IMG_1610Like the tanuki, the kappa is one of Japan’s bad boys. However this mischievous water imp is entirely imaginary. The kappa is reportedly the size of a child, a body covered with scales, webbed hands and feet, and shaggy bobbed hair. They live in rivers, which explains their piscine characteristics and reportedly fishy smell. Kappa supposedly have double-jointed arms and legs, which undoubtedly helps them perform their most heinous crime: dragging innocent humans, especially children, into the water and drowning them. But we could argue that kappa are not entirely bad, because they are a convenient scapegoat for parents to use to warn their children about playing too close to the water.
Kappa have a shallow bowl-shaped indentation on the top of their head IMG_1613which holds a liquid which is the source of their powers. Somewhere in their mythic history a folktale story teller decided to have some fun with the kappa, claiming that kappa are obsessively polite, and that when they bow the liquid spills out and they become powerless.


In this hashioki a kappa rides on the back of his fellow river dweller, the catfish.  Catfish are sometimes viewed as either the predictor or the cause of earthquakes in Japan, so in this example the kappa may be playing the role of a seismologist.


Kappa are sometimes spotted in sushi restaurants, undoubtedly drawn there by kappamaki cucumber rolls, named for them because cucumbers are reportedly their favorite food.


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