Asakusa (Tokyo), circa 1870
Seated among reeds, a cartoon-like kappa glances back over his shoulder with an air of furtive suspicion, his hands resting on his knees as he guards his prize, a juicy cucumber. The eyes are in gold taka-zogan, the cucumber in irogane, sparse traces of gold on the kappa’s carapace. The plate set in a stag-antler bowl of charcoal basket form, the ryusa-style base with a formalised scrolling cloud design.
The kappa’s strength is stored as a liquid in a hollow in its cranium. The scourge of virgins, whose navels it is said to crave, the kappa can be appeased by the gift of a cucumber. It will bow in gratitude, thus spilling its strength and offering respite for its potential prey.