The Origins of Japan’s Most Famous Monster Kappa

  • CULTURE
  • There are all sorts of monsters and ghosts mentioned in Japanese mythical stories which have always intrigued millions of people. They’re the Oni (鬼), which literally means demons, though it is more suitable to describe it as a demon; and also the Tengu (天狗), legendary creatures with the head and the wings of a bird.

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    Kappa

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    One of the best-known monsters is Kappa, which can be translated as “River Child”. It’s described as a humanoid creature with a beak instead of a mouth, webbed feet and hands, the shell of a turtle on its back, and a plate on top of its head. However, what did lead the people of ancient Japan to think that Kappa was real? What could have they seen that would resemble it?

    These mystical creatures are said to be responsible for a lot of the drownings in rivers where they supposedly live, especially when it comes to small children. They would sneak up on unsuspecting victims from under the water and drag them under the water to drown them.

    Still curious what could be the real-life Kappa?

    Here’s what may have inspired Kappa

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    The Japanese Giant Salamander, the world’s second largest salamander and Japan’s National Treasure. If you have seen it in the wild, you’re lucky because it mostly comes out at night in the clear, cool streams and rivers of Chubu, Kinki and Chugoku regions of central and western Honshu, Shikoku and northeastern Kyushu. This gigantic amphibian, known as Osansho-o (大山椒魚) in Japanese, is said to grow to about 1,5m and can excrete a strong pepper-like smell when it is threatened, hence its Kanji name, which literally means Giant Pepper Fish. It spends most of its life staying inside the flowing waters and hiding under the dark shades of big rocks in rivers until it comes out to hunt at night. Due to its skin color it is able to blend into its environment and catch unsuspecting prey (insects, frogs, fish, and small mammals).

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    So far, there are no news of the Japanese Giant Salamander drowning anyone, but people should still be careful about this magnificent creature as it can even bite off a human finger if feeling threatened. If you are interested in learning more about this “peppery fish”, please visit this site for more details!

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