Daily Myth-Japanese: Kappa

I have not posted anything in a little while, and that is because of two reasons: I have not been feeling super well, and also I have been struggling to think of anything interesting. Now I decided to write a daily post about mythologies that I know. I am no expert, and all the info I say here will be from the stories I have read over the past few years.

So let us begin with one of my very favorite mythological beings: the Kappa.

 

I am not sure who the artist of this picture is. There is a signature at the corner of the pictures but I cannot make out a name. If anyone knows who the artist is please tell me. I found the picture at this site http://www.bubblews.com/news/2251824-quotkappaquot-a-creature-of-a-japanese-folklore

I am not sure who the artist of this picture is. There is a signature at the corner of the pictures but I cannot make out a name. If anyone knows who the artist is please tell me. I found the picture at this site http://www.bubblews.com/news/2251824-quotkappaquot-a-creature-of-a-japanese-folklore

The Kappa is one of the more famous yokai in Japanese culture. Yokai are “monsters” and some can have strange powers (like the Tanuki). Kappa are these kind of water demon-monsters that inhabit rivers and ponds. They tend to be depicted as human like creatures with turtle shells, scales, webbed hands/feet, beak like mouth, and a bowl like ‘hole’ on the top of their head that hold water. Their bodies are reminiscent of monkey bodies. They have arms that look a little to long for their proportions and some have been depicted moving on “all fours”. Kappa are about the size of a small child (around 9-10 years old), but are strong enough to attack grown men and horses. Now-a-days you can find very cute pictures depicting the Kappa (like the one above), but usually they are very ugly. They have bobbed hairstyle that grows out of their head except in the middle where the ‘bowl-cavity” is located.

A picture of a Kappa made by Katsushika Hokusai

A picture of a Kappa made by Katsushika Hokusai

Kappas are notoriously known for being mischievous. They are tricksters whose pranks can be relatively simple such as farting loudly and other rather rude and annoying behavior, to really extremely malicious such as rape, and murder. Human flesh is a staple in the Kappa diet, especially children who are easily to drown in rivers and ponds.

I have seen them compared to River Imps which is a good comparison for their more innocent behavior since imps are also little tricksters, but Kappas are pretty violent creatures. It was believed that in the anus of a human could be found a little ball called the shirikodama or soul of the person. Kappas are known to take these little soul balls, most likely eating them.

Kappas are not necessarily all evil. Their have been accounts were people befriended a Kappa. They can then be helpful creatures with a vast amount of knowledge in medicine (one of my favorite parts about the Kappa). They are most skilled in bone-setting and taught people how to mend broken bones and fix dislocated joints.

The Kappa Show by Junko Mizuno

The Kappa Show by Junko Mizuno

Ironically enough, Kappas were known to be noble creatures in some sense of the word. They followed traditional customs of polite behavior very strictly. And if ever a Kappa was tricked into making an oath or a promise, they followed through to the end with out complaint. The best way to stop a Kappa from attacking was to take a very deep bow. The Kappa would reciprocate the bow and lose all the water in the cavity upon his head. This would weaken him, and he would have to go back to the water. Another way is to challenge the Kappa to a battle of skill like shogi (intellectual) or sumo wrestling (physical), for he cannot refuse. Pulling the arm of a Kappa is also helpful. Kappa’s arms can be removed and once taken the Kappa will be willing to make any oath or promise in hopes of getting back the arm. A cucumber is also good to have, because cucumbers are the Kappa’s favorite food.

If you feel like you wanna know more about the Kappa, check out this website: http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/kappa.shtml There is more information, interesting theories, and uglier pictures.

 

-Blog Barista

 

 

This is Kawabata from the anime Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san or "Muromi-san on the shore." I have never actually watched the anime (for reasons not necessary to say here), but I love Kawabata

The large green man on the right is Kawabata from the anime Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san (Muromi-san on the shore) by Keiji Najima. He is a super buff Kappa and super Manly-Man (I don’t suggest this anime)

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