Kappa (河童, "river-child") are a type of youkai that live in rivers, broadly similar to aquatic goblins. Often portrayed as having a turtle shell and beak, they're known for their curiosity towards humans, sometimes challenging them to tests of skill, though they are also known to eat children. They have a unique dish-like structure on their heads, which must remain filled with water for them to move around on land; the easiest way to defeat a kappa is to bow to it, obligating it to return the bow and spill the contents of its dish. All kappa are extremely fond of cucumbers, and cucumbers are the most common offerings given to them. Kappa are known to extract shirikodama (尻子玉, "anal ball") from humans (an imaginary gland said to reside somewhere around the anus or stomach), killing them in the process - this story seems to originate from the tendency of drowned corpses to have their anus wide open as if something were pulled out from there. Kappa are sometimes depicted with superhuman strength, easily outmatching humans at sumo wrestling as long as they play fair.
Kappa in Touhou
The kappa in Gensokyo (or at least the ones shown so far) wear mostly variations on a blue hiker-style outfit, with a backpack and hat standing in for their mythical shell and dish. Kappa live mostly around the base of Youkai Mountain.
Kappa in Gensokyo seem to think they're on good terms with humans, but some of the folklore humans handed down over the generations suggest that humans think otherwise. Around the time the Great Hakurei Barrier was formed, the kappa constructed the Dragon statue in the Human Village, secretly incorporating a weather prediction device into its eyes. According to Marisa Kirisame, all kappa are geniuses at the things they care about, but (perhaps because of this) they don't work well in groups. Due to this and their fickle nature as youkai, despite their technological genius, they are ill-suited for long-term construction projects, as shown in Wild and Horned Hermit when they continually blew up the dam they were trying to build.
According to Rinnosuke Morichika in Curiosities of Lotus Asia Chapter 18, the true form of the kappa are the softshell turtles that live in rivers and ponds, and when these turtles live for too long, they gain supernatural abilities and become kappa. As much of Rinnosuke's speculation is grossly inaccurate, it is unknown whether this is true.
In Wild and Horned Hermit Chapter 22 it is revealed that kappa consume blood and shirikodama as a remedy for salt deficiencies. Upon learning that the sea consists of saltwater, Nitori claims that this would remove the need for such supplements, implying that kappa may have originally been a sea-dwelling species.
Based on what Hieda no Akyuu says about Nitori in Symposium of Post-mysticism, it seems like manipulating water is a general ability that all kappa share. Although the true extent of this ability is unknown, in one occasion a kappa went mad by staring at Clownpiece's torch and was able to throw an entire river worth of water in the sky after shaping the liquid mass in the form of a dragon.
Yamawaro (山童, "mountain child") are a type of kappa who have migrated away from the river. In Wild and Horned Hermit chapter 13, it was revealed that their numbers increased after Genbu Ravine was made temporarily uninhabitable by the kishin chief Suiki.
The kappa's power in Visionary Fairies in Shrine
Characters under this Bestiary
Books and articles
- Visionary Fairies in Shrine - Chapter 11.5