When you think of Nara, there is a good chance that the image that comes to your mind is of the area’s famous deer.
When I travel to Nara, I try to take a picture with the deer in Nara Park, thinking “I want to take pictures of Nara!” but they always seem to avoid me at these times… When this happens, the usual route to go is to buy one of the “deer crackers” that are sold by local vendors and try to take the photo again. However, if you do this, instead of avoiding you, a large mob of deer will often swarm around you, all seeking a bite of the crackers you are handing out, resulting in the need to flee or get trampled.
Here, I would like to introduce some of the mascot characters that represent these interesting deer that exist in Nara.
First of all, the most famous character, “Sento-kun”
Sento-kun is the most famous representative mascot character of Nara. He was born out of the 1300th year commemoration project for Heijo-kyo, the ancient capital of Japan, becoming an official mascot character for Nara in 2011.
He generated a lot of buzz at that time since he has a very impactful look to him.
When I stare at Sento-kun, I always feel like I’m drawn in and taken to the Heijo-kyo era.
It may be trivial, but there are a lot of spots in Nara City where you can take a commemorative photo with the image Sento-kun, if you wish. First, if you take the Kintetsu Railway from Kyoto to Nara, you can find a statue of Sento-kun on the grounds of the Kintetsu Kyoto Station. This statue seems to say, “I can’t wait to see you in Nara,” to all who lay eyes on it. Sento-kun can also be found when you arrive in Nara, at the East ticket gate in Kintetsu Nara Station, which I recommend as it is accessible and easy to find.
In addition, a version of Sento-kun clothed in the official garb of the Nara period can be found in front of the well-established Japanese sweet shop known as the “Ten-pyo-an Todaiji Store.” Furthermore, he is also found in front of the Nara Prefectural Office building, and in front of the Okumura Memorial Hall, which is on the approach to the Kasuga Taisha Shrine. There is also a free-to-use rest area located in front of the Okumura Memorial Hall, so it makes for a good location to take a break and get a nice photo with Sento-kun.
In addition to standing statues, there are also many panels of Sento-kun in Nara that can be fun to try and find as you tour the area.
In Nara city, depictions of the character “Shikamaro-kun” can be found around the town and souvenir shops!
Shikamaro-kun is a character of the Nara City Tourism Association and is an indispensable character for the promotion of Nara.
Anyway, he is so cute! He has peaceful eyes, a nicely shaped bum, and a cute tail. And of course, there are also depictions of him standing upright as well.
Shikamaro-kun also can be found in many places, such as in front of the Tourist Information Center in Kintetsu Nara Station, in JR Nara Station, at the General Information Center in front of JR Nara Station, and in the Nara City Tourist Center on Sanjo Street.
By the way, you can enjoy Shikamaro-kun in various ways as he also comes in purikura and gacha-gacha forms.
Now that I have introduced the two main deer mascot characters of Nara, I’d like to ponder the question of just how many deer characters there are here. How many do you think there are? Well, after looking into it, I found that outside of the main mascots, there are actually 37 other active official characters in Nara! When you think about it, there sure seems to be a whole lot of official “deer characters” in Nara. And if I include characters that are “unofficial,” there are actually a total 54 deer characters in total!
At this point, it is really amazing how many there are!
It can be really fun to look for deer characters and deer character goods while walking around the city of Nara.
Here, I would like to introduce a few of my favorite deer characters.
Like Sento-kun, he was born in 2008 from the project commemorating the 1300th anniversary of Heijo-kyo.
He is wearing a hat that looks like the Suzaku-mon main gate from Heijo-kyo Palace.
Illustrations of Manto-kun can also be seen in the city of Nara.
♪”My name is Nara dog Nara-sshi.
Daddy is a dog around here named Yamato!”
…This song is the theme song of Nara-sshi and once you hear it, it will remain in your ears and will not be forgotten.
You may be thinking to yourself “What! Is your daddy a dog?” but no need to worry. His father is a dog, but his mother is a deer in Nara Park.
Nara-sshi is a character that demonstrates versatility, such playing a part in a challenging comedy competition.
His innocent looks will make you feel better.
He shows up in many events on weekends, so you might be able to meet him on your journey.
Shikatche is the mascot character for the professional basketball team “Bambitious Nara” and loved by fans of the franchise.
He softens the often intense atmosphere of the arena with his adorable figure, dancing and playing alongside the athletes.
At the game venue, in addition to enjoying the match, you can also enjoy interacting with local people in Nara!
Why not take a day away from the normal tourist venue and catch a basketball game in Nara? You can pick up some Shikatche souvenir goods.
Deer characters even exist in schools in Nara. Nakkyon is an adorable character of the Nara University of Education. He has two cute sprouts on his head, and creates a soft, healing atmosphere.
Nakkyon’s goods can be found in the bookstore of Nara University of Education in Nara City.
You can get a taste of student life in Nara by purchasing Nakkyon T-shirts, strap hand towels, pin badges, and etc.
Napo is the mascot of the Nara Police force. His horns resemble police radio antennas and the red lights on a police car. In 2015, a companion police character, named Napi-chan, was also created with the hope of conveying the ideas of protecting Nara’s “people” and “peace.” From that moment forward, these two characters (Napo-kun & Napi-chan) have been protecting Nara’s people.
Other characters include:
The Self-Defense Forces have ”Rikushika-kun” for land, “Umishika-kun” for sea and “Sorashika-kun” for air.
There is “Nappa” for the fire department.
“Nacchi” is for Nara District Public Prosecutor.
For the Nara District Public Prosecutor’s Prison there is “Nashika-kun”.
“Nacky” is for NHK Nara Broadcasting.
Nara Shinkin Bank’s character is “Narakky”.
Besides these, there are still many other deer mascot characters out there in Nara, so please keep your eyes open for them all.