Ever tried cooked vinegared rice? Pardon? I’m referring to what is better known as sushi. Already been there, done that? But, have you ever tasted a cucumber wrapped in seaweed and cooked vinegared rice? Boring, right? It might not be if you knew the origin of its Japanese name, kappa maki (かっぱ巻).
Is it a legend? Is it folklore? Probably. Or, it’s an easy way to get my SEO keywords out there. In any event, the word Kappa 河童 means “river child,” which suggests that this mythic water-dweller was anthropomorphic, even if it also borrowed some of its good looks from frogs and/or monkeys.
That the sign in the photo above, which I took in Fukuoka, Japan (you can fly there using CheapOair), exists, hints that a notable someone in the community might’ve been drinking a bit too much that night. The poignant Japanese reads “danger, you must not play/swim in the water,” but the reason is only obvious to those familiar with Kappa. You see, those ornery cusses – besides having a thing for cucumbers – have been known to play tricks on and drown children, and do far, far worse things to women. Even more enriching, the bald space on the top of its head is where it gets all of its power, so if you’re really into playing ball by the coast, bring your least favorite hat for defense. And you won’t believe what else I have in store for you.
Here’s the kicker.
Are you ready?
They DON’T exist!
However, I do appreciate how, on a completely random walk, you can encounter such local curiosities that help make Japan both ripe for exploration and yet profoundly distant.