(Tokyo, 1966- )
He's hardly what you would call your average pinup boy. But Papaya Suzuki has managed to create a niche for himself in, of all places, the teenage girl market. His huge afro and deceptively funky dance moves are both very in with the young crowd. This and his ability not to take himself too seriously have helped make him one of the more recognizable, and likable stars on TV.
Suzuki first appeared on the entertainment radar in quite a different form. At the age of 16, he was a svelte, George Michael-ish, sullen-looking young dancer. He made his recording debut with the song "Dancing Generation". Feeling he wasn't cut out to be a star, he took his dance moves over to Tokyo Disneyland. At the age of 21 he became a choreographer, and earned a good reputation setting the moves for bands like The Ulfuls and Southern All Stars.
He made a surprise breakthrough in 1998 with his unit of uncool amateur dancers, who disparagingly named themselves the Oyaji Dancers (oyaji means father and is also a derogatory term for older men). These middle aged men looked like what they were - truck drivers and office workers - but Suzuki whipped them into shape and they just caught on. the fad passed but Suzuki still keeps the unit going, hoping to take the show abroad. he takes dance seriously, and also has appeared in a dance show alongside a professional ballet dancer.
Suzuki appears as a regular on several TV shows but the best known is the Friday late-night show Debuya. "Debu" is the word for a fat person and Suzuki's co-star outdoes even him in that department. Ishizuka Hidehiko weighs in at over 120kg but weight concerns don't stop the pair from ploughing through the biggest helpings that a restaurant can serve up each week. Ishizuka is also one half of the manzai duo Honjamaca, who have been around since 1989. The show, which has made the phrase mai-uu (the word "umai", meaning delicious, backwards) part of the popular vocabulary, also features a middle-eastern guy appropriately called Mr Muscle.
Suzuki married a member of the Debuya staff and they had their first child in 2002. True to form, he became a real "oya-baka", or doting parent. But his star is on the rise and in the Japanese entertainment world that means being busy. So we just hope that this star can find the time to be a real oyaji.