Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 30th, 2007

Tengu Kappa

And you thought those Mutant Ninja Turtles came out of the blue? Or only some fictional sewers?

Special Features of Kappa

* Favorite things to eat — cucumber, fish
* Least favorite things — ironware, deer antlers, saliva

Key to the above drawing:
1) Shell
2) Webbed hands and feet
3) Elastic arms
4) Plate (When there is water in this plate, the Kappa has amazing strength.)
5) A tapering mouth

Kappas have been reported in Japan for centuries, being an important part of the folklore and, apparently, the real world, for the locals who see them in and near the water. The traditional kappas–the so-called “reedbed men”–are described as amphibious with a monkey’s head, three-toed webbed feet, three fingers, triangular eyes, long pointed ears, and a “shell” on its back–definitely resembling a bipedal, humanlike primate, in other words. Stories of the Japanese hairy merman, the mu jima, appear to be linked to traditions of the kappa.

Some parts of Japan promote the notion that the kappa are still very much around. In the tourist literature for the highland town of Tono, in the Iwate Prefecture in northern Japan, guests are told they might just see some kappa, described as “meddlesome water imps given to seducing maidens and eating horse livers.” — from The Field Guide of Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates, page 138

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

18 Responses to “Kappas”

  1. Bob Michaels responds:

    Gee, I wonder if they are college educated, Phi Beta Kappa.

  2. Ceroill responds:

    Thanks, Loren! Btw, I ordered your book through Amazon. I look forward to finally reading it.

  3. DWA responds:

    It would be cool as hell.

    But I’ll settle for the sasquatch and I’d focus on the yeti next.

    Sounds like when cucumbers start running short we’ll hear from these guys.

  4. elsanto responds:

    Plate? My understanding was that it was a concave indentation in the head, in which water is kept.

    There’s one folktale in which a clever wag, to settle a bone of contention with a kappa, challenges the kappa to a friendly judo match. Before they spar, the protagonist bows very deeply. The kappa returns the bow in kind, spilling the water from his head. You can pretty much guess where it goes from there…

  5. mystery_man responds:

    The Kappa is an interesting bit of folklore, but I’ve never really thought of them as a real creature. In the rural areas of Japan, these sorts of old myths abound and the folklore is rife with tales of forest spirits and ghosts. The reports of sightings are fairly persistent but this is one cryptid I am quite skeptical of as far as it being a living breathing creature. You never know, though.

  6. Pentastar responds:

    Loren- I have to say that Elsanto is right about this. Or atleast I have to say that I got the same information from my Japanese wife as he wrote here.
    It is a very weird (and polite) creature that most likely doesn´t exist.
    Have a good day!

  7. Loren Coleman responds:

    Well, you guys sure have a way of killing a discussion. It is intriguing, that as far as I know or can tell from you three gentle people, none of you are Japanese but all have lived there or are married to a Japanese spouse.

    I suppose if a Japanese native wants to write in and say, “Okay, Bigfoot is just an American Indian legend and doesn’t exist,” it would be fitting.

  8. mystery_man responds:

    Loren, that is a very good, very amusing observation. 🙂 So very true, isn’t it?

  9. springheeledjack responds:

    Alright, I’ll open up the debate again…:)

    The kappa, mu jima, mermaids, BF, frog men, …all various forms of mutated humanoids…

    now if you go for Atlantis and some of the tales told there, there were supposedly experiments with humans going on, and a couple of lesser races developed to do the grunt work…so how about all of these critters are merely mutations from a pre-civilization that supposedly had technology well beyond where we are today?

    Top that…

  10. shumway10973 responds:

    I find it interesting that western/american/european thinking denies any possibility of any other animal families (fish, bird, reptile or amphibians) might have something near to humans and/or our intelligent primate cousins, even though every ancient culture has at least one creature like the Kappa. The Babylonians had a water deity that walked with men in the day and slept in the water at night (referenced on Stargate SG1). There is an African tribe with a tale of alien fish like creatures (I know, we don’t do aliens here, but they were fish-like) that told the humans about the star system they were suppose to be from. That star exists, just “discovered” in the mid 1970’s. This mentality is the same one that has kept theologians saying that Behemoth was an elephant and Leviathan was a crocodile (Job 40:15-24 & 41). Many preachers still teach this, even though the descriptions don’t fit and we have knowledge of animals (dinosaurs) that fit the descriptions better. Not trying to start another argument off the original subject, just that this is the way the western thinking is. Everything is in a nice, neat box. No wonder there are so few who really are looking intently for sasquatch–their reality would be flipped upside down.

