Kappa – 河童 29. March 2023

The kappa is one of the most famous yokai, alongside the tengu and hannya. There are reportedly over 80 different kappa species, with more known about its appearance and behavior than other mythical creatures. It resembles a turtle-human mutation and is about the size of a small child, but much stronger. Its skin is scaly and its face adorned with a turtle-like beak, wearing a shell on its back. Stories say the kappa has over three intestinal tracts and thus farts three times more than humans. Its most unique feature is a bowl-shaped depression in its head that always contains water, which is its power source. However, if the water dries up or spills, the kappa can no longer move, leading to its death. Its stature suggests that it lives in water and feels comfortable there, especially when warm.

The behavior

Kappas are highly intelligent and can learn human language. They occasionally befriend humans and know much about medicine and human anatomy. According to legend, kappas taught this knowledge to humans. Kappas are proud and honorable beings, always keeping their promises. They enjoy sumo wrestling and skill games like shogi. They are omnivorous but prefer raw human innards and cucumbers. In Shintoism, the kappa is worshiped as a water god, and believers offer cucumbers on riverbanks to ask for help with watering fields.

The evil side

Despite its harmless appearance, the kappa should be treated with caution. Kappas are naturally vicious and do not like cows or horses, occasionally pulling them into the water and drinking their blood. They enjoy making mischief and peeking at women under their kimonos. If encountered in the water, there is no escape. Their preferred method of attack is pulling the victim underwater, biting them to death, or devouring them alive. In ancient Japan, it was believed that kappas targeted a mystical ball of flesh in the human anus, the shirikodama, but this organ does not exist. Therefore, warning signs are often placed where kappas live.

The encounter

If encountering a kappa, it is best to avoid it. However, if there is an encounter, the kappa can be defeated by greeting it with a deep bow. Due to its high sense of honor, the kappa will bow, spilling the water from the bowl in its head. Once defeated, the kappa must serve the victor for all time.

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