I’ve been procrastinating with this one for a while, but here it is: kappa (河童)

454px-Kappa_jap_myth One of the more well-known youkai in Japanese folklore, and not just because of the sushi kappa rolls (which I’m suddenly craving). A water demon most famously linked with rivers, its also been known to harbour in ponds, lakes, and even the sea.

The kappa is believed to have a child-like appearance, with hair in a bowl cut, a beak-like mouth and a bald head on top where a plate filled with water rests. It’s believed if the water in the plate dries up, the kappa will die.

Their faces are red with big, yellow eyes and they have slimy, spotted skin that smells like fish. There are some species of kappa believed to carry a large turtle shell on their back. For the ones that don’t, they supposedly resemble a monkey, with fur, webbed hands and feet, and a small tail.

It’s a common thought that kappa rolls are so named because the cucumber inside, is a favourite of the actual kappa. It also loves all kinds of vegetables like squash, eggplant and gourds – apparently because they don’t sink in water – and will ransack farms to get what they want.

Another school of thought is that kappas are much more violent when it comes to their appetite. They drag people into the water – it’s believed those who drown because of the kappa are found with a smile on their face – and eat their livers. Supposedly, their favourite food is shirikodama (尻子玉)a mystic stone that is believed to be located in the anus, which is the main purpose of taking the humans in the first place.

There’s something I could’ve lived without knowing.

More to come about kappa strength and abilities and how horses are related (or not).

Sources: 日本神妖博物誌 作者: 多田克己 譯者:歐凱寧

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