The All-American Man From Japan: A glimpse Into Kentaro Takada’s American Dream
The All-American man from Japan
—A glimpse into Kentaro Takada’s American dream
by Ryan Yoch
It’s been two and a half years since Kentaro Takada has seen his family. He makes phone calls when he can and sends emails when he can’t, but for the most part, the rising star from Japan must pursue his American dream alone.
In 2009, Takada was playing second division soccer in Japan when he decided it was time for a change in scenery—and continents. “I always wanted to go overseas, not just for soccer, but for the experience in general,” said Takada. “I had a friend that used to play for the Seattle Sounders back in the day, and I connected with him. He hooked me up with a few teams.”
One of those teams was the Minnesota Thunder. Though he didn’t initially sign with the Thunder, his career in the Land of 10,000 Lakes was far from over. After playing with a semi-professional team in Rochester, Minnesota—coincidentally called the Rochester Thunder—for three months, he returned to the Twin Cities to join the newly formed Minnesota Stars in 2010.
As his American career continued to develop, his relatives in Japan remained supportive. “My family told me to live my life and go for it. They never said that I shouldn’t do it,” said Takada. “They said if you feel that you want to do it, you can. But you have to take care of yourself.”
With players originating from Bosnia to Brazil, United’s foreign players could practically create their own United Nations. This large international presence on the team helps to make the transition easier for new, foreign recruits. They miss their families and mess up their English, but they do it together. And that makes all the difference.
There are always highs and lows when living in a new country. For Takada, the extreme ups and downs of Minnesota’s temperamental weather have quickly become some of his highest highs. “My favorite thing about Minnesota is probably the weather. I’m not kidding,” said Takada. “We didn’t really have four seasons in Japan. In Minnesota, you always get a full spring, summer, winter, and fall.”
Takada may enjoy the Minnesota climate, but when it comes to cuisine, there’s no place like home. “I miss the food, Japanese food. Not only sushi, but the traditional family foods as well,” said Takada. When Takada does decide to dine out, he is happy to find some local Japanese restaurants in the Twin Cities.
Looking to the future, Takada hopes to pursue a career in coaching and doesn’t want to go home any time soon. “I want to be a coach. I don’t know where, but I know I will be overseas in the United States or Europe. I don’t see myself going back to Japan in the next ten years,” said Takada. “I’m having a great time here. I have been here four years and I hope to spend the next ten years continuing to experience the world.”
Eventually, however, Takada plans on returning home to promote international travel among youth and aspiring athletes. “I want to go back. I want to share my experience with Japanese kids and young soccer players,” said Takada. “I want to tell them, that if you have a chance, you should look overseas.”
All aspirations aside, Takada continues to thrive over 6,000 miles from his Japanese home. He might miss his family and he might crave his food, but Takada’s infectious, “I’m just happy to be here” smile never leaves his face.
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