Thanks to his unfading filial piety, Kōfū, a young man living at the foot of Mount Kinzan in China, was blessed with a divine dream. The dream said that if Kōfū started selling liquor at the Yangtze River market, he would get rich. Following the dream's instructions, Kōfū started selling saké and soon became quite wealthy. Eventually, he noticed that the face of one of the regular customers, who called himself 'Shōjō of the Sea', did not change complexion no matter how much he drank. Kōfū decides to fill a jar with saké, sit on the bank of Shinyō River and wait for Shōjō to appear.
It is a beautiful moonlit night in autumn. Shōjō eventually appears, pleased to see his friend waiting for him. The two drink saké, and once he becomes intoxicated, Shōjō begins to dance. He praises Kōfū's good heart and bestows upon him a jar of saké that never runs dry, no matter how much you drink from it. Praising the qualities of the never-ending liquor, Shōjō gets even more drunk, totters around and finally lies down on the ground. Kōfū wakes up, realising it had all been but a dream. However, he is overjoyed to find the jar of ever-flowing liquor lying right beside him. It shall bring prosperity to Kōfū's family for generations to come.
Shōjō is in fact a legendary animal. China's oldest geography record, "The Classic of Mountains and Seas", states that it runs like a human, even though it has the body of a monkey. The legend that Shōjō likes drinking liquor also comes from China. However, nowhere in the Chinese legends is it mentioned that Shōjō brings wealth. Most likely it was this Noh play that established the image of Shōjō as a divine being that brings good fortune in Japan.
The play "Shōjō" has many unique features. ‘Shōjō’, the red mask with a slight smile, is used exclusively in this play.
The red of the actor's costume matches the red of the ‘kashira’ (wig). The optimistic mood of the first scene is expressed through the uplifting rhythm of the melody ‘sagari-ha’ and the relaxed tempo of the chant ‘watari-byōshi’. The bright red colour scheme and the lively music create a cheerful atmosphere.
The highlight of the play is Shōjō's dance. The type of dance usually performed is ‘chū-no-mai’ (moderate dance), but quite often, as a special direction, the dance ‘midare’ (turbulence) is performed instead. In that case, the play is referred to as "Shōjō-midare" or simply "Midare".
In "Midare", the orchestra performs a unique melody with an unusual, fluctuating tempo. In addition, the actor may exhibit special techniques of foot movement, quite different from the usual ‘suri-ashi’ (sliding feet). Such techniques include ‘nagare-ashi’ (flowing feet) which imitates sliding on the water surface, and ‘midare-ashi’ (turbulent feet) which imitates cleaving through the waves. These techniques emphasise Shōjō's drunkenness and playfulness.
There are many special directions in "Shōjō". According to one of them, a prop representing a jar of liquor is brought on stage, while in another, not one but many Shōjō appear and dance together. The purpose of these intricate special directions is to emphasise the cheerful mood of the play.