Shojo (猩猩)

Shojo (Xingxing, written as 猩猩 or 猩々) is an imaginary animal first appeared in Chinese legends. In Japan, it also refers to the title of various performing arts. And by the influence of those performing arts, sometimes it refers to heavy drinkers and red things. This article describes the legends of Shojo as well as "Shojo" of Noh and the folkways related to Shojo.


Shojo is supposed to look like human beings with red face, understand human language and love alcohol. An ancient book of Chinese Confucianism "Raiki" ("Liji") first described Shojo as "a parrot can talk, but that is nothing but a bird; a shojo can talk, but that is nothing but an animal", and some annotations on "Raiki" explained that Shojo resembled large anthropoid apes such as orangutan (in the past, some Japanese called orangutan 'shojo'); in Japan, they had been given other characters, and became legend and even dramatis personae of traditional performing arts. Shojo has been known as a drunkard, however, that might be one of the characters added in Japan.

Shojo is an imaginary animal by the origin, so there remain various tales about it. In the past, some Japanese had counted it as one of Shichifukujin (seven gods making people's dreams come true) as a substitute for Jurojin (god of longevity).

Shojo appears in folk tales in many parts of Japan, such as Iwate Prefecture, Yamanashi Prefecture, Toyama Prefecture, Hyogo Prefecture, Wakayama Prefecture, and Yamaguchi Prefecture. According to the tales, Shojo appeared in the sea, except for a tale in the topography "Urami Kanwa" written by Kofu Kinban-shi (the Kofu Service, Shigekata NODA) which says that Shojo appeared in Mt. Jizo-dake, west of Kofu (present Yamanashi Prefecture), and was shot by a huntsman. The Shojo that appeared in Himi City and Shinminato City (present Imizu City) of Toyama Prefecture was only 1 meter in height and got on boats to sit at the bows. Sometimes six or seven Shojo barged into a boat and sailors had to bear their behavior hiding in the ship's bottom silently; when the sailors made a noise, the Shojo overturned the boat. The Shojo in Suo-Oshima Island of Yamaguchi Prefecture had been considered as some ghost haunting boats; the Shojo called sailors from the bottom of the sea by saying "give me barrels", then the sailors broke the bottom of the barrels and threw them into the sea; if the sailors rejected the request, the Shojo cursed them, but if the sailors gave barrels with the contents, the Shojo got satisfied and sank the boat.

In the Midori-ku Ward of Nagoya City (Aichi Prefecture) festivals are held, in which Shojo plays a major role. Refer to the following section "Shojo Matsuri" for the details.

Shojo appeared in the animated movie "Mononoke-hime" (Princess Mononoke) directed by Hayao MIYAZAKI.

In the past, Japanese called orangutan 'shojo猩猩', chimpanzee 'kuro-shojo黒猩猩' (literally, 'black shojo') and gorilla 'o-shojo大猩猩' (literally, 'big shojo'). In present Chinese, 'xingxing猩猩' (it is heard like 'sin-sin') refers to orangutan, and 'heixingxing黒猩猩' refers to chimpanzee, 'daxingxing大猩猩' refers to gorilla. The name of Japanese 'shojo-bae' (literally, 'shojo fly', means drosophila or vinegar fly) comes from the fly's feature of being attracted to alcohol like Shojo the heavy drinker.

Except for the fly, some creatures with vivid red color had been given the funny prefix 'shojo' after the color of Shojo's face.


"Shojo" is the title of a Noh performance; the outline is as follows.

Long time ago, a dutiful son named Kofu ('waki' or the supporting role) living in Kinzan near Shinyo was told in his dream that he would become rich by selling alcohol; he opened a pub and his business thrived. There was a strange customer ('shite' or the leading role) who came to his pub every day and drank in a very cool manner, so one day Kofu asked him about his name, then the customer answered that he was Shojo living under water; and the customer left (the disappearance of the leading role from the stage is called 'naka-iri', and the leading role before the naka-iri is called 'mae-jite', after the naka-iri is called 'nochi-jite').

Kofu was surprised, went to the river and put a saka-tsubo (pot of sake) on the river bank; he waited late into the night, then the Shojo appeared in front of Kofu; the Shojo drank with Kofu praising the effects of alcohol, got drunk, performed his mai (dance) of chu-no-mai (a moderate style of mai), and went back into the water.

In the Edo period, only a half of the whole performance of "Shojo" had been often performed as tsuke-shugen (additional performance at the end of a day's performance), therefore, at present, some schools including the famous Kanze School perform only 'nochi-ba' (the scene after the naka-iri; the scene before the naka-iri is called 'mae-ba') as the complete performance of "Shojo." In such "Shojo" (the nochi-ba of the original "Shojo"), usually the nochi-jite performs the mai alone, however, by kogaki (stage direction), sometimes a tsure (supporting actor) plays Shojo as well and two Shojo perform tsure-mai (dance by two performers); the kogaki referring to the tsuremai is different by schools, such as 'so-no-mai' (Kanze School and Konparu School), 'wago' (Hosho School), 'wago-no-mai' (Kongo School), and 'ninin-midare' (Kita School). By the kogaki of 'oki-tsubo' (Kanze and Kongo) or 'tsubo-dashi' (Kita), the performer does the acts of drawing sake from the saka-tsubo with a dipper.

Originally the mai of "Shojo" was to be a chu-no-mai, however, at present, the performer usually dances the mai of 'midare' (an intense style of mai) except a stage debut of a young performer, and the title of the performance is changed to "Shojo Midare" or "Midare." The midare is a special style of mai which is performed only in "Shojo" and in "Sagi", and the performer dances the midare with the special hayashi (accompaniment) in the middle of the chu-no-mai. The performer expresses the Shojo's peculiar movements like sliding on the water, with the special steps called 'nuki-ashi', 'midare-ashi' and 'nagare-ashi' (the performer of Shojo never stamps) and by bending and shaking of the head. In the Noh performances, the performers do not dance on tiptoes except for performing with the step of the midare-ashi in the midare. Therefore, the acquisition of the midare is considered to be important at the training, and the first performance of the midare is even considered to be the performer's debut. Usually performers play "Shojo" before playing the masterpiece of Noh "Dojoji."

The performer of Shojo wears an aka-gashira (red wig), an aka-ji-karaori (red gorgeous short-sleeved kimono) and a hi-okuchi-bakama (pleated loose-fitting trousers colored with scarlet) or an aka-ji-hangiri-bakama (red extremely gorgeous pleated loose-fitting trousers), so the costume is all red except for the tabi. The normal aka-gashira wigs have a wisp of white hair, but the aka-gashira wig for the performers of "Shojo" and "Shakkyo" is all red hair. The 'men' (or 'omote', means mask) of Shojo is exclusively used by the Shojo performers. It is a red mask with a smile on the eyes and the lips. Sometimes the performer uses a Jido mask (drawn boy's face) as the substitute, although that is not popular.

Shojo Matsuri

It is a festival that has been held in Narumi on the Tokaido Road (present Midori-ku Ward of Nagoya City). In the festival, the Shojo chases after children and slaps them on the behind with his big hands. It has been considered that the slapped children would not become sick in the summer. Recently, Shojo does not slap children, but may pat them on the head. The form of the Shojo is made of bamboo, and it is put a red mask and a large costume. An adult puts it on and the Shojo becomes a giant with over 2 meters in height.

[Original Japanese]