Nara: Deer Cracker-Throwing Contest Delights Deers

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A contestant prepares to throw a giant deer cracker while deer wait in Nara City on Jan. 27.

NARA — A cracker-throwing contest featuring some unique rules and four-legged obstacles was held on Jan. 27 at the foot of Mt. Wakakusa in Nara City.

Deer crackers, similar in shape to regular senbei rice crackers, are specially made for tourists to feed to the wild deer in Nara Park, where many of them roam. They are sold by vendors at the park as officially certified deer food.

Contestants throw specially made crackers that are about 20 centimeters in diameter, larger than the standard crackers fed to the deer. The deer are allowed to enter the contest area, so organizers created a rule stating that if a cracker gets eaten after landing, the distance will be measured to the deer’s front right leg.

About 300 people took part in the contest that coincided with the Mt. Wakakusa yamayaki mountain-burning festival. Contestants checked the wind direction and attempted to figure out the best angle to launch their crackers to gain maximum distance. Deer were often quick to chase the crackers, which drew cries of “That’s so cute!” from the spectators.

Although most contestants failed to throw the crackers more than 10 meters, the crowd erupted when one perfect throw led to a cracker flying more than 30 meters.

A tourism promotion committee formed by local shop owners started the contest about 30 years ago as a fun event for tourists.