カッパさん

22 Jun

Let me introduce you to a Japanese folklore character.

Do you know what a 「カッパ」 (“Kappa“) is?

It’s a fictional character that has been a famous folklore legend in Japan for centuries.
It looks like a creepy turtle-like creature with a “dish” on it’s head surrounded by hair, a turtle-like shell on it’s back, a bird-like beak and webbed fingers and toes.

It lives in the rivers, streams and other bodies of water in Japan.

Kappa love to eat cucumbers. So there is a type of sushi made with cucumber that is called “Kappa-maki“.
But their favorite meal is children. They like to eat children who wander too close to rivers and streams.

As you may have guessed, the “Kappa” is a type of “boogey-man” in Japan that is meant to frighten children from playing too close to water were they might drown.

That’s the purpose of Kappa. To keep small children from playing near rivers and streams.

So, almost every sign near rivers, streams, ponds, etc that warn children from playing there have a picture of a Kappa.
The character is basically a “do not swim” mascot.

 

The sign says "Danger!! Don't play in the water" (The faded blue sign says about the same)

(Signs in Japan for earthquake shelters have a logo too. A catfish. (I wrote a post about that: here).

Kappa can be seen many places in Japan. There’s even a part of Tokyo called 合羽橋 (Kappabashi).

The Kappa has a weak point.
His incredible strength stems from the “dish” on top of his head that is full of water.
Kappa must be careful to never let the water spill out of the dish.
But the Kappa is famously polite…if a person is confronted by a Kappa that person should bow to the Kappa because the polite Kappa will surely return the bow—and then spill the water off his head which would render him helpless.

And there’s another weakness…if someone refills a Kappa’s empty “dish” and restores his strength, the Kappa will be indebted to that person for life.

 

A cuter Kappa-san

What types of folklore creatures are in your country’s culture? And they meant to ensure children’s safety, like the Kappa?

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21 Responses to “カッパさん”

  1. yo January 13, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    it is not totally true. Kappa is not “something” that makes children scared…. in a way, you are right. but originally Kappa represents some human being, such as foreign settlers, the victim of discrimination, etc. and also, Kappa’s most favorite stuff to eat is “shirikodama” this is a imaginary thing though.

    Like

    • tokyo5 January 14, 2012 at 12:36 am #

      >it is not totally true.

      By not “totally” true, if you mean that I didn’t include every single detail about the Kappa legend, then you’re right…it would’ve taken too long to completely describe everything. I only wrote what I feel are the main points.

      >Kappa is not “something” that makes children scared….

      Yes, it is. But I don’t know why you put the word “something” in quotation…since I didn’t use that particular word even once in this post, you’re not actually quoting me.

      >originally Kappa represents some human being

      I’ve never heard that before…but I suppose you could be right because Kappa is an ancient Japanese legend, and just as most legends, there are some details that vary depending when and where it was told.

      >Kappa’s most favorite stuff to eat is “shirikodama” this is a imaginary thing though.

      I know. And actually I wrote in this post: “…their favorite meal is children”, I just didn’t write which body part they prefer because I didn’t feel that that detail is worth the effort to explain.

      Like

  2. Kroten October 31, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    Hajimemasahite Tokyo5, You beat me to it 🙂
    I was writing about Kappa and combining your post with Wikipedia and suddenly you have commented in my blog (not my turtle’s blog).
    I really love things Japanese…and immediately subscribe to your wonderful blog 🙂

    I hope you don’t mind I use your post as reference (of course i give a link to yours) 🙂

    Like

    • tokyo5 October 31, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

      You wrote about Kappa? Where? On your blog? Please tell me the link.

      Like

      • Kroten October 31, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

        I am still writing it 🙂
        I am currently writing on 2blogs…it will take some time to finish it.

        Like

      • tokyo5 October 31, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

        Well, whenever you finish it, let me know where it is.

        By the way, have you ever been to Japan?

        Like

      • Novroz November 1, 2011 at 12:01 am #

        Finished 🙂
        It’s in my turtle’s blog.

        No , I have never been to Japan… I wish I can go there one day.

        Like

      • tokyo5 November 1, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

        >It’s in my turtle’s blog.

        I saw it here.

        >No , I have never been to Japan

        How do you know many things about Japan?

        Like

  3. cuteandcurls June 27, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    😀 Ive been keeping an eye on the World Cup schedules and predictions 🙂 Lets just say I go mad once every 4 years only and i do like football 🙂 They play against Paraguay on 29th June ..who knows they may fare well in this match too so far alot of the underdogs are doing well i mean Ghana beat USA already in round 1 of the knock out game.

    Like

  4. cuteandcurls June 25, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    This is where I thank Kitaro for all the names of the Japanese ghosts and ghouls 🙂
    Well done to the Samurai Blues again, I think their spirit and determination built up when they got beaten by The Netherlands previous week. This early morning they beat Denmark 3-1 and they’re now on to the next group 16 knock out stage.

    Like

    • tokyo5 June 25, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

      Did you already know about Kappa from Ge-Ge-Ge-no-Kitaro?

      And I didn’t watch the soccer game, but I saw the highlights on the TV news.
      Yes, Japan did great. They beat Denmark with a score of 3-1.
      So, Japan has played three matches so far in World Cup 2010 and won two of them.

      Like

      • cuteandcurls June 26, 2010 at 10:31 am #

        Yes I did, there was one episode abt the Kappa. Yes they’ve won 2 of them so far ..they could’ve won The Netherlands game but it was tough although they did a great job tho ..next Paraguay.

        Like

      • tokyo5 June 26, 2010 at 10:48 am #

        You know Japan’s soccer team schedule very well.
        When will Japan play Paraguay?

        Like

  5. Troo June 23, 2010 at 5:14 am #

    Most of the UK’s creatures are fairies of one kind of another, most of whom wish to kill you in one way or another. Some play pranks, both harmless and harmful, and few are helpful or omens, but most just wish you harm 😀

    Like

    • tokyo5 June 23, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

      Do the stories have a purpose, such as keeping children out of danger?

      Like

      • Troo June 25, 2010 at 12:44 am #

        The purpose tends to be “If you live and breathe, fairies will eat you / steal your babies / trick you”.

        Later tales do have a purpose, but the majority of mediaeval fairy tails is largely to spook each other around the fireplace. Perhaps the English were early adopters of horror stories 🙂

        Like

      • tokyo5 June 25, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

        >Perhaps the English were early adopters of horror stories

        Or “campfire ghost stories”.

        Like

  6. Cecilia June 23, 2010 at 3:41 am #

    In Sweden there are plenty of characters, but I guess that most of them are a part of our history and not the present. My parents told me about troll’s to prevent me from going too far in to the forests around our house though. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll

    I had a look at your excellent list of festivals in Tokyo. My family and I will be in Tokyo from the 21st of August until the 3rd of September and would love to experience a matsuri. Do you think it’s a bad idea to visit one, for example the one in Azabu-jyuuban with a baby in a stroller? Too crowded perhaps? The ambience at a Japanese festival is like nothing else! Take care.

    Like

    • tokyo5 June 23, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

      Sounds like “Trolls” in Sweden serve a similar purpose as “Kappa” in Japan.

      In Florida (where I grew up), there’s no need for stories of fictional characters to warn children to stay out of fresh water…there are real creatures in there that might eat children—alligators!

      Regarding the “Azabu-jyuban” festival…it’s very crowded and the streets there are narrow.
      If you’re not used to how crowded Tokyo can get, then I’d recommend avoiding that festival with small kids.

      There are plenty of other festivals in Japan, especially in the summertime.

      Like

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