  11. Pentastar responds:

    I just asked my wife about it and got that information. No bad intentions just sharing information. I thought that is the main point of communication.

    My wife told me once that when she was a child she and her friends were out playing in the forest nearby a river and suddenly a strange looking hairy person came walking towards them from the nearby river. She described that creature to be the size of a ten years old human child but very hairy and dirty. She also said it walked in a very swaying style that made it appear to be drunk. THey ran back home and their parents told them to not go there again. Perhaps this was a Kappa creature.
    Appearantly the Kappa is a naughty little creature.
    Some temples claim to have or have had dead Kappas.

    The Japanese tend to have a very open mind to these kind of things and not put anything aside until it’s proven to be non-existing or a hoax. Basically the opposite of the Western approach to BF and other cryptos.

  12. mystery_man responds:

    Well, notice I left the end of my post open to the idea by saying “you never know”. I am not one to close my mind to it completely as I cannot back that up. I did not mean to dismiss the Kappa. In fact I am very interested in the Kappa phenomena and have heard many stories about it and I can honestly say that I sometimes do not know where the folklore aspect ends and the notion of an actual creature begins. It does not mean I do not respect the legends or the culture and in fact I am quite enamored of Japanese folklore and read a lot about it.

  13. Alaska-boy responds:

    As another reader who has lived in Japan, I would have to say that the Kappa is much more believable than most mythological Japanese creatures. They are also treated as such by the rural populace, (as opposed to the tannuki or kitsune, which are treated more supernaturally). There is at least one well-known form of water-dwelling primate in Japan, and I would not be surprised to see the Kappa turn out to be something similar. People forget that most of Japan is uninhabitable mountain wilderness.

    In terms of wild speculation, those pictures from Africa of the three-toed, three-fingered primate there might indicate some sort of related creature….

  14. kamoeba responds:

    For a good look at a Kappa in a fictional movie, check out the “Yokai Monsters” series from late 1960’s Japan. As far as I know, it was a three-film series with one film being remade very recently (I have not seen the remake). The three vintage Yokai Monsters films are available in North America on DVD and are in widescreen with beautiful color and subtitles (I’m not sure if the remake is available here though). In “Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare”, a Kappa has a prominant role and the costume is quite interesting (sort of a Kermit the Frog/turtle thing). It’s better than wasting your time with Sci Fi Channel made-for-landfill movies.

  15. Rillo777 responds:

    Reminds me just a little of the pukwudji tales told by the Indians. Little woodland people that can be mischevious or kind. There’s supposed to be a group of them living a few miles from me.
    I guess every civilization has their “little people” stories. Some of these certainly sound too fantastic to believe but, just to keep an open mind, the stories and alleged attributes of these creatures could be exaggerations gradually incorporated in the telling. Or maybe this is just one really strange world we live in. 🙂

  16. mystery_man responds:

    Alaska Boy- But the tanuki and kitsune may have been attributed supernatural powers, but at least they are real animals known to science. The Kappa actually has many supernatural elements attributed to them in the folklore. A lot of animals in Japan do, just check out the Honshu wolf thread to see what was written about the folklore behind it. This is what I mean by not being able to distinguish where the folklore ends and the real animal begins. From some of the stories of the Honshu wolf and tanuki told by rural old timers, you’d think they were a mythical creature if they hadn’t been confirmed by science to exist. It makes it hard to ascertain which cryptids in Japan could be real animals attributed with supernatural powers and which ones are actually just what they seem to be, which is folklore and superstition.

  17. kittenz responds:

    Native Americans also attributed supernatural powers to real animals, most notably to the coyote. I think that is probably true most native peoples: they tend to view the animals around them as real beings with supernatural powers, possibly in an effort to understand the mechanics and origins of their universe.

  18. borntofightdinosaurs responds:

    maybe it carries the water on its head in order to keep it flowing over its gills. when the water falls out, it dies of asphyxiation.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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