When the heavy rain of Japan’s summer rains hit Nara in July, causing the Yenaki River to overflow its banks, there was a bittersweet message of remembrance for the city’s winter tourist season: the floodwaters of the Tsugaru River nearly wiped out the deer population of Nagaozo. The deer (also known as Iwabou or Ichō) are an important part of the Yuigawa calendar, which is held annually at the Jingu shrine in Nara. In the days following the flooding, however, riders of the deer could not complete their pilgrimage to the shrine.
To help the deer stay alive during the summer rains, Nara’s mayor had proposed an unconventional solution: She cut out the ears of the deer from an 800 yen piece of plastic and made them into edible polyester mousse which could be wrapped and eaten by the deer. The deer were careful to avoid eating the plastic-laced mousse, but they eventually decided that it was safer to try and harvest it.
It was a quick recovery for the deer. The mousse was eaten by all 18 deer who visited the shrine in July.
After that, the deer were instructed to return to their summer den in October, when the winter rains were unlikely to have a significant impact on their ability to cross streams.