The Japanese Festival I Never Saw

I love Skype, if only because my brother can still drunk-dial me from the U.S., where it’s apparently nighttime, even it’s 5 a.m. in Japan and I’m fast asleep in my futon.

I answered Skype in the customary fashion.

“Yo, nigga,” I said.

“My nigga!” he said.  This is how white people talk when black people aren’t around.  “What’s happening?”

“I’m dreaming I’m still asleep is what’s happening,” I said.  “I gotta go to some festival with this Japanese chick today.”

“Cool, what’s the festival?”

“Like what do you mean?”

“I mean, like, is it celebrating some event or something?”

“Man, I dunno,” I said.  “There’s freaking festivals in Japan all the time.  Maybe it’s for summer, or”—and suddenly I remembered how cheap tomatoes have been for some reason.  My mind’s strange like that.  But four for a dollar? That’s such a deal.—”the tomato harvest or something.”

“Well, have a good time at your tomato festival,” he said.  “I’m gonna go drink a beer.”

“Yeah, you do that,” I said.

The Natto Diet

And then I couldn’t go back to sleep.  So I got up and ate a pack of natto.  I don’t know why more people don’t like natto.  I mean, it’s beans.  Who doesn’t like beans?  Plus it’s cheap as all hell, and you can scarf a whole pack in like ten seconds. That’s time efficiency.  Sure, it makes your breath smell like poo and it’s sticky as hell if you get on your face, but just eat carefully.  Avoid your face.  And brush your teeth for God’s sakes.  Anyway, it’s a good breakfast, is what I’m trying to say.

The truth is, I’ve been on a diet lately.  I call it the Natto Diet.  That’s where you eat a pack of natto for breakfast, and then, well, just try not to eat anything else for as long as you can possibly stand it.  It’s not much of a plan, I guess.  Anyway, I’m still working out the kinks.

So then about noon, my friend Hina called to tell me we’d have to ride the train way out into country to get to the festival.

“Ken, are you ready?” she asked.  “Because we have to ride the train way out into the country.”

“Why?” I asked.

“To get to the festival,” she said.

“I see,” I said.  “Give me a couple minutes.  I gotta brush my teeth.  Meet you at the station.”

Part of working out the kinks of my diet includes running to the station and giving up drinking.  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Ken Seeroi give up drinking?  That’s impossible.  Ah, so you’d think—but you don’t know about my amazing willpower.  It’s . . . well, amazing.  Anyway, I hadn’t had a drink in three days, which I believe is some kind of world record.  And running to the station—eh, actually I was just late.  But it still counts as exercise.

Hina was dressed in pink platform shoes, tight jeans, and a pink blouse.  I think her purse matched her belt too, but maybe I just dreamed that.  Anyway, she had long hair and fake eyelashes.  That kind of Japanese girl, if that makes any sense.  But she doesn’t speak English, so I like her.

“I’m hungry,” she said in pouty Japanese.  “Let’s get a rice ball and some snacks for the train.”

“You go ahead,” I said.  “I’m on a diet.  The Natto Diet.”

“What’s that?”

“I’ll explain on the way.”

One Delicious Japanese Festival

And so we rode the train and she ate her rice ball and then some of these rice crackery things with peanuts and I sat there and got hungrier and hungrier.  It was almost two p.m.  But I didn’t give in.  That’s the power of the natto diet.  It only makes you think you’re going to die.

So we got to the festival and there was music and children laughing and all these Japanese guys carrying around giant wooden shrines and yelling, but all I could think about was food.  Food, everywhere I looked there were food stalls.  With food.  Amazing scents were wafting from every direction.  Fried pancakes.  Fried noodles.  Fried octopus balls.  French fries.  Okay, so there was a lot of fried stuff.  But no tomatoes, strangely.  But once Ken Seeroi decides he’s on a diet, he sticks with it.

“Ken!” said Hina.  “Look, buttered potatoes!”

I tried not to look.  Festival buttered potatoes are to Ken Seeroi what—what’s that stuff that kills Superman?  Kryptonite?  Yeah, that’s it.  Does he like to eat it?  No?  Well, so much for that analogy.  Anyway, I took one glance at the bright sign featuring a huge baked potato covered in corn and completely lost my mind.

I ran right up to the booth, where a giant, buttery man was standing.  He looked delicious.

“One please,” I said in Japanese.

