Mizu no oto.
Ah, an ancient pond—
Suddenly a frog jumps in!
The sound of water. – Basho 1686
Kappa is a Japanese water spirit, existing since water itself, equally fluid in the human imagination. Overseer of floods and droughts, they live in the liminal spaces between water and land, under bridges, in culverts, even sewers. Equal parts deity and demon, Kappa seeks the human shirikodama – soul or lifeforce – found hidden in the anus. Their own lifeforce depends on maintaining the receptacle of water in their head.
Present-day Tokyo has become confusing for the timeless spirits, who don’t always remember the recent appropriation of so many waterways, filled in to accomodate newer methods of transportation. While people continue to move through these corridors with new technology, Kappa become dangerously land-locked, searching for the water that flows beneath. As well as in its physical legacy on the landscape, water remains in its symbolic identity, appearing where it has been diverted into temples and shrines, piped into buildings to emulate that sacred atmosphere, and used as white noise to distract from the chaos of the city - or the kappa lurking in the toilet.
This soundtrack explores the Kappa’s water journey, its strength wavering, through contemporary infrastructure and memory, in search of a refill from water features, across gravel fields of zen gardens, hearing sounds from underground, finally bathing in the summer rains.
AS "PRIVACY MUSIC" IN PUBLIC WASHROOMS BROKEN UP INTO THREE PARTS:
Foster, Michael Dylan. The Book of Yokai University of California Press, 2015.
Wilson, Roderick I. and Brill Online Books. Turbulent Streams: An Environmental History of Japan's Rivers, 1600-1930. Vol. 68. Leiden;Boston;: Brill, 2021.
Mao of Edo waterways: https://maps.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/edo.html
A sound piece by Ida Nilsen
UBC SALA Arch 538-M
Compiled of 72 sound samples from Japan collected May/June 2023
LISTEN WITH STEREO HEADPHONES