The ancient city of Nara lies close to Kyoto and Osaka. Around 1,300 years ago it was the capital of Japan, and numerous sacred sites are preserved there dating back to that period of history. Located at the foot of wild mountains covered with thick forest, many of the traditional beliefs and religious rites in this area concern the relationship between people and the living creatures that inhabit this area. There are deer that roam freely around the compound of Kasuga Taisha, the city's main shrine. They have long been considered as the messengers of the deity worshiped there, and to this day the local people take great care of them. Foxes, snakes and monkeys are other animals that are believed to have a connection with the deities. And an annual ritual is held to remember the living creatures that have sacrificed their lives in daily life. On this edition of Journeys in Japan, poet and scholar Peter MacMillan explores Nara and the spiritual practices of this timeless heartland.