He pulled a giant baked potato out of a steaming wooden box and looked at me.  Then he looked at Hina like he was trying to solve some sort of equation.  “Does he want butter?” he asked her.  This happens sometimes, on account of my whiteness.

“Yes he does,” I said.

The potato-man plunged a metal spatula into a plastic tub and what emerged was a scoop of margarine the size of a small child.  He looked at Hina again.  “Does he want corn?” he asked.

“Yes, he does,” I said again.

At which point he made my potato disappear under an avalanche of corn and margarine.  It was magical.  Well, I figured, that pretty much guarantees my ass is gonna be the size of a Buick, but I mean, really, what can you say?  Ya want butter?  Ya got butter.  Then we played the game some more.  Does he want salt?  How about pepper?  Cheese powder?  You know, if you’ve never really thought about all the stuff you could put on a potato, there’s a surprising lot.  At this point, I figured Ah, the hell with it and told him Yes, he wants it all.  Everything.  What else ya got?  Mayonnaise?  Bring it.  Cayenne pepper?  Do that shit.  In the end I got the world’s biggest potato floating in a sauce of seasoned butter and niblets with the caloric potential to feed a small village.  Gotta say though, man, it tasted pretty fantastic.

Well, so much for that diet, I figured.  But at least I hadn’t had any beer, so that was a good thing.  I was proud of myself, actually, and my amazing willpower.

“Let’s get a beer,” Hina chirped.

“Okay,” I said.  I suddenly realized I was thirsty as hell.  Probably shouldn’t have had all that salty stuff, come to think of it.

Every Japanese Girl’s Digital Boyfriend

So we had a couple of tall beers and they were delicious.  Then we ran into some of Hina’s friends.  They all had long hair, platform shoes, and pink shirts.  And fake eyelashes.  And they all crowded around me.

“Oooh!  Take my picture with Ken!”

“Me too!  Oooh, let’s all take a picture with Ken together.”

I was immediately engulfed in Japanese women.  Now, I like that, what with the breasts and the high voices and the smelling nice and all, but I used to think they liked me because I was charming and good-looking.  Now I know they just crave attention, from anyone.  Still, they’re cute in their neediness.  Like kittens.  Kittens who are freaking attention whores.  But still, you gotta appreciate the warm and cuddly factor.

Then someone suggested we get some beer and chocolate-covered bananas, which was the most unlikely winningest combination ever, and made me glad I’d thought of it, then some wine and these pancake things wrapped around chopsticks, then another round of beers, and then somehow we all ended up in this dimly-lit storefront on a couch with two girls’ heads on my lap and I was drinking sake from a plastic cup.  Man, you gotta love Japanese festivals.  Of course, we couldn’t actually see the festival from where we were sitting, but well, you seen one festival, you . . . eh, they’re pretty much all the same, right?  Anyway, we could hear some drumming and chanting and stuff, so that was pretty good.

But then I had to pee.  Suddenly I wished I hadn’t had all that beer.  Gotta stick to wine.  Anyway, I got up and went to find a bathroom or a tree by the river or something and this girl named Ami went with me.  We wandered around the town for a bit until we found a hostess club.  It was closed, but a bunch of folks were gathered in front, and agreed we could use the bathroom.

On the Sofa of the Hostess Club

A hostess club is one of those places where you pay 40 dollars an hour and a pretty girl with fake eyelashes and long hair sits with you and pours you cheap booze and rests her hand on your thigh.  After I used the bathroom, I sat on the sofa and waited for Ami.  Even during the day, the place felt salacious, with its black vinyl couches and oblique lighting.  Suddenly Ami appeared and sat down next to me.

“Here, let’s look at pictures,” she said, and took a camera from her purse, which I noticed matched her belt.  We started looking at pictures.  She put her hand on my thigh.

I looked at her.  “Your eyes are so blue,” I said.

“Yours are so brown.”

“Color contacts, huh?”

“Your girlfriend would probably be mad if she saw us like this.”

“You know,” I said, “‘girlfriend’ is such a vague term . . . you know . . . sure ‘friend,’ and you know, ‘girl’ of course, but that doesn’t really mean . . .”

And then suddenly one of the guys from the hostess club came in.  He looked at me, then at Ami, then back at me.  I guess we’d been in there for like ten minutes after all.  We stood up, and Ami apologized, and we all looked uncomfortably at each other for a while, and then we left.

