The legend of water sprites, known as kappa, showing themselves to humans can be found in the town of Tono. In Legends of Tono, penned by the famed folklore scholar Kunio Yanagita a story is recounted that, “It is not so unusual to find the footprints of kappa in the sand on the riverbanks, particularly on the day following a rainy day.”
The place where the kappa are believed to live is the Kappabuchi Pool that runs behind Joken-ji Temple. To catch a kappa all you need to do is take a cucumber to Denshoen Park and get a “Kappa fishing permit (220 yen)”! On the reverse side of the permit you can find the “Seven rules for capturing kappa,” which share various humorous points of caution required when you set out to capture a kappa, such as “don’t scratch the top of its head, and don’t spill the water found on the top of its head when you catch it.” Fishing rods are placed around the pool, so try and catch your own kappa using cucumber as bait!
On the banks of Kappabuchi Pool are two statues of kappa and also a small shrine that is dedicated to the goddess of breasts. It is said that if a woman with children comes to the shrine and prays for her breast milk to be plentiful, her prayer will be answered. To make a prayer it is the custom to offer a piece of red material in the shape of a breast to the shrine.
Why not visit other nearby spots where you can experience the history of the region, like Joken-ji Temple, where the guardian dogs at the entrance to the temple are carved in the shape of kappa, and Denshoen Park, a nationally designated important cultural property? Come and listen to the stories and traditions of the Tono region.