A town full of KAPPA

Do you know what a Kappa is? This creature is on the verge of extinction in Japan, with a very small population. They have two arms and legs, with webbed digits, a shell protecting their backs, and a plate on top of their heads. Excellent swimmers, they also understand human speech! They are very curious, and love sumo wrestling and cucumbers. The plates on top of their heads are full of water, which gives them supernatural powers. Among other things, they can give people headaches and fevers if they approach too closely.

What? You say you've heard of them but never seen one? That they're only mythical creatures? Well, sorry, but you're wrong there. The people of Tanushimaru, where I live, get along with the Kappa very well. After all, Tanushimaru is one of the few local governments in Japan to enact a low for the protection of Kappa and other special aquatic wildlife.

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.

When talking about the relationship of Tanushimaru and Kappa, it might be best to start with Kuzenbo. Kuzenbo is the name of the leader of all the 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 hiss 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.

Let me tell you an interesting story. 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 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.

The Tanushimaru Station on the JR Kyudai Line is built in the stomach of a Kappa, and Kappa are always playing around the bridges spanning the river here. There is a place for Kappa to rest in the shopping arcade, and Kappa are almost always found there. There are Kappa souvenirs, too, of course.

If you stop by the Kanko Kyokai at JR Tanushimaru Station, they will tell where the best river observation points are for spotting Kappa.

Why don't you come and meet a Kappa, especially now that they are on the verge of extinction? Just remember they are mischievous, so don't come too close... I did, once, and was almost pulled into the river.

You know, Tanushimaru also has a law protecting special mythological creatures, like the eerie demon with the head of a cow that a monk banished centuries ago... What? You don't want to here about it now? Well, maybe next time.


Hao Chang all rights reserved.