Kappa Photo Tour

Various Artwork from Japan.

KAPPA = Japanese River Imp or Sprite. Origin = Shintō (with Chinese & Hindu Antecedents). Kappa also called Kawatarō 河太郎, Kawako 河伯, Kawaranbe 河ランベ, Gatarō がたろう, or Enkō 猿猴. One of Many Japanese Suijin 水神 (Water Kami).

Kappa smell like fish and are generally portrayed with the body of a tortoise, ape-like head, scaly limbs, long hair circling the skull, webbed feet and hands, and yellow-green skin. They are often depicted with a tortoise shell attached to their backs. Some say they can change color like the chameleon. They abhor metal objects and loud noises (cannon fire, gunfire, etc.).

The defining characteristic of the Kappa is the hollow cavity atop its head. This saucer-like depression holds a strength-giving fluid. Should you chance upon the quarrelsome Kappa, please remember to bow deeply. If the courteous Kappa bows in return, it will spill its strength-giving water, making it feeble, and forcing it to return to its water kingdom.

About the size of a child aged 6 to 10, the Kappa is nonetheless incredibly strong. It attacks horses, cattle, and humans, usually dragging its prey into the water, where, according to various legends, it feeds on their blood, or drains their life force, or pulls out their livers through their anuses, or sucks out their entrails, leaving nothing behind except a hollow gourd. Stories tell of Kappa pulling little children into the water and drowning them. In many localities, drowning is still referred to as GAPPADOKO ガーッパドコ. As drowning victims were sometimes found with a distended anus (swollen rectal), the Kappa is also sometimes called the shirokodama (anus) vampire. In some tales, the Kappa is associated with theft and raping women. For much more on Japan’s Kappa, please see: Kappa in the A-to-Z Photo Dictionary of Japanese Buddhism.

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