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Kappa, alternately called Gataro or Kawako, are mythical water imps found in Japanese folklore. Many believe that the Kappa is just a part of Japanese legend however they have become a popular member in the cryptozoology field. In Shintoism they are considered to be one of many Suijin (literally thought to be water kami or water deity).

Kappa are actually protected in certain regions of Japan such as Tanushimaru. Tanushimaru is a productive agricultural region situated along the Chikugo River, the largest river in Kyushu. It is where the giant Kyoho grapes were born, and the town is famed for both grapes and its extensive plant nurseries. Local government there actually has produced laws to protect the Kappa much like there are protections in place for creatures like Champ (Lake Champlain).

The history of the Kappa in Tanushimaru runs deep more on legend then fact but many believe as follows:

Kuzenbo is the name of the leader of the entire Kappa scattered throughout Japan, and he generally lives here in the Chikugo River. It seems he often visits other rivers in Japan and lives there for short periods of time, as we would in a holiday home, but Kappa researchers believe that the Chikugo is his home river. This is located in Kurume City, downstream of Tanushimaru, and it is there that Kuzenbo is worshipped.

Apparently the Chikugo River and the many waterways and tributaries extending from it must be to the liking of the Kappa, because there are so many of them living here.

“Kappa are mischievous creatures and full of curiosity, but even so the people of Tanushimaru are friends with them. When the heavy rains continue and river threatens to overflow its banks and flood the region, the people depend on the Kappa to protect them. And to say thank you, they leave out the cucumbers that the Kappa love, and invite them to local sumo wrestling competitions.”

Stories and folklore are revolving around the Kappa still run strong. Stories such as this one are still told…

“A long, long time ago there was a lazy Kappa named Yagoro. He would always nap on top of the wooden irrigation channels instead of spending time with the other Kappa. He always napped because he was so tired: every night he played though the region, satisfying his curiosity (perhaps there are a few of you who do the same thing?) One hot summer day, when the children were playing in the river, suddenly a Kappa - Yagoro - came floating down. They were astonished, because Kappa are supposed to be such good swimmers. He had run about so much at night that he wore out his supernatural powers while he was sleeping, fell into the irrigation channel and was swept away.

Yagoro's failure left him immortalized in the saying, "Kappa no Kawanagare," which literally means "a Kappa swept downstream," and has come to mean that even experts can sometimes make mistakes.”

The people of Tanushimaru state that the rivers are much dirtier today than they were in the past, and perhaps this is why the Kappa are seen only seldom. Even so, people visiting Tanushimaru will be astonished at how many there are.

Bringing things a bit back down to earth with the Kappa; most depictions show kappa as child-sized humanoids, though their bodies are often more like those of monkeys or frogs than human beings. Some descriptions say their faces are apelike, while others show them with beaked visages more like those of tortoises or with duck beaks. Pictures usually show kappa with thick shells and scaly skin that ranges in color from green to yellow or blue. Kappa are said to inhabit the ponds and rivers of Japan and have various features to aid them in this environment, such as webbed hands and feet. They are sometimes even said to smell like fish, and they can certainly swim like them. The expression kappa no kawa nagare ("a drowning kappa") conveys the idea that even experts make mistakes as described earlier.

The kappa's most notable feature, however, is the water-filled depressions atop their heads. These cavities are surrounded by scraggly hair, and this type of bobbed hair style is named okappa atama for the creatures. The kappa derive their incredible strength from these liquid-filled holes, and anyone confronted with one may exploit this weakness by simply getting the kappa to spill the water from its head. One trusted method to do this is to appeal to the kappa's deep sense of etiquette, for a kappa cannot help but return a deep bow, even if it means losing its head-water in the process. Once depleted, the kappa is seriously weakened and may even die. Other tales say that this water allows kappa to move about on land, and once emptied, the creatures are immobilized. Stubborn children are encouraged to follow the custom of bowing on the grounds that it is a defense against kappa. Modern signs warn children of kappa lurking in water.

Kappa are mischievous troublemakers. Their pranks range from the relatively innocent, such as loudly passing gas or looking up women's kimonos, to the more troublesome, such as stealing crops, kidnapping children, or raping women. In fact, small children are one of the gluttonous kappa's favorite meals, though they will eat adults as well. They feed on these hapless victims by sucking out the mythic shirikodama[1] ball (or entrails, blood, liver, or "life force", depending on the legend) through the anus. Even today, signs warning about kappa appear by bodies of water in some Japanese towns and villages. Kappa are also said to be afraid of fire, and some villages hold fireworks festivals each year to scare the spirits away.

Kappa are not entirely antagonistic to mankind, however. They are curious of human civilization, and they can understand and speak Japanese. They thus sometimes challenge those they encounter to various tests of skill, such as shogi (a chess-like game popular in Japan) or sumo wrestling. They may even befriend human beings in exchange for gifts and offerings, especially cucumbers, the only food kappa are known to enjoy more than human children. Japanese parents sometimes write the names of their children (or themselves) on cucumbers and toss them into kappa-infested waters in order to mollify the creatures and allow the family to bathe. There is even a kind of cucumber-filled sushi roll named for the kappa, the kappamaki.