We went back to the storefront and Hina handed me a glass of wine.  “I was worried about you two,” she said.

“Jeez, we were only gone ten minutes,” I said.  “Here, I, uh, bought you an ice cream.”

“It was half an hour.”

“Time flies, you know.  Sorry I took a few bites already.”

“Thanks, I love vanilla.  You didn’t get one?”

“Mine?  Oh, I’m on a diet, remember?”

People Sleeping Everywhere

And then we all sat on the couch and someone brought out a bottle of shochu and ice, and then some oden appeared, with fried tofu and sliced daikon radish and hard-boiled eggs until it got dark and everyone started passing out left and right, on the couch, the folding tables, the steps to the post office.   And then Hina and I had to leave, partly because it was late, and partly because I kept passing out everywhere.  Then all the girls hugged me again and took more pictures.  By the time we got to the station all that remained of the festival was an enormous pile of chopsticks and paper bowls, and two old guys in costumes asleep on the grass.

I lasted about a minute on the train before I crashed out with my face pressed to the window, and slept all the way back into the city.  That’s the great thing about traveling with a Japanese girl.  They always wake you up when you get to your stop.  So helpful, really.  Always take one with you, is my advice.  But since it was Sunday and there’s no such thing in Japan as calling in sick on Monday, I hugged Hina goodnight and went home, where I pulled out my futon and drunk-Skyped my brother.

“You know it’s five a.m. here, right?” he said.

“That’s okay, I don’t mind.  I just called to tell you about my new diet.”

“Is it one of the one’s where you give up drinking?”

“No, this one’s different.  It’s called the Festival Diet.  Nothing but fried foods and booze.”

“Nigga, you crazy.”

“Yeah, I know,” I said, and drifted off to sleep, dreaming of girls with platform shoes and belts that matched their bags, and baked potatoes covered in mountains of corn and rivers of butter.  What a country, Japan, really.

39 Replies to “The Japanese Festival I Never Saw”

  1. Ken-san, thank you for this entertaining morning read 🙂 I like your hidden messages (I guess some of them can be cought only by foreigners that live in Japan).

    On the side note, do you know any good webpage or other resource for finding festivals/events in Japan?


    1. Yeah, I sometimes I feel my writings have become to ex-pat-ish, like can people living overseas even understand all the crazy stuff I say? My English is peppered with Japanese-isms, like the other day when I said “PM ni-ten-go” to someone and they were like, “what the hell’s that?” And then there’s all the cultural references . . . well, shou ga nai, ne.

      As for festivals, there’s three things I’d keep my eyes out for: One are English-language publications listing current goings-on. In Tokyo, I’d check out , For Kyoto, , and Fukuoka

      So that’s one. The second is to check out the posters in the train stations and on the trains. These are usually only in Japanese and I used to tune them out, but it’s valuable to pay attention to them because they often advertise interesting and fun things that everyone is aware of but you.

      And the third thing is to drop by the Tourist Information booth wherever you happen to be. There’s usually one of these in every major train station, and the ladies there know everything. Seriously, want to know the atomic weight of gold? They can tell you. And it’s always women working there, for some reason. So there’s another reason to stop by.

      Oh, and a forth thing. It’s not really festival related, but bookstores and convenience stores carry Japanese-language magazines listing all the fun things to do and eat in various cities. Japanese folks routinely pick these up when they take trips. In Tokyo, the popular magazine is Tokyo Walker. (There are “Walker” magazines for other cities too.) They may be challenging to read, but they’re packed full of glossy photos, so if you see something that interests you, and you can’t read it yourself, you can probably find somebody to read it to you. Like one of the ladies at the information booth.

      1. Whoaaa crazy coincidence!

        I was just thinking that the other day…
        Since I live in China and work at a Japanese company, I say “PM ni-ten-go” alllll the time. It basically replaces the topic of weather and food. “Oh, how’s that PM ni-ten-go today?” “Probably get lung cancer if you’re outside for ten minutes.” “Oh, the usual!”

        I was talking to my friend in the US (via skype) and just blurted out PM ni-ten-go in Japanese. My brain somersaulted inside my skull like 3 times until I finally managed to say PM 2.5 in English. But even then, I think my friend was like “wha?”

        As for your matsuri post, very lovely! Takes me back to all those times in Japan… and your description of the matsuri food had my mouth watering at the office. Especially about the potato.

