Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Modern Guide to Kappas (children's book)

A guide to Modern Kappa Generally accepted information:

Below is the direct translation from a 3rd grade reading level children's book on kappa. (i can't remember the origional source though!!!)

Rivers & Ponds -Kappa have an undeniable relation to water. Nearly all kappa live in muddy areas of rivers and ponds, and yet, like frogs and such, are just as comfortable out of the water on dry ground. They are weakened by the cold of Winter, so Summer is when they become active. It is also said by some that they are assistants of the heavenly Dragon King, who brings all rain and water to the Earth.

Oceans - In the region of the island Kyushuu, stories about kappa living in the ocean often appear. In Kumamoto Prefecture, there is a monument that commemorates the arrival of kappa that came all the way from the oceans near China. In Fukuoka Prefecture, there is a shrine dedicated to a female kappa who was once the protector of the local fisher women who dove for shellfish. This kappa's name was "Oo-oyabun Amagozen", which can be roughly translated as "Big Boss Ocean Front" [which is as strange a name in Japanese as it is in English]. It is said there are still many stories about kappa active in the oceans.

Mountains - Kappa live in ponds and rivers during the Summer, but in Fall and Winter there are also kappa that live in the mountains, or so it is said. Once a kappa starts living in the mountains, they are refered to as Yamawaro [rather than kappa].

Strong Swimmers - Because they live in water, it's only natural that kappa are outstanding swimmers. At swimming, kappas have no equal. Thanks to their webbed hands and feet, they are not only skilled swimmers, but very fast swimmers as well.

Physically Strong - It is well-known that kappas often pull horse and humans into rivers. Despite having bodies small as children, they have great physical strength. Because kappa are proud of this strength, Sumo is one of their favorite pastimes. The secret of this great strength is the water in the bowls on their heads. This is the source of all their power.

Transforming into Humans - Kappa sometimes transform into humans. What kind of humans? Here are the "characters" they can transform into. A young apprentice priest, a child, a young woman, a youth proud of his strength, or a beautiful lady. In all cases they will love to join into a Sumo match (though this is especially true for those disguised as children).

Transforming into Objects - It is said that when a pretty ball comes floating down a river following the flow, it is dangerous to try to retrieve it, for it might be a kappa in a transformed state. Putting out a hand carelessly could result in being pulled into, and under, the water. When any pretty object comes floating down the river, be careful!

They Make Effective Medicines - There are people who have learned how to make an effective medicine, good for cuts and bruises, from thankful (though mischievous) kappa that they had caught and then released. Even now, this medicine is for sale. There are also people alive who have learned the techniques for skillful bone-setting from kappa.

They Have Treasure - At the bottom of their rivers, kappa hide many small objects and gold. It has been handed down in many tales that people who were about to be pulled into the rivers by kappa tricked the creatures instead, and gathered a lot of their gold.

They Like Cucumbers - Cucumber rolls are called "kappa" rolls because kappas love cucumbers. At the start of Summer, the first cucumbers of the season are let go in nearby rivers to keep the kappa pleasant and happy while the first swimmers of the season enter the water. This ritual gives mid-summer swimmers peace of mind.

They Like to Play Tricks - It is said that two pranks that kappa often play is pulling horses that are eating grass next to rivers into the water, and patting people's butts when they are not looking. This last one is a bit perverted, isn't it?

They Like Sumo - Kappa like Sumo, and they are very strong too. First off, kappa are never beaten by humans in a straight Sumo match... but, kappa have a weakness. At the start of the match, when opponents ritually bow to each other, the water in the saucer on the kappa's head will spill out; in this way, the kappa can be forced into giving up.

* Obakemono from Japan *

An Obakemono a day!!! *_* "In Japanese, O is a prefix denoting respect, and bakemono literally means a changed thing - something perverted and altered and moved beyond its natural state - a monster."

"an impressive array of animated objects, transformed animals, ogres, demons, and human freaks is known collectively known as yōkai (yoh-kye), or bakemono (bah-keh-mo-no)."

Sekien Toriyama's 1776 "Hyakki Yakō" [Hundred Demon Night Parade]

Begining with: Zashiki-warashi 座敷童子 (ざしきわらし) Tatami Room Child

This child-like spirit is said to inhabit the inner rooms of old houses and other buildings. It often appears as a little girl but it can be a boy as well. Sometimes it plays with the children of the house, but it never lets the adults see it. Although it is fond of mischief, the zashiki-warashi is a beneficial little spook, and houses it lives in have extremely good fortune. This fortune quickly turns to disastrously bad luck, however, if the ghost child ever leaves.

and a little story from the proprietor of a Geta (style of shoe) shop in Morioka:

"The Story of Zashiki-warashi no getaThere is an old Legend that tells of "Zashiki-warashi", a children's lucky fairy, that lives in Iwate area of Japan. It is believed that if the zashiki-warashi comes to stay at a house then the family living there will have good luck in everything. I was told the following wonderful story from my father.Many years ago during a time in Japan when foreign shoe styles were becoming popular, Mr. Kunitaro was anxious about the future of the Japanese traditional shoe, the geta. He made many different styles of geta from his own ideas and his own work.One day in the winter, he was making geta in his workroom as usual, when he heard the sound that geta makes "karan-koron" coming from the direction of his shop. At first he thought, "a customer has come into my shop". He went out to his shop and looked but found no one there at all. He thought, "children must have been playing with my geta", but when he looked all the geta were in order. So, he finally thought it was just his imagination and returned to his workroom. Soon he heard the same sound of the geta, "karan-koron" out in the shop again. This time he thought at once that, "it must be "zashiki-warashi" doing this". He soon made some very cute geta for zashiki-warashi and offered them to the workshop's Shinto Alter. And then, very soon, his geta began to sell like hotcakes. His shop was prospering. I am sure zashiki warashi wanted to wear them because they are so cute.Since then, this geta style is called "zashiki-warashi geta" and will bring good fortune with the sound that the geta makes, "karan-koron". They have been displayed in the Jojo's shop windows as a talisman. Put them at the front door of your home and they will bring good luck.
Notes: The word "karan-koron" is the Japanese sound-word for the particular sound that geta make when someone is walking in them."