Once befriended, kappa have been known to perform any number of tasks for human beings, such as helping farmers irrigate their land. They are also highly knowledgeable of medicine, and legend states that they taught the art of bone setting to mankind. Due to these benevolent aspects, some shrines are dedicated to the worship of particularly helpful kappa. Kappa may also be tricked into helping people. Their deep sense of decorum will not allow them to break an oath, for example, so if a human being can dupe a kappa into promising to help him, the kappa has no choice but to follow through.

There are several theories for the origins of the kappa in Japanese myth. One possibility is that they developed from an ancient Japanese practice of floating stillborn fetuses down rivers and streams. Another theory is that the kappa were invented to scare children[2][3] away from rivers or rice paddies, using the swollen anus common in drowning victims as "proof" of having one's shirikodama stolen. The name "kappa" may be derived from the term for "robe" used by the Portuguese monks who arrived in Japan in the 16th century; they called this garment a capa, and the monks' appearance is not unlike that of the similarly named Japanese sprites, from the loose, shell-like cloaks to the tonsured hair. Some modern commentators even suggest that the kappa may be space aliens, and many of their pranks are similar to those often attributed to UFOs. They could also be some form of unknown creature that breathed outside of water by carrying water with it in its head.

Today Kappa are popular figures in Japanese animation, children's toys, and literature. Modern depictions make them much less monstrous, showing them instead as cute, cartoon like figures.

A notable literary appearance is the short story "Kappa" by Akutagawa Ryunosuke. The INKlings in Haruki Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World are at one point referred to as kappa. This is, however, limited to the English translation, and no mention of the kappa is made in the Japanese original. One of comic artist Shigeru Mizuki's most popular characters is Sanpei, the Kappa, who starred a long running comic series, as well as several animated features. The kappa were also the inspiration for the creature in the film Ringu. A series of animated shorts on Japanese TV, (How to Raise a Kappa) detail the humorous trials of a young man trying to raise a kappa as a pet.

Kappa also appear in a number of video games, many of which have appeared in localized form in the West. A status ailment in the computer role-playing game Final Fantasy VI transformed the affected player character into a kappa; however, the word "kappa" was replaced with the word "imp" for the English language localization of the game. The second chapter of the game Guild Wars called Factions has many Asian inspired themes. The character Skull Kid, a common imp in the Nintendo 64 installments of Zelda appears to be loosely based on it. One of the monster types in the game is a turtle like creature with a bowl in its head called Kappa. These creatures do not have water in their bowls though.

In the game "Goemon's Great Adventure", there are small kappas that jump up and attack the player. There is also a bigger version that can only fit its head in the screen in a later level. The Koopas in the Super Mario Bros. games also appear to be based on the creatures, and Super Mario World goes so far as to name a mountain with its peak filled with water "Kappa Mountain".

Several Pokémon, such as Psyduck, Golduck, Lotad, Lombre and Ludicolo, are undoubtedly based on the imp. A monster named "Kapha" appears in the PC MMORPG Ragnarok Online. In Digimon Savers, Gawappamon, Kamemon's Champion form is undoubtedly based on the Kappa. Recently in the manga Naruto, the three-tailed tailed beast has been revealed to be to be a kappa. InuYasha, Harvest Moon, Pocky & Rocky, We Love Katamari, Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon and Gintama also feature kappa characters.

In the Tokyo Mew Mew anime, the Mew Mews fight a Chimera Anima in episode 8 that looks like a Kappa, which later returns in episode 49 when Tart and Kish release all of the Chimera Anima that have appeared before that episode into Tokyo. In "Animal Crossing", the boatman who takes the player to the tropical island is a kappa named, in the English localization, as Kapp'n. Although for the localization he claims to be a turtle, he has two songs expressing his love for cucumbers. In the movie Spirited Away many Japanese deities are represented, and the kappas are not the exception. They are seen as obese duck-like creatures with a leaf on the top of their heads, specifically when Haku helps Chihiro to get across the bridge, and later, a small group of kappas are seen taking a bath.

Western media includes notable appearances of kappa as well. The James Bond novel The Man with the Red Tattoo by Raymond Benson features a Japanese assassin nicknamed "The Kappa", because of his short height. In the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, the title characters are confused with Kappa during their time travels to Japan's feudal era. The children's cartoon Arthur aired an episode in which one character faces a kappa during a fantasy scene. An early story in Usagi Yojimbo has the title character fighting such a monster. In the Harry Potter series, kappas are mentioned a few times in the context of Care of Magical Creatures and Defense Against the Dark Arts classes.

The bottom line is that the Kappa is probably cryptozoology’s biggest “sleeper” with its influence on modern day culture. It is by far Japan’s biggest cryptid and its influence stretches world wide. Whether the creature is that of just a legend, or if it does in fact exist though, is yet to be determined.

The Evidence
A tremendous amount of artwork, stories, and tales of the Kappa exist however no firm evidence suggests that the Kappa are any more then a legend at this point in time.

The Sightings
Sightings of the Kappa have dwindled through modern time but are said to still be seen often in some remote river regions of Japan and in the Tanushimaru province. A list of individual sightings are being built to be displayed here at a later time.

The Stats – (Where applicable)

• Classification: Hybrid
• Size: About 2 to 3 feet according to most sightings
• Weight: Roughly 30 pounds as estimated by size
• Diet: Most likely water vegitation, cucumbers, and other human foods
• Location: Japan
• Movement: Walking and Swimming
• Environment: Japanese rivers and basins