Nara has a special connection to deer.
The Akka River and its ribbon of catchment could also be called the Great Byway — a ribbon of deer habitat from Kitakyushu to Matsumoto, which touches an island known as Nanami-kai in the Shonan Valley.
It’s a rare calving season in Japan’s cold, mountainous Northeast, and the number of deer is soaring. The number of herds is three times the normal number of newborns for this time of year.
It’s hard not to see the value in saving the deer. Hunters are not allowed on some neighboring mountain areas to protect the herd, so the deer are mostly fished. Fish harvesting is thought to be responsible for lowering the deer’s genetic productivity.
The seeds of nature, the shape of spruce trees are especially helpful to creating deer habitat in Japan.
The rich food provided by the deer, including the red berries of nagato cherry, also called Naya-dendo, is a big attraction for consumers in Japan. The nagato cherry tastes like raspberries, and has been dubbed “sweet beef” in the country, especially in Saitama, but farther south of the lake, in parts of Okinawa, the same berries are referred to as “sweet pineapple” for their sweetness.
Advisors on the beach in Nara, after finding deer footprints on nearby boulder. (Photo: kimura5731/Getty Images)
Hunters in the camp just down the shore from one popular eating spot, Terra Bella, say they’ve seen female deer coming off their calves. Some of them walk without the rest of the herd, and don’t appear to be undernourished at all.
The horses are painted white to camouflage themselves from predators, and have distinct physiognomy — their lungs are bigger and deep. Females’ coats have an extra graininess to the back end to help them have energy for leaping up to 10 meters (33 feet) as a calf.
The invasive Asian carp, which poses an imminent threat to the wild freshwater fish in the Nara River. (Photo: kimura5731/Getty Images)
Now, a new project is aimed at helping the deer, starting with plastic bags that are dug out from the riverbed that it contains, to create a buffer zone that animals, including deer, could grow up in. That might be easier said than done, as the riverbed contains Asian carp. These large fish from the Nile come to Japan through a single canal (Keshusho canal) that in total connects 24 farmyard-style houses to above-ground cargo containers.
Large boats are zooplankton collectors and feed on crabs and other sea life to provide their own sustenance. Right now, they are found in abundance in the Nara River, at the bottom of which is the bamboo mouth of the Nanami-kai lake. Around 85 percent of the bottom of the river consists of the bay of the Nanami-kai island.
Only four domestic fish boats and a couple of migrant boats can be provided each day by local fishermen on the small island. The number of boats is thought to be critical to the survival of the deer and other aquatic animals in the Nara river. (Photo: kimura5731/Getty Images)
A court injunction, issued by the city government and the Court of Tokyo, further restricts the boats to the sturdier draft boats with the heavier draught.
Marine whale poop washes up on the shore of Terra Bella, one of the best known Buddhist temples in Nara. (Photo: kimura5731/Getty Images)
After a time, the foreign tourists and the local residents are left to face each other. Lions and tigers roam all over the Japanese islands, but deer are also a national treasure.
This article is reproduced with permission from Asia Society. It was first published on June 23, 2015. Find the original story here.