Japan and its history through the cigarette case scenes Shōjō

A shōjō (猩々 or 猩猩) is a Japanese sea spirit with long scarlet hair, red skin and a pronounced love for white sake. Shōjō possess magical powers which involve sake, giving him immortality. The legend of the shōjō has a Chinese origin, where they were called sheng sheng or xing xing. The term "shōjō" translates as "heavy drinker" or "orangutan", and sometimes is used as slang to refer to someone who really enjoys to drink. And liquor-drinking was always associated with this beast in China since antiquity.
Shōjō is a popular character in the Japanese theater. A Noh mask called the shōjō exists, and in Kabuki, a type of stage makeup (kumadori) is called the shōjō. Shōjō is usually pictured with a very long red hair, often reaching the ground, holding a hishaku (long ladle for scooping sake) and a sake jug.

A Japanese shōjō doll (left) with hishaku (front) and a sake jug (right).

In one Chinese legend, there was a young man named Kofu, a sake merchant who was also very dutiful to his parents. One of Kofu's new customers consumed vast amounts of sake yet never seemed to get drunk. When Kofu inquired of him, the customer stated that he was a shōjō who lived under the sea. So, one day Kofu went to the shore, bearing a large pot of sake, and waited for the shōjō to arrive. When he did, they spent time drinking and dancing and afterwards the shōjō, who really liked Kofu especially because of his filial piety, rewarded him with a special pot of sake, which never emptied. This legend would later become the subject of a Japanese Noh play "Shōjō".
There is also a Japanese legend about events that allegedly occurred about 2000 years ago, when in one night Mount Fuji came to being. Yurine, a poor man who lived nearby, loved sake and drank it almost every day. On the day after Mount Fuji appeared, Yurine got sick and could not drink his sake. Over time, he only got worse and finally decided he needed one final cup of sake before he died so he asked his young son, Koyuri, to procure some for him. But there was no sake in the house and they had no money so Koyuri was unsure what to do.

A kirihame zogan cigarette case depicting the shōjō (from Chris Penry's collection).

Koyuri took an empty gourd and wandered the beach, with no specific destination in mind. Fortunately for him, he eventually came upon a couple shōjō, though Koyuri did not know it then, who were drinking an intriguing white sake from a large jar beside them. Koyuri pleaded for some sake for his ill father and they let him fill his gourd. Not only did Yurine love the sake, but it also seemed to make him feel better. So Koyuri returned to the beach four more times for sake and his father recuperated from his illness.
But there was still a problem, a bitter and unpleasant neighbor named Mamikiko who loved sake but was poor. He was jealous of Koyuri's sake and demanded some from the young boy. Yet when he tasted it, he quickly spit it out as he thought it tasted terrible, which puzzled Koyuri. Mamikiko then demanded that the boy take him to the source of the sake, which he did. The shōjō let Mamikiko take some of the white sake and Mamikiko was initially very impressed with its aroma. But when he tasted it, he spit it out again because it had a foul taste. The shōjō then revealed their true identity, stating that their sake was sacred and could not only cure any disease but also granted long life.

Another cigarette case depicting the shōjō, made by Hōzan (鳳山).

But not everyone who drank the sake benefited from it. Only those who were good and righteous gained the benefits while those who were wicked and evil found only a poison. Mamikiko panicked as he did not want to die, and started begging for forgiveness and stating he would repent and become a good person. The shōjō believed that he was sincere and gave him a powder to counteract the poison. Mamikiko was true to his word and became a good man, making friends with Yurine. They eventually became partners, brewing white sake from a recipe given by the shōjō, and both lived for 300 years.