We should’ve known better than to attempt a 200-yen senbero in a park during a heatwave.

While most of our reporters live and work in Tokyo, some of our writers are scattered around the country, with some even living overseas. K. Masami is one of these reporters, working from home in Nara Prefecture, so although she knows everyone on the team, some of our writers are yet to meet her in person.

Our Tokyo-based writer Seiji Nakazawa has long been an admirer of Masami’s work, so when he took a trip down south recently, he decided to see if Masami would want to meet up with him in Nara for an afternoon.

She was actually excited about meeting him in person as well, going one step further by suggesting they attempt to have a Mr Sato-inspired senbero in Nara Park.

Mr Sato’s zany senbero drinking parties have always made Seiji a little nervous, but he figured a senbero with Masami would likely be a safer and more sedate affair so he happily agreed. However, he was still unable to control the fluttering of butterflies in his belly as he approached their designated meeting spot.

Would Masami be as nice in person as she appeared online? Or would she turn out to be a prim and proper prude with a cardboard personality that would make for an awkward afternoon? And why didn’t she ask him to bring anything for their senbero party? His anxieties began to course through his mind, but as soon as he caught sight of Masami waiting for him, all these concerns melted away.

“I’m heee-ere!”

They bowed their heads slightly, with a quick “hajimemashite” (“nice to meet you”), and it was like they’d known each other for ages. Well, they kind of have known each other for ages, but it was nice that they were able to feel immediately comfortable in each other’s presence — so much so that Masami quickly turned her back on Seiji and told him to follow her as she was keen for him to meet the deer.

It wasn’t long before they crossed paths with one of the animals, at which point Masami stopped, and then turned and bowed like a tour guide.

“Welcome to Nara Park!”

Masami was really doling out the omotenashi (“hospitality”) for their first meeting, and just as Seiji began to reach out a hand, thinking they would stop to pet the deer, she was off again.

“Follow me!”

The deer in the above photo was as surprised as Seiji by the sudden departure, but as our reporter didn’t want to lose sight of his tour guide, he dutifully shuffled his feet a little faster to keep up with her.

“Look how beautiful this place is, Seiji! Breathe in the fresh Nara air!”

Seiji was panting at this point, so it was hard to take a deep breath, but he did the best he could. And as the two of them stood there, breathing in the air, a group of deer approached, gathering around Masami as if she were a magical Disney Princess.

The animals soon lost interest, though, and moved on to someone who didn’t have their arms spread wide on either side of them.

As her magical Disney moment disappeared before her eyes, Masami realised she’d forgotten all about their senbero idea, so she stopped and told Seiji they had to buy the one special ingredient for their Nara Park senbero — the special potion that would be sure to charm the park’s deer.

▼ So they went to buy…senbei!

Nara deer are obsessed with senbei, or rice crackers, and they’re sold at a number of shops in the area for 200 yen (US$1.49) a bag. Deer have no money to buy the senbei, of course, instead relying on visitors to feed them their treats, so Masami bought a bag from a vendor, all the while oblivious to the look of confusion on Seiji’s face.

▼ Let the senbero party begin!

▼ Senbero…


▼ …senbero!!!

That’s when Seiji finally cottoned on to what Masami had been going on about this whole time. Senbero. Senbero. Seiji had been using the word the way most people would, to mean a 1,000 -yen (“sen”) drunk (“bero”), which is what Mr Sato’s been writing about recently. However, Masami was using a bit of clever wordplay with her interpretation, with “sen” meaning 1,000 and “bero” meaning “tongue“.

▼ Feed senbei to the deer in the park, and you’ll see 1,000 deer tongues coming at you!

Seiji was a little disappointed to discover that he and Masami wouldn’t be having a drunken party together, but he couldn’t help but smirk at Masami’s creative way of thinking, which is part of why he admires her so much as a writer.

Masami also smiled as her princess powers returned, with the deer now following her every step. But then, as is often the case when feeding deers in the park, the animals’ cute interest turned into scary enthusiasm, and a horde of them began to stalk and harass her.

“Quick, run away, Seiji!”

Seiji found himself running for the second time that day, and he began to wonder when this senbero story would end.

“No deer here — we’re safe!”

It was now the middle of the day, and the heat was becoming more intense, so Masami opened her parasol to shade them from the sun.

“Oh no! I almost forgot!”

▼ “The most important part of a senbero is…”

▼ “…do you remember, Seiji?”

▼ “It’s the craziness!!”

Seiji already thought what they’d been doing was pretty crazy, but then, Masami took things a step further.

▼ She began shouting at the ground, calling out to the deer in Brazil.

Shouting through the ground to Brazil is something Mr Sato dreamed up during one of his articles, after learning that Brazil is on the other side of the planet from Japan. If you were to drill deep down through the ground in Japan, you’d be on route to pop up directly in Brazil, so by that logic, shouting at the ground is the easiest route for communicating with the other side of the world.

“Brazilian deer, can you hear me? Helloo from Japan! Happy senbero!”

▼ As expected, there was no response from the deer in Brazil, but the deer in Nara certainly heard her.

It was now becoming even hotter, and Seiji wondered if he was having some sort of weird fever dream. Masami was now visibly sweating, and she also appeared to be on another plane.

▼ It was so hot that even the deer were now resting in the shade, so it was definitely time to call it a day.

Seiji asked Masami if she was okay, and she grinned and gave him a wink.

“Welcome to Nara, Seiji! Hope you enjoyed our senbero!” 

Well played, Masami. Well, played.

All images © SoraNews24
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