Kentaro Yamada, Translator

35 // Translator *
From: Tomioka, Japan
Lives in: Park Ridge
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After spending his preschool years in Seattle, this Japan native returned to Asia with his family for 14 years. Yamada came back to the United States to attend college at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and now works for a financial software firm.

You were naturalized seven years ago. What was that like? “I was so happy I bought ten pizzas for my coworkers. I finally had a say here—I could vote—and I felt like I could really settle down and belong.”

And join recreational sports leagues. “Ultimate Frisbee is a good community. It’s kind of geeky, but I love that it’s a small, up-and-coming sport, and there are so many people from various backgrounds. I also play in a basketball league through work. We stink. We’ve only won twice—by forfeit.”

On his childhood aspirations: “I wanted to be an Olympic high jumper. In junior high, I was watching the Olympics and saw a high jumper from Sweden, Patrik Sjöberg. He had long blond hair. I guess that was cool at the time in Japan. I just had to be him.”

On the earthquake in Japan: “This wasn’t just another earthquake; there were two extras—the tsunami and the nuclear threat. In Japan, there’s a mentality that if somebody is down, everybody is down, so I’m trying to think of ways to help. But I’m also American, so I try to live my life and stay positive.”

On adopting more “American” traits: “People here are often cynical and sarcastic, and my friends are helping me to appreciate that. They try to make me be that way, too. I kind of hate it, but I also love it. When it comes to girls, I want someone who is responsive and kind—and not too sarcastic. I can’t keep up.” —E.K.


* interested in women   * interested in men

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