Japan has a fair share of stories about supernatural monsters and spirits which some people deeply believe in. One of which is a bipedal turtle-like aquatic goblin known as “kappa.” They are believed to grab unsuspecting humans who walk over bridges and swamps and drowning them. In order to appease these creatures, the Kappa-dera Temple was built.
The kappa is depicted as roughly humanoid in form and the size of a child. It has a reptile skin which changes in color. They have webbed feet and hands which enable them to inhabit the ponds and rivers in Japan. People can determine whether they’re around by their fishy smell.
The features of kappa vary from region to region. However, the most notable and consistent features are a beak, a shell, a plate and baldness on top of the head.
It is believed that a long time ago, Kappabashi-dori, also known as “Kappa Bridge” in the neighborhood of Tokyo, was greatly inhabited by kappa. It was almost considered a plague, causing the inhabitants to build Kappa-dera Temple to bring the whole place to peace. They tried to appease the creatures by offering them cucumbers which are said to be their favorite food. You can see lots of these piled on the temple’s altar.
The temple is said to hold a real kappa arm which has been preserved in its treasure chamber. It also contains some antique scroll drawings of the creatures.
If you happen to travel around the area, you will be greeted by local shops having numerous statues of kappa. Some have been built to look adorable and cute while others look just creepy and scary. And if you encounter any kappa on your journey, it is a must to bow before them as this will also oblige them to bow before you. The kappa’s head is bowl-shaped and is full of water. This keeps them alive! Once they bow, the water will be sent back to the realm of spirits.
Kappa-dera Temple is the place for you to know more about this mythical Japanese creature. So whether you believe in it or not, it might be best to bow in case you encounter one on your journey!