        I was going to ask you how you keep that slim figure of yours (since, conbini + karagge + beer = me got really fat in Japan). But now I know your natto secret… too bad I don’t like natto. Maybe I’ll do the tsukemono diet.

        Lovely post!

        1. I’m pretty sure there’s no amount of tsukemono one can eat that will result in weight gain, so you’re cleared for takeoff with that diet. Not sure it packs the nutritional balance of natto, but for sure it’s better than cheeseburgers.

          I once heard a colleague of mine say “PM two-point-five,” which only reinforced how far we’ve come from real English, since I’m certain that phrase, even in English, makes no sense. As near as I can figure, “fine particulates” would be a close translation, or even good old “smog.” Yeah, probably simpler is better.

  2. Sounds like a good time. Do you find it hard to get involved in all this stuff? I meant that’s one thing I worry about if I’m going to go to Japan. I mean for all I know you are a social master. I want to go to festivals and all that god damn it!

    1. My mastery of social situations includes such skills as stepping on feet and saying the absolute wrong thing at the worst time possible. And see? Even I get invited places.

      Nah, seriously, Japan has a lot of stuff going on, and you may find yourself with more invitations than you can fit into your social calendar. If you can speak Japanese, you’ll be able to understand things on a deeper level, but even speaking English, people will be glad to have you around. So not to worry. Once you get over here, you’ll be up to your ears in festivals.

      1. Ah that’s cool, I was worried that it would be difficult to get involved with all that sort of stuff. I should be able to speak Japanese by the time I go there so that’s an added bonus! It sounds fun going to all those festivals and that, but I like travelling in general. Always trying to keep busy yeah.

        1. Excellent. If you speak a little Japanese, it’ll be great. And if you speak a lot of Japanese, it’ll still be good. Either way, you’ll have a grand time.

  3. Jeez, what a long post! But I read all of it with great pleasure! 😀

    Sometimes I really wonder how the conversation was in Japanese like “Yes, he does.” for example.

    I love natto! I can’t eat ONLY natto, though.
    I always need something with it like rice and raw eggs or something like that.
    I even tried it on German whole-grain bread once. Was pretty good!
    And it’s healthy!

    The festival diet doesn’t sound so good. I’m sure you can come up with something even better next time! 😉

    1. I think all the dialog makes this post look longer than it actually is. I’ll try it next time without any paragraphs or spaces between words and maybe that’ll help.

      The festival diet is pure deliciousness. I heartily recommend it for anyone aspiring to be a sumo wrestler. As for natto on German bread, isn’t that dangerous, like mixing matter and anti-matter? It’s a good thing the universe didn’t just implode. Please experiment with care.

  4. I always read your posts and find them so relate able, especially the parts about girls always talking to you. When I was in japan I had to beat guys off with a stick haha but I think they just thought it was cute that I was a foreigner in a school uniform! I love matsuri, I went to gion matsuri once. What’s your favourite matsuri btw?

    1. Thanks for reading! Yeah, Japanese girls seem to like to talking to me, for a variety of reasons. I used to mistake this for interest, but not so much any more. It’s complicated.

      You mean Gion in Kyoto? That would be a great place for a matsuri. I’ve been to some fun matsuri in Asakusa and Kichijoji, but it might have had more to do with the people I was with. Japan’s really great with its festivals and seasonal events—you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good time then.

      1. >> I used to mistake this for interest, but not so much any more. It’s complicated<<

        THIS statement is interesting! We're left hanging though…

        1. I guess what I mean is… many Japanese girls don’t seem too interested in who you are as a person. What’s important is that you’re a white dude that speaks English. Whether you’re from Portland or Pretoria doesn’t matter. Caucasian? English? Good enough.

          But hey, if you don’t care about me, only that I’m a white American–I can be okay with that. As long as you’re okay with the fact that I only like you for how you look in a tight sweater.

          1. Yeah. I dated this one woman (35-ish) several times and I noticed that as our conversation (in English) became more personal – at least from my side – she became more and more distant. I asked her at what point does she let go of the tatemae and she said never. I see what you’re saying. The goal was just simple conversation in English…

            Another one I dated was much more forward, but she was half Korean!

  5. Haha, great article! But the way you described that potato though, damn..I can’t wait to try all the festival food. Despite not sticking to your original diet plan, at least you did run to the food stand instead of walk, so you exercised twice in that one day? 😉

    Thanks also for that reply post to Simon with festival-check list! Definitely going to check it out!!

