The original burikko talent
Minami Tanaka really knocked my socks off. ……
Pumppun came out of nowhere.
In my mind, ‘burikko’ means being honest and appealing with one’s heart. In my mind, ‘burikko’ means being honest and appealing with one’s heart, while ‘akattei’ means being clever and a bit unfair (laughs). I think ‘burikko’ is more natural and cute.”
Tamao Satou, the “original burikko” celebrity, turned 50 in January of this year. She says she does not remember the year of her debut (laugh), but she has been performing for over 35 years.
In the world of show business, where the life of a horse is often overtaken by the life of a man, even female talent is said to have a short life span. How has she been able to survive in such a tough industry? As the Heisei Era gave way to the Reiwa Era, a number of “mocking girls” emerged in the entertainment industry. How does Satou, who was once called “a woman who hates women,” feel about such trends?
We interviewed Satou at the Oi Horse Racing Track (Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo) after she finished her life’s work, a horse racing program that she has been doing for over 20 years.
I originally got into show business because when I graduated from vocational school, it was right around the time of the employment ice age. It wasn’t something I wanted to do, I just kind of got into it. I did my best to do what was required of me, and before I knew it, it had been more than 35 years. It really goes by fast, doesn’t it?
Satou, who speaks in his charming tone as ever, says that for a while after he entered the entertainment business, there was a period of time when he had no work at all. He recalls that Satou himself was a habitual tardy criminal and lacked professionalism.
He was always an hour late for the filming of a TV drama, and in any case, he was a lousy person in every way.
However, her attitude changed when she was chosen to be a heroine in “Choryoku Sentai Ohranger” (TV Asahi) in 1995. Being exposed to the passion of the film crew flipped Satou’s switch. Thereafter, she worked as an assistant on a horse racing program, in gravure, and as a mini-skirt police, and her exposure exploded. In her heyday in 2005, she appeared in as many as 171 variety shows a year.
But actually, I wasn’t very good at variety shows then, and I’m still not very good at variety shows now. In the old variety shows, it was very difficult to position female talent on the dais. It was not enough to speak in an attempt to be funny, or to just sit there like an ornament with a smile. But of course, you don’t have the instantaneous power of a comedian. I was once called a “fee thief” by the program staff (laughs). (Laughs.) At the end of every recording session, I would go home depressed and worried about my inadequacy.
In order to break out of such a situation, he created the “burikko” character. She would strike a “pumppun” pose with both hands on her head and play the role of someone women didn’t like, which kept the scene moving in circles.
She never once thought of herself as a “snub-nosed” girl,” she said. Pumppun” was also something the director instructed me to do on one of the stages I performed on. When I brought it out suddenly in a variety of situations, I was called a ‘burikko,’ and the tsukkomi was all over the place. It became much easier after the sequence of “women get angry and men follow up” became a pattern. It was very easy to work with Moto FUYUKI (71) (laughs). But behind the scenes, I was worried about what kind of behavior a burikko would have.
Since Satou, “burikko” characters have been created one after another, including Yuko Ogura (39) and Momoko Tsugunaga (31). The “burikko character” created by Satou has gradually evolved, and today, “mock girls” such as Minami Tanaka (36) and Ayaka Hironaka (32) have come to attract attention.
In my case, I felt that I was expected to be a ‘burikko’ and so I went through with it,” said Minami Tanaka. I worked with Minami Tanaka several times on TV programs, but I feel that she, too, was made to do it since she was an announcer, or perhaps she was doing it under the direction of the director since she was a company employee at the time.
I won’t announce my retirement.”
The characteristic of today’s “azeki joshi” is that they are highly supported not only by men but also by women. Satou continues, “Minami Tanaka has done a great job in this regard.
I don’t have a personal relationship with Minami, but I think it’s amazing that she has taken what she has learned about what the show and the world expects of her and has taken it to the next level. Her stoicism is totally different from mine. Minami is a hard worker and a quick thinker, so she understands the needs of women in the world precisely and approaches them. I think it’s because she has a coolness in her mockery that makes her so popular with the same sex.”
During her breakthrough, Satou says she did not even have time to play. She recalled in her own unique way how busy she was at that time, “I was so trapped that there was a big bear in my consciousness that would talk to me sometimes.
After that, there was a court case with her office over money (Satou won the case in ’15), but Satou says she is now able to work calmly.
If I had continued working at that pace, I would have collapsed. It was absolutely impossible. At that time, I wasn’t earning that much money on salary, and I didn’t have time to spend money in the first place. Tamao Nakamura (83) even told me, ‘You have to play more. But in some ways, that allowed me to maintain a sense of normalcy and not get carried away. I think I am where I am today because of that experience.
Relaxing his shoulders and enjoying each day without overdoing it. Satou, who is enjoying life as a single man, says that his joy in life is going for walks with his dog.
People often ask me what my goals are for the next five or ten years. In my 20s and 30s, I worked so much that I had no idea what I was doing, and as a result, I have almost no memory of those years. I met Nanako Fujisaki (45) the other day, and we both said, ‘I don’t remember anything at all’ (laughs). Now I can face my dog and regain my human life. By the way, I have never thought about retiring from show business, and if I did, I would do it quietly. It would be unbecoming of me to announce my retirement.
At the end of the interview, she also struck the promised “pum-pum” pose. The 50-year-old Pumppun, who has overcome the rough and tumble of the entertainment world, looked even more lively than before.
From “FRIDAY” April 14, 2023 issue
PHOTO： Shinji Hamasaki, Takeshi Kinugawa (2nd)