Hey ya’ll. It’s Luna here, and today for Hotsui Matsuri I wanna talk about some Nihongo Legends. And today? Today on Nihongo Legends, we’re going to be talking about one of my favorite Japanese creatures; the legend of the Kappa. Why do I like Kappa? Literally no idea. But I have been interested in them for quite a long time, so today, let me tell you a little bit about the mighty Kappa.
So the Kappa. Let’s start with the question: what exactly is a kappa? The kappa is a demon–or yokai–in Japanese Folklore. And yes–yes I said demon (for some reason the kappa is portrayed as rather cute–but we’ll get into that in a minute). The Kappa is a water-based yokai who is rumored to trick humans, drown them, and steal their shirikodama. The shirikodama is an organ (of completely mythical origin) that supposedly houses the soul and that is removed from vitims’ anus. I find that to be probably the absolute strangest part of the kappa myth–not even going to lie. But I also find it really interesting. Anyway, back to the kappa. The kappa is associated with two things: sumo wrestling and cucumbers. Why cucumbers? Apparently they enjoy eating them and the correlation between this vegetable and kappa is the reason you will find cucumber sushi, aptly named kappa rolls.
As for how they look…remember how I said that the are depicted as really cute? Well, they actually look kind of terrifying. They are green human-being like creatures of short and stocky nature. They have webbed hands and feet and turtle like shell on their back. On top of its head is this like dish of water–well it’s more like an indent in its head filled with water, and the kappa needs the water in it to survive. While sure, this might still sound like it could be nice and cute NO. They look terrifying in old legends–like truly demonic. Just look at this reference picture I dropped in–not exactly my idea of cute. Apparently in the town of Fukusaki, there’s a mechanical, creepy looking kappa that comes out of the water and eats a shirikodama. So yeah…I have no idea how they got the reputation of this cute thing.
Which a lot of anime do portray Kappa as adorable. In Natsume Yuujinchou, the kappa is slow and friendly. When you google search ‘kappa’ you’ll find him amongst other cute depictions of kappa. Such as the kappa centric anime: Sarazanmai. The kappa such as keppi and the MCs (who turn into kappa) are cute. But in all honesty, they are NOT cute dumb kappa that only eat cucumbers like in other shows. In fact, this show is centered around the kappa stealing shirikodama, and while this show is hilarious–it actually does a semi-good job of representing ALL the parts of a kappa legend. Which, y’know–most anime show them as cute. Some anime do use the kappa as a villain or monster, but even the they are nowhere near as scary looking as the animatronic kappa in Fukusaki.
I hope this has been an educational segment for you and that you learned a thing or two about the legend of the kappa. If anything, I hope this showed you that the kappa is not cute and dumb, but rather fearsome in most legends. Did you know they even can be found in toilets, waiting for easy victims? Big yikes. Thanks for joining us for day 3 of Hotsui Motsuri, and I hope you enjyed this segment of Nihongo Legends! Don’t forget to tune back into our blog tomorrow for day four of Hotsui Matsuri!