The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Omens, Superstitions, Taboos

The Deep of River Sprites (Kappa)
October 1965

Kappa Fuchi
[The Deep of River Sprites (Kappa)]
38.0 x 53.8 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

There was a deep called Kappa Fuchi or "Gappa Guchi" in dialect around 1899. (Theoretically, no kappa actually exists. However, people in the old days believed that they were real.)
The Onga River branches from Iizuka City into the Honami River to the west and the Kama River to the east. There was Ippongi Dam three kilometers upstream from the separation of the Kama River. Gappa Guchi was about three hundred meters upstream from the dam. It was an old pool in the meandering river no deeper than three meters and its surface was as blue as the sea, reflecting the blue sky. It was an eerie deep in which bamboo leaves blowing in the wind on the riverbank were reflected and the reflection looked as if the leaves were dancing. Therefore, people of all ages and sexes did not swim in the deep, which abounded in freshwater fish. The mouths of the men at the pit watered at the sight of these fish. Some of them tried to catch large quantities of fish at one time with a blast of dynamite, which they manage to get, by throwing it into the deep. None of them succeeded in catching fish by dynamiting. Why? It was because no one could release his dynamite before it exploded. If dynamite exploded while it was held in hand, the man lost his hand. If it exploded before it was completely released from a man's hand, the man lost his fingers. Among men only at K Coal Pit, there were 5 or 6 who lost one of their hands or some fingers. More than ten men including those who moved to other pits lost a hand or fingers. They reconciled themselves with their unluckiness by considering that it was caused by curses from the kappa.
When dynamite with an ignited fuse was thrown into the river, upon hearing the splashing sound, fish gathered around it, thinking that it was made by their food. However, they quickly swam away in all directions if the fuse was still burning. Therefore, the fuse attached to dynamite for fishing was made as short as it could be. I wonder if this was the reason why the above men's dynamite exploded while it was in their hand. In any case, Gappa Guchi was a very mysterious deep. Additionally, it was said that more than 10 children had drowned to death in the deep.
The improvements made on this sandy river, which started from 1908 and completed in 1915, reduced its curves and pools and made the river wider. Gappa Guchi is never seen now. The color of the river water turned black and there are no Japanese killifishes, let alone kappas.

Creator's Additional Notes: When dynamite exploded in the river, the river banks were shaken as if they were hit by an earthquake. The police at that time took strict action against blast fishing as well as explosives.

Words Uttered by the Boy Pulling His Elder Brother's Hand
Anchan, koko wa gappa ga oru ki ejii ki Ippongi ni itte oyogo ya.

Brother, I'm afraid of the gappa living here. So, let's go to Ippongi and swim there.

The deep was 600 meters west from Kamimio Station (of the Urushio Line).

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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