the online database of Japanese folkore

Tantan kororin

タンタンコロリン
たんたんころりん

Translation: unknown; possibly onomatopoeic
Alternate names: tankororin, kaki otoko
Habitat: persimmon trees

Appearance: Tantan kororin are spirits of persimmon trees which appear when ripe persimmons are left on the tree instead of being picked. They appear as ōnyūdō–giant monks–who materialize near their trees. These monks have round, red faces that resemble persimmons.

Behavior: Tantan kororin appear beneath unharvested persimmon trees late in the evening. They fill up their sleeves with ripe, fallen fruit and then wander about town. The persimmons spill out from their overfull sleeves as they wanders, spreading seeds over a wide area. Eventually the spirits run out of persimmons, return to their trees, and vanish.

Interactions: Tantan kororin do not harm people, but they are creepy to look at. Thus, most people stay indoors and away from these spirits when one is spotted.

Origin: Tantan kororin comes from the folklore of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. It was described by Yanagita Kunio in Yōkai dangi. The original meaning of its name was never recorded; however kororin is an onomatopoeia for the sound of things rolling around, so it’s possible that the name comes from the sound of persimmons falling and rolling on the ground.

Tantan kororin is often confused with a yōkai from Aomori Prefecture called tankororin. This confusion is in part due to the fact that Mizuki Shigeru recorded the story of tantan kororin under the name tankororin. In Aomori, misbehaving children are warned that tankororin will come for them. What exactly tankororin is or does is unknown, as well as whether it is even related to persimmons at all.

Legends: Long ago in Sendai, there was an old house with five or six large persimmon trees. The people who lived in the house were very old, and they no longer had the strength to pick the persimmons from their trees. So the persimmons just hung in the trees until they fell off on their own. One day the villagers noticed a man who looked a monk wandering about the town. His sleeves were stuffed full of ripe persimmons, which continuously dropped out from his sleeves and rolled away as he walked. They were scared of the man, so they followed him from a distance to see what he was doing. Eventually, he wandered back through the gate of the old house, walked up to a persimmon tree, and vanished.

At a temple in the mountains, a strange man approached a young monk. The man used a mortar to grind up his own feces into a paste, and the ordered the young monk to eat the paste. The young monk protested, but the man became angrier and angrier, until the young monk had no choice but to obey. He was shocked to discover that the man’s feces were sweet and tasted just like a delicious persimmon. Later, the young monk told the temple’s high priest what had happened. The two of them searched for the strange man together. They saw him climb deep into the mountains and disappear. They followed his trail all the way to an huge, old persimmon tree loaded with ripe fruit. The high priest believed the man must have been the spirit of the persimmon tree. They gathered up all of the ripe fruits and brought them back to the temple. The strange man was never seen again after that.

In Kurihara, Miyagi, a serving girl looked out at the splendid persimmon tree in her master’s yard. It was full of ripe, delicious-looking persimmons. She longed to pick and eat one. That night, a strange man with a bright red face appeared by her side. He ordered the girl to dig at his rear end with a skewer. Too terrified to disobey, the girl did as she was told. Then, the red-faced man ordered her to lick the skewer. To her surprise, the man’s rear tasted like sweet persimmons. The following morning she looked out at the persimmon tree again, and she saw that the persimmons had finger-sized holes gouged out of them.

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