The Kappa, in Japanese folklore is a ghost, phantom, or strange apparition. Kappa, meaning river-child, also goes by many other names; Kawataro, Komahiki and Kawako are only a few of the more than 80 names associated with this cryptid.

A Hyosube is a variation of the Kappa that is hair-covered.

It is said to inhabit the ponds and rivers of Japan, but will sometimes go on land. In some variations of the Kappa, it will spend the spring and summer in water and live in the mountains the remaining part of the year known as a mountain deity.

At a Tokyo shrine, there is a statue of a male and female Kappa. In some cities near bodies of water, there are signs warning of the Kappa.

The Kappa are typically depicted having a humanoid form and are about the size of a child. The skin is similar to a reptile with its color being green, yellow, or blue. The hands and feet are webbed to aid in swimming. The Kappa also has a fishy smell to it.

In the top of the cryptid’s head there is a cavity that is always wet and considered to be the source of its power. If the cavity ever dries out, the Kappa will lose its powers and could die.

The behavior of the Kappa is mainly mischievous and considered to be a trouble maker. It is known to also lure people and animals into the water to drown them and drink their blood. Kappas are know to kidnap children and rape women.

In the stories of the Kappa trying to drown animals, if it is caught in the act, it can be made to apologize. There have also been stories of the Kappa impregnating a woman, producing a repulsive offspring that were usually buried.

It is believed that if a person is approached by a Kappa and bows, the Kappa will bow back spilling out the water. The Kappa will then be rendered unable to move from that position until water from where the Kappa lives is placed back in the cavity. From this point, the Kappa would be obligated to serve the human for eternity.

In some regions it is believed that if parents write the names of their children as well as themselves on cucumbers and toss them in the water, they will be protected from the Kappa while they bathe. Other regions encourage eating cucumbers before swimming for protection against the Kappa, but in some regions this act causes the Kappa to attack.

A Kappa may be tricked into promising to help a human and because the Kappa must keep its oath, it will follow through with its promise. If a Kappa is befriended, then it may perform many tasks to aid humans, such as helping farmers irrigate their land. The Kappa may also bring the family fresh fish, which is regarded as token of good fortune.

According to the legend the art of bone setting was taught to humans. Some shrines worship helpful Kappas. There are Kappa festivals still taking place today that are meant to bring a good harvest.

Image Caption: Drawing of a Kappa reportedly caught in net on Mito east beach. Credit: Wikipedia (public domain)