The Kappa

The Kappa is one of the most well known cryptics in Japan and stories of this unverified humanoid-reptilian creature have wound their way throughout Japanese history for centuries.  Often interpreted as being a kind of water imp, renderings of the Kappa have ranged from a humanoid-turtle to merman and everything in-between.  Most commonly its skin color is green, has a beak-like mouth and a plate balanced on its head which must always contain water (less the Kappa lose his vitality) But the Kappa originally had a far more sinister reputation than the lovable modern incarnation cherished by both adults and young throughout Japan. Known in the Edo era to kidnap infants, rape women, drown horses and other such acts of treachery, this scaly green interloper also has a very Japanese-like addiction to politeness and loves a  good Sumo or Shogi challenge. The list of strange behaviors of the Kappa is almost endless (take a good look at the Wikipedia entry for a wild cryptozoology ride)




These days the Kappa has taken on a far more appealing and somewhat cutesy tone with the Japanese public. Most know it as a crafty river creature with a penchant for eating cucumbers.  It has become a character with the same kind of kawaii appeal as Hello Kitty, and Anpanman.


Americans call him Koopa, Japanese call him Nokonoko – just one of the many pop culture transformations of the Kappa

Even my local community has adopted the Kappa as their own DIY/Renewable Energy ambassador. This papier mache guardian sports a different outfit weekly, ranging from pre-modern Shogun to suit wearing schoolboy, and is surrounded by flashing lights in plastic bottles which are powered by two bicycle wheel turbines in the small canal nearby.  It’s a classic example of Japanese civic responsibility and the transmogrification of an iconic creature of folklore.  Kudos!

The water from this small canal turns these bicycle wheels which generates enough electricity to keep Musashi-Kosugi’s friendly Kappa lit up day and night
Shogun Kappa
School Boy Kappa