Posted by: softypapa | November 10, 2007

Vintage Japanese Doll – Kappa Water Imp Ningyo Figurine


This interesting Japanese display figure depicts an ice skating Kappa water imp.  This doll is less than 40 years old and in fair condition with marks and scratches from handling and display.  Please read below to learn more about Japanese Kappa.

Height: 3.0 inches (10.0 cm)
Weight: 1.5 ounces (44 grams)

Click here to see other Kappa items!
here to see more Japanese dolls and figures!
here to see additional treasures from Japan!

More about Kappa

Do you remember how you felt after the first time you saw the film “Jaws”?  If you lived near the ocean then you likely never swam quite as far from shore after seeing the movie than you may have before.  That feeling is probably precisely what most pre-modern Japanese felt whenever they even approached a river, lake or stream.  This is because the “Jaws” of old Japan was not any huge man-eating shark, but instead was a rather small water imp called Kappa who lived in family groups wherever fresh water ran quiet and deep.  Though small in stature (about the size of an 8 to 10 year old child) the average Kappa was nevertheless very strong and capable of grabbing and dragging into the water animals much larger than itself including horses, cattle and of course, unwary people.  Though mischievous and slightly evil, Kappa were nevertheless thought to respect the authority of those they deemed virtuous (especially any who could overcome them) and may become loyal and helpful to such individuals.

Kappa are members of the Suijin group of Japanese Shinto (native religion of Japan) water deities which include enchanted serpents, fish and freshwater eels.  Looking stranger than a platypus, Kappa appear to be assembled from the body of a tortoise with the head of an ape, and sport webbed-feet, blue-green skin and scales and an unusual donut-shaped hair style surrounding a flat depression at the top of the kappa’s skull.  It is thought that when Kappa leave the water they remain powerful as long as their head depression is filled with strength-giving fluid.  Japanese folklore advises us to bow deeply when we encounter a Kappa on dry land, as the creatures do appreciate good manners (though they may be scheming to kill you) and will likely bow in return, spilling their strength-giving fluid in the process.  When their head depression is dry Kappa quickly become weak and must return to water in order to regain their strength (giving the clever human a chance to escape!).  In modern times the Kappa’s image has suffered a fate similar to that of the European Ogre (think Shrek), as no one really believes in them any more and their image in art has changed from frightening monster to cute mascot.  Adorable little Kappa images are today used in Japan to promote a variety of commercial products and even as the heroes of animated cartoons.

item code: R2S5-0003302
ship code: L1650


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