    1. Yeah, seriously, Japanese food is great, and anything on a stick is great, so the combination is fantastic. Sometimes you can even get little potatoes on a stick, which may be the best thing Japan’s ever invented. This isn’t an easy place in which to stay thin—even for Japanese people.

    1. Thanks, that would be fun. Although I regret to inform you that the festival diet is now history. It was superseded by the Why’s it So Damn Rainy Curry Diet, which in turn fell to the How Did I Miss The Last Train Again Convenience Store Cup Noodle Diet. I think we’re going back to natto next. At least the naming convention is simpler.

  6. Well ken, this is a bit off topic but I was just wondering if you could give me some advice. Like say I came to Japan on a program like “JET” that sets you up with all the arrangements for about 5 years, what would be the best way in order to score a job to continue to live (after the program expires) in Japan other than marry a japanese man of course 😛

    1. That’s a big question—thanks for asking it! Good to see you thinking ahead 😛

      It’s big because there are so many options. Probably the simplest would be to become an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher). That’s almost exactly the same job, only you’re employed by the school district, rather than by the prefectural government. The work conditions are similar (you’re still in public schools) and the wages can be the same or possibly better if you get hired directly. Unlike a JET, there is no set limit on the number of years you can be an ALT.

      You could always switch out of Education and do something else—Programming, head-hunting, translating—depending on your skill set. Check GaijinPot and you see a ton of jobs, but I’m sure you know that already. If you have the skills a company needs, they’ll arrange for the appropriate work visa.

      Or you could stay in Education and work for any other school you like: International schools, preschools, eikaiwa, or universities (if you have a Master’s degree). The short answer is that, once you’re here and settled, finding another job is pretty easy. Finding a good job, eh, not so much, but that’s anywhere.

      But . . . there’s a decent chance that you’ll either A) get tired of Japan and decide to pack it in. That happens a lot, although nobody thinks that before they get here; or B) Meet someone and actually get married, since you’ll be here for 5 years and all. Just saying. There’s a lot of possibilities.

      1. Hahah as usual such a good answer! Thanks for that. Are there many jobs around for programmers since that’s the degree I’m completing at the moment or will I be exiled as a teacher forever? Haha. Not that it would be the worst thing ever, is it easy or even possible to make the jump between the careers and do you think it’s similar to programming jobs in the west? Or are they as bad as you described in that office job post? 😛

        1. There are some jobs for programmers. Remember, what you’d really be applying for is a job where they need both a programmer and a native English speaker, since Japan’s already got plenty of technical folks. According to GaijinPot jobs, there are 31 jobs listed right now. If one of them matches your qualifications, you’d have a shot.

          Is it possible to jump careers? Absolutely. Getting here is the hard part. Nobody wants to bring talent all the way from another country just to program their computers, unless you’ve got some exotic specialty that can’t be met domestically. Once here, you should be able to transfer out of teaching readily enough if you can find another job.

          Is it similar to programming jobs in the West? Well, I was a programmer in the U.S. for many years, at 7 different companies, and in all cases, those were (in retrospect) cushy jobs. If I got in late, or took a long lunch, or got up for a cup of coffee fifty times a day, nobody cared, so long as I met the project timelines, which were generous. Sure, I worked till midnight my share of the time, but overall it was a mellow situation. I always had my own cubicle or office, sometimes even with a nice view. Some places I could go to the gym during lunchtime, or out for a run. And at most of those jobs, on Fridays at five a group of us would head out to some local bar for beer.

          I don’t think you’re going to find that situation easily in Japan. Companies here set ridiculously tight deadlines, and then kill their workers to meet them. A good friend of mine was a programmer—and seriously this is verbatim what she told me—who worked 20 hours a day, six days a week, sleeping at her desk. She’d go home once a week on Sunday to shower. The men, she said, went home only once a month. From what I’ve seen here, this seems completely plausible. Now, she’s Japanese, and there’s no way they’ll try to work a foreign person that hard, but still, you’ll probably have to work a lot harder here than in the U.S.

          The general office layout is that everyone works in big, open rooms with no privacy and taking a lot of breaks is not cool. Even going out for lunch is rare among the Japanese workers. But as they say, every situation is different. I’m sure there are people out there with stories about how good their Japanese office job is. I just don’t hear them very often.

