A folktale of Fukushima

The Mishirazu Persimmon
Japanese French Vietnamese chinese

A long, long time ago there was an old man and an old woman who had no children. They both loved alcohol and enjoyed drinking together whenever they had the opportunity. After all, in the olden days, everyone used to make their own unrefined rice wine.

One day the old woman said, "Hey, grandpa. Although we may not have children, we should celebrate growing one year older at the end of the year. You should go to Koarai in Kitakata City to buy salt for curing salmon.

You're are right. We must celebrate growing one year older. I'll go into town," replied the old man.

And so, hoping to make his wife happy, the old man visited Koarai and bought a small quantity of salt, dried cuttlefish and kelp for New Year. He also visited his favorite drinking establishment for a nice cup of rice wine. As he normally drank unrefined rice wine most of the time, he always treated himself to a cup of white rice wine whenever he visited this teahouse.

After one cup he was ready to go home and just before he reached the village, he heard a snuffling sound at the side of the road. His curiosity was piqued and he drew closer to the source of the sound. He parted the grass, and discovered an abandoned puppy.

"Oh, you poor thing. You must have been abandoned because you were part of a big litter. And it's the end of the year! You come home with me. I will raise you," said the old man. He lightly placed the puppy inside his jacket and made his way home. However, when he arrived home, he began t have second thought. "When this puppy grows older, he will eat as much as a human being. If I give the pup a home, it will eat so much that I will not be able to make unrefined rice wine. Grandma will tell me off. Oh, dear! What shall I do? Perhaps I should take him back to where I found him?" The old man was mulling things over inside his shed, which was the first place he entered on his way home.

It was nearly evening and the old woman had gone to the shed to collect logs for the fire. "Oh, grandpa. You're home," she exclaimed.

"Yes, I'm home. But I'm here because of this."

"Because of what?"
"Because of this," said the old man, holding out the puppy towards her.
"Oh, you picked up a puppy. Let me take a look. This is a very cute puppy. We don't have any children, so we can't say we don't have the resources to look after a single puppy. Bring him into the house."

"Really? Oh, I'm so glad you feel that way," replied the old man. They took the puppy in, and the three of them ate adzuki rice made over from left over adzuki beans. The old couple named the puppy Coro and they lavished him with much care, calling to him, "Coro, Coro!"

Coro grew big and would follow the old man into the fields. When the old woman went outside the house, Coro would run around her in circles playing.

However, one summer, an epidemic spread throughout the dog population and Coro died. The old man and old woman were saddened and they cried, "Why did he have to die? Why did Coro have to die?"

"Grandma, we must honor Coro's memory. We will bury him in the fields and go to visit him everyday," suggested the old man. And that is what happened. They buried their dog in the corner of the field and visited his grave every day. Then one day, they noticed the sprout of a persimmon tree growing there.

"Grandma, look at this. Coro has made a persimmon tree grow. He's telling us to tend it and eat persimmons. We must give it fertilizer and water to help it grow."

From that day on, the old woman and old man took great pains to give the fertilizer and water. As time passed, the tree grew big and red persimmon fruit grew.

"Look, grandma. Here's are the persimmon fruit that Coro made grow. We should eat them," the old man suggested and they both took a bite of the fruit. However, the persimmons were very sour.

"Hey, grandma. If Coro took all the trouble to create these persimmons for us, he could have made them sweeter. We can't eat these. If we continue to let the tree grow in the field, it will prevent sunlight getting through to our crops. We must chop the tree down," said the old man.

"That's true. Shall we chop it down today?" replied the old woman. And although she suggested the old man bring over a hatchet and a felling axe to cut down the tree, she thought of something else. "Grandpa. We should say goodbye to the tree by drinking underneath it."

"That's a very good idea. Bring over a straw mat," grandpa replied. So, they spread out the straw mat next to the tree, brought over a barrel of rice wine and liberally partook.

"Drink, grandma."

"Drink, grandpa."

"If we are going to chop down the persimmon tree, we should give it a drink, too," said the old man, pouring rice wine over the tree roots.

"Drink, grandma."

"Drink, grandpa."

The old couple drank so much that they became drunk and slept until morning underneath the tree.

The old man was surprised when he woke up. "Grandma, grandma. We slept underneath the tree. Go and bring me a hatchet. Go and bring me a felling axe." But as he spoke, a single persimmon fell from the tree.

"Oh, this poor persimmon. It knows the tree is going to be chopped down, so it wants us to eat it – even if it is sour. Let's eat it."

And when they took a bite out of the persimmon, it was incredibly sweet.

And that is how the Mishirazu Persimmon – a local delicacy of Aizu – is made, from being soaked in shochu*.

*shochu - a clear liquor (distilled from sweet potatoes, rice, buckwheat, etc).