After watching a recent episode of Destination Truth dealing with the Japanese River Monster, I had to do a little research myself. It was their description of a “Ninja Turtle” that caught my attention. Although I didn’t see Master Splinter in the episode, I wanted to know if the four courageous mutant turtles from my childhood had any roots tying them to this ancient Japanese mythic creature.
According to Japanese folklore, the Kappa may have been Japan’s variation of a children’s story to scare little one’s from playing in the water unattended. This water creature could come out of the water but had to have the inside of its shell moist at all times or would become weak, lose its powers, and possibly die if it didn’t get back in the water in time. Ancient accounts of the creature describe it as a humanoid tortoise that could be scaly green, yellow, or blue with a shell on its back. They came equipped with webbed feet and could also swim like a fish. They also live in rivers, lakes, and ponds.
The Kappa are best known for their mischievous behavior. They tend to prank people by passing gas and playing peeping-Tom up women’s skirts. They are also notorious for stealing nearby crops and scaring small children. The ancients also believed that the Kappa could speak fluent Japanese and tested humans that they encountered with riddles and wrestling matches.
I don’t know about you, but the 1980s American branded comic book characters, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, seem to have more than a few similarities with the Kappa. They are green humanoid turtles that can speak and tend to pull a lot of pranks.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the creative comic book idea of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The turtles were a parody of four other popular comic characters during the early 1980s. The birth of the Americanized Japanese fighting turtles was a result of a tipsy night and two friends joking around with their sketch books and had nothing to do with ancient Japanese folklore.
Even though the Ninja Turtles and Kappa both have remarkable similarities, they are not related unfortunately. Josh Gates, from Destination Truth will have to change his Kappa description. His Japanese River Monster is no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.