Early each morning, the Sika deer can be found sauntering down the streets of Nara, an otherwise modern city and commercial hub. Their unbothered, almost eery presence can be explained by the city's ancient history. Not only was Nara once the capital of Japan, but it is also host to the Kasuga shrine, a famous and holy site in the Shinto religion. For centuries, the Sika deer have played the role of divine messengers for the local gods. And so, to this day, the deer are allowed to roam freely through the city. Indeed, the deer are considered so holy that they are given protections, like local treasured.
However, in other regions of Japan, the deer’s feeding habits are causing serious problems for farmers. In some places, the problem has grown so severe that the local governments have begun encouraging "population management." Every year, more than 360,000 deer are killed in Japan.
Yet inside these arbitrary boundaries created by man, the deer are beloved and treated as domesticated animals. Outside of these boundaries, they are killed as pests, agents of destruction. Through my photographs of the Sika deer in Nara, I imagine how things would look if the town (or the world) were abandoned by man, and the deer were free to reign as they pleased.
Editor's Note: Yoko Ishii's photographs will be shown at the Angkor Photo Festival & Workshops, which is running from November 29 to December 6, 2014 in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Keep an eye out for our weekly previews which will feature different parts of the Festival's diverse and exciting program.