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Kappa - Water Demons of Japan

Updated: Jan 19

Kappas live in the rivers and ponds of Japan. These green-skinned creatures are about the size of a ten-year-old child and have large round eyes, a beaked nose, and webbed hands and feet. They are incredibly strong and have an unpleasant, fishy odor. Even stranger, they carry a large tortoiseshell on their back and have a circular depression on the top of their heads that is full of water. If the water is lost for any reason, the kappa's powers are diminished and if it isn't replaced soon, the kappa will die.

Surprisingly, kappas are described in a variety of ways; friendly, mischievous, and downright evil. Kappas have been known to help farmers irrigate their crops, bring fish to families (which is considered good fortune), and offer medical advice. As crazy as it sounds, the kappa is credited with showing humans how to set broken bones. On the flip side, the more sinister kappa will lie in wait for living things to venture too close to the water’s edge and drag their victims to their watery death.

There are a couple of ways to protect yourself from these water demons. When near a body of water, always be on high alert. If one emerges, you should bow to it. The kappa will then return your bow and as a result, the water that is held in the depression on the top of its head will pour out, leaving the kappa powerless. The kappa will have no choice but to go back into the water and fill his head depression with water. At that time, you can hightail it out of there.

Another way to avoid their wrath is to carve your name into a cucumber and throw it in the water. Kappas love cucumbers and when they eat this delicious offering, they will remember the person’s name and spare them from being pulled to the bottom of a river or pond. Who knew cucumbers were so powerful against demons? Not me! Maybe that's why cats freak out when they see them.

Kappas have long been blamed for drownings in Japan. Offerings are made to these creatures at festivals and statues of them can be found throughout Japan. Surprisingly, even today, in small villages, you can find signs warning people to be cautious of the kappa near bodies of water, proving that Japan is not ready to let these fabled creatures fade into obscurity.

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