“Kappa was born out of my disgust with many things, especially with myself” – Ryunosuke Akutagawa
In Japanese folklore, the kappa is a water sprite described as being the size of a small child, yellow-green in colour, with a sharply-pointed beak and with fish scales instead of skin. They are mischievous creatures that are said to kidnap and eat children and in some stories even rape women.
Akutagawa was very interested in mythical creatures during his life, including the kappa. He started drawing sketches of them around the time his first son was born in 1920. 7 years later, the same year he committed suicide, he wrote the novella Kappa.
“Behind the depressing silence of the sea, the silence of God …. the feeling that while men raise their voices in anguish God remains with folded arms, silent.”
In the mid-1630s, in the regions of Shimabara and Amakusa of Japan, over taxation, famine and religious persecution of the local Christians led to the Shimabara Rebellion, an uprising which involved mostly Christian peasants. After the rebellion was defeated in 1638, 37 000 rebels were beheaded and Christianity was banned in Japan. The shogunate suspected the European Catholics to have been involved in this rebellion and trading with Portugal ended at that point.