidated by the horned creatures that many have thrown their crackers in the air in an attempt to escape the hungry herd.

With their ravenous reputation being so well-known, visitors to the park were surprised to see the deer actually turning their noses up at the crackers on the weekend. The rare sight was captured by Japanese illustrator Hitoshi Yoneda, who goes by the Twitter handle @Brise_Marine, in a series of surprising photos that show the deer looking full and sleepy, and totally disinterested in eating their favourite treats.

If you’ve been to Nara, you’ll know how holding out one solitary senbei can cause the deer to come running, and they’re usually so keen to be the one to get the prized senbei, they’ll often compete with each other to get it. So to see whole piles of uneaten crackers around the animals is a rare and surprising sight.

According to Yoneda, the reason for the deer’s uncharacteristic behaviour is due to the fact that Nara was inundated with a huge number of tourists during Golden Week, a seven-day period that contains four national public holidays, making it one of the busiest holiday seasons in the entire year.

During this period, Nara’s population of visitors rose to much larger levels than normal, and with so many people keen to feed the deer, the animals ended up eating much more than usual within a short space of time.

By the second half of Golden Week, many of the deer had eaten so much that they simply couldn’t eat any more, with offerings by visitors being rejected by the animals.

Other Twitter users who visited Nara during the busy holiday period were quick to confirm that they too were shocked to see the deer look so disinterested in eating.

Judging by more recent comments, the deer have now come out of their once-a-year food coma after their epic spring feast, and are back to searching for food like usual. Let’s hope they get fed a little more routinely in future so they don’t have to stuff themselves again or resort to eating political posters like this deer did two years ago!

Source, images: Twitter/@Brise_Marine (1, 2)