Saturday, October 18, 2008
This is the drain cover found in my village and the surrounding town of Sakurae. It depicts an Enko which is the local name for a strange creature found only in Japan known mostly by the name of Kappa.
Kappas are aquatic creatures that live in rivers, streams, springs, ponds, and irrigation ditches all over Japan, though they can also survive on dry land. They are generally about 3 to 4 feet tall, with green scaly skin, webbed feet, and a shell, similar to a turtles, on its back. In many ways it looks remarkably like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (remember them?). Perhaps its strangest feature is its head, which has a bowl-shaped cavity on top surrounded by a ring of spiky hair. When out and about on dry land, this cavity must remain filled with water or else the Kappa becomes seriously weakened. Kappa is an ardent sumo wrestling fan, and will eagerly challenge any solitary traveller it encounters to a bout. The best strategy therefore if encountering a Kappa is to bow deeply. When the Kappa returns the bow the water spills out of the cavity and he become too weak to fight.
Kappa is an omnivore, and particularly likes horses and small children, which it will drag into the water before sucking out the innerds ( through an orifice not in the victims head!!!) but most of all Kappa loves cucumbers, there is even a type of sushi made with cucumbers, kappamaki , named after him. Parents whose children are about to swim in a pond or river will inscribe the childs name on a cucumber and throw it into the water in the belief that this will placate the Kappa and protect the child. Kappa is not purely malevolent and sometimes helps humans, and therefore is more akin to an Imp or Trickster than a monster.