Play title Imohori Ch˘ja  In Japanese
The Sweet-Potato-Digging Millionaire
Author Okamura Shik˘

Okamura Shik˘'s dance-drama "Imohori Ch˘ja" was premiered in September 1918 at the Ichimuraza [casting].

Key words Ch˘ja
Imohori no Mai
Mai no Utage

The k˘shitsu of the powerful Matsugae family desires a husband for her daughter Midori Gozen. She decides to arrange a dance party (mai no utage) in order to choose a suitable man. Already two suitors, Sakigake Heima and Ubara Sanai, have come to the mansion to try their luck. But now a young farmer known as Imohori T˘gor˘, the imohori T˘gor˘, arrives at the mansion accompanied by his uncle Jirokur˘ [1] to put in his bid as the third suitor.

The truth is that the imohori T˘gor˘ loves Midori Gozen, but his lowly status as a farmer has forced him to give up his secret love as a hopeless one. Jirokur˘ himself is a fine dancer, and he hopes to somehow substitute himself for his nephew in performing a dance, by making use of a mask (men). As a result, T˘gor˘ comes to the mansion announced as the great dancer Imogase T˘naizaemon, with his uncle Jirokur˘ disguised as his servant.

Presently the dance contest starts. First the other two contestants show their dancing skills. Finally it is T˘gor˘'s turn. T˘gor˘ and his uncle slip behind a screen to make preparations. T˘gor˘ remains behind the screen while Jirokur˘, his face hidden behind a mask, goes out to perform a dance. However, T˘gor˘ supplies the song portions himself, muffling his voice behind his sleeve to approximate the sound of a voice coming out from behind a mask. The dance is a great success, easily the best of the three.

Midori Gozen is so pleased that she insists on another dance, this time without the mask. T˘gor˘ is dismayed, but his uncle urges him to do his best, and whispers instructions to T˘gor˘ from behind the screen. However, the dance is a failure, and the assembled company is perplexed that such a fine dancer should prove so poor when his mask is removed. T˘gor˘ cleverly gets out of that difficulty by explaining that he is so shy unmasked in the presence of the beautiful Midori Gozen that he cannot dance properly. Midori Gozen and the others are satisfied with this explanation.

Presently Midori Gozen, Jirokur˘ and T˘gor˘ are called on to dance together. At first T˘gor˘ follows the movements as best as he can by imitating his uncle but, when the movements become more complicated, he cannot keep up. And finally when the dance comes to a climax in which Jirokur˘ and Midori Gozen go through a love scene together, leaving T˘gor˘ quite desperate. He takes matters into hand by breaking in between the two and interrupts the dance. He boldly says that he will perform the sweet potato digging dance (imohori no mai), at which he is an expert. Of course he has no trouble at all with this familiar folk-dance. But the others find it very interesting and unfamiliar, and his performance is heaped with enthusiastic applause [2]. But T˘gor˘ can't keep up the pretense any longer and confesses that he is not a great dancer at all, but just a potato-digging farmer. The other suitors set up a clamor calling him an imposter but Midori Gozen is thoroughly enchanted with the rustic honesty of the imohori T˘gor˘. She insists that he is to become her bridegroom. Happiness reigns, and the entire company, even the two rejected suitors, join in merrily to dance the sweet potato digging dance.


[1] Up to 1960, Jirokur˘ was the uncle of T˘gor˘. From 1960, Jirokur˘ became a friend of T˘gor˘.

[2] The superlative expression Nippon Ichi no Mai (literally "the Dance Number One in Japan") is even used!

"Imohori Ch˘ja"

Search this site powered by FreeFind
  Site map | Disclaimer
Contact | Main | Top | Updates | Actors | Plays | Playwrights | Programs | Links | FAQ | Glossary | Chronology | Illustrations | Prints | Characters | Derivatives | Theaters | Coming soon | News