          1. I friend here told me recently that back in in his twenties he used to sleep three hours a night on the couch in the office and go home once a month. So that is pretty good corroboration. He said he didn’t think much of it. Of course it didn’t help his marriage much. Somehow though he still manages to look ten years younger than his actual age.

            My new office job is pretty cushy by Japanese standards thank goodness. They removed the army style cots a couple of years ago apparently.

            1. Depending on the office, it’s almost impossible to be the first one at work. I used to think everybody else just got there super early. Now I know they never left. If you can make a reasonable wage and still have a life, then I’d say you’ve got a cushy job.

  7. Nigga, you crazy indeed (as another white person, I can confirm that this is how white people communicate, at least when it doesn’t seem racist). The Nattou diet works well, as long as you make sure to only consume nattou and Sapporo beer. The reason I screwed it up was from all that cheaper, imported German stuff.

    Your posts are entertaining and educational(?) as ever. The only English language Japanese language related blog I read nowadays, and I’ve read a lot in the past.

    1. Thanks for reading my crazy stuff, homie. Ever since I became a minority in Japan, words seem to have taken on a different meaning. Now I’m like, Who you callin’ foreigner?

      I think you may have hit upon the perfect balance of nutrition and enjoyment with the Natto-Sapporo diet. Gonna try that tomorrow for breakfast. I appreciate you looking out for my health.

  8. Revealing publicly that us white people often use the N-word behind closed doors when communicating with friends is something akin to a explaining magic tricks or the Masonic handshake! No one is supposed to know! ; )

    1. No, I’m tired of living the lie, getting black friends to stop by KFC for me, being afraid of wearing my Timberland’s outside of the house. Why must I always use earphones when I listen to Biggie, and not carry a boombox like my soul tells me to? Hey, it’s 2013, not 2010. By now the world should be able to recognize that I’m just an ordinary black Japanese guy who happens to look white.

  9. You’ve got a different Japanese girl for every day of the week, Ken! Just don’t go off and get married. Can’t afford to see another person throw their life away.

    Mate with a malt liquor to continue your lineage. Just as easy.

    Btw, read it in another comment, BUT, could you expound upon this ‘translator’ thing? I’ve done some research, but nothing quite compares to the Kencyclopedia. Got to cover all your potential bases, you know. Thanks in advance.

    1. A different girl every day of the week sounds like seven times more work than Ken Seeroi needs. Gotta keep those Tuesdays and Fridays free.

      Help a brother out—what “translator” thing are you referring to?

      1. You mentioned the few types of jobs one could reasonably acquire and live in Japan. I saw you mention “translating” as one of them. (In a reply to “Sally”, up above). I was curious if you had any further insight?

        1. I’ll jump in here as I’m working as a translator/interpreter in Tokyo.

          The bad news is that jobs in translating/interpreting in Japan are pretty thin on the ground when compared to something like ALT work. The good news is that they do exist. If you are persistent and have good Japanese, you might get “lucky”. But be warned that the pay rate is not necessarily great unless you have legal or medical training. Freelancing online might pay more than working on a per hour basis in a Japanese office, but the downside there is the time you would need to invest building up your contacts and experience to get steady work, and the lack of anybody to sponsor you for the initial visa if living in Japan is your goal.

          1. I appreciate the input. Ah, I understand a bit better. So, before I can even consider anything else, the most important thing on the road to translation is to have very good Japanese skills? How about as far as translation skills itself?

        2. I’ve done a bit of translating, whenever an employer imposed upon me to do so. Certainly nowhere near as much as Danchan.

          My insight is that it’s actually, um, work. That is, once you get over the cool factor—hey, look at me, I’m a translator—it’s really about sitting at a desk doing homework all day long. I think you have to be cut out for that type of thing. Probably lawyers would be well-suited to it.

          Being an interpreter, on the other hand, now that sounds a bit more rockstar. But I’ve also seen interpreter school, and it makes becoming an Navy Seal look easy. Being born into a genius bilingual family would be a good start.

  10. Yes. This is just my opinion, and I am hardly a veteran, but I think translation skills are secondary to general language skills. The more you do the faster you get of course, but if you are literate in your L2 then translating into your L1 (which of course you also need to be highly literate in) should be no problem. Interpreting however does require more experience, and potentially special training to do it at a high level.

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