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Ryunosuke Akutagawa is probably best known outside Japan for “Rashomon” but “Kappa” is considered to be his masterpiece by fans and scholars. Narrated by a “mental patient” and introduced as a tale overheard directly by the author, “Kappa” is a fantastical satire in the “Gulliver’s Travels” mold.

Kappa are mythical Japanese creatures, humanoid in form, chameleonic, amphibious and sustained by water held in an indented bowl on the top of their head. Patient 23 is out hiking in Kamikochi, Nagano Prefecture, when he spots a kappa. He gives chase and, rather like Alice pursuing the white rabbit, tumbles down a hole into Kappaland.

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