Japanese Kappa tattoo meaning ( explained )

Kappa is a water based mythological creature, often depicted as a frog like human, that inhabits rivers and lakes in both Japan and China.The kappa is usually described as having the head of a turtle and the body of an octopus or snake, with green skin. It has been depicted in various ways throughout history but typically wears some kind of loincloth or short kimono.

It is likely that the legend of the kappa was influenced by sightings of such animals as the Japanese Giant Salamander or “hanzaki” which are endemic to Japan – if not also the Chinese Giant Salamander or “mao shui”.

cute kappa arm tattoo
cute kappa arm tattoo @stacey_miao

Kappa tattoos come in many forms but are most often seen as water themed body art. The kappa is essentially a water spirit or demon and by depicting it within your tattoo design you are proclaiming your status as someone who does not fear the water.

So, what do Japanese Kappa tattoos mean?

The symbolism of kappa tattoos links back to their mythological roots. They are said to have a plate on the top of their head resembling a bowl, containing water. To capture humans they are capable of imitating human voices and are said to drag unsuspecting victims into the water before drowning them.

Kappas are said to inhabit rivers, ponds, and ditches; they will sneak up on and grab hold of human beings who come too close to water…and drag them underwater.” They are also known for having a sensitive stomach, which causes them to find food by burrowing into things that smell like prey like feces or rotting seaweed

Though they are mischievous and troublesome creatures, they are believed to sometimes befriend humans, and other yōkai (mystical Japanese creatures), and at times they mind their own business and stay away from humans. So, just be nice to them and they won’t trouble you.


kappa feet tattoo
kappa with cucumber on feet tattoo @owz_tattoo

The kappa are known to favor cucumbers and love to engage in sumo wrestling . wikipedia

Kappa tattoos also mean strength and perseverance, the ability to swim against the tide. You may choose to get a kappa tattoo if you are involved in water sports or would like to convey an affinity with the environment around you – rivers and oceans for example.

Another meaning of Japanese kappa tattoos is that they represent wealth and prosperity: The Kappa can be seen to carry a money bag in some depictions which are said to be filled with gold.

By having the Japanese kappa tattooed on your body you are symbolically showing that, like the mythical creature, you too will gain great wealth, although probably by drowning people!

drowning kappa arm tattoo
drowning kappa arm tattoo @kobayashi_sard

Kappa tattoo placements and their meaning

Kappa tattoos can be placed anywhere on the body and this will reflect your stage in life. Areas such as upper arms, shoulders and backs suggest a person is very outgoing and  looking for attention.

traditional kappa leg tattoo
traditional kappa leg tattoo @monedadeltempletattoo

Shoulder kappa tattoos are often just decorative symbols but can also be interpreted as representing the bearer willingness to be heard.

Shoulder Kappa madness tattoo
Shoulder Kappa madness by the incredible @mikenomy

Kappa tattoos that cover a large area of the back could suggest an affinity with water sports and/or work in jobs involving waterways. People who live near rivers or lakes might also choose to adorn their bodies with kappa tattoos.

feminine kappa rib tattoo
feminine kappa rib tattoo @sophie_boa

As always with any tattoo you intend getting, and specifically those with a unique meaning such as this one, make sure you understand the symbolism of it and that your choice is right for you – not just because someone else has one too!