Senpai Success Story #8: Adam, the Public Affairs Advisor

Welcome to the 8th Senpai Success Story, where you can read about others who have walked a unique career path using their Japanese language/cultural skills. If you have your own SSS to share, please read more here. (Psst: Senpai means “mentor” or “teacher,” and the concept is important to understand for anyone wishing to work in a Japanese business setting.)

[Update: Adam has since moved to a different job, but his advice is still an excellent read!]

Hello there! My name is Adam Wolf and I currently work for the Japanese government as a Public Affairs Advisor. As a government employee, I feel it is my responsibility to state that the opinions expressed herein are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Japanese government.

Whenever someone asks me about my job description, I usually respond that is it non-existent. This type of work fits me pretty well because my mind is always firing in different directions at the same time. My position allows me to constantly try new things and utilize different aspects of my personality. It requires doing a little bit of everything.

Many people tell me, “Well, you work for the Japanese government so you must be fluent in Japanese, right?” In reality, my Japanese is far weaker than I want it to be and while I am always trying to improve and utilize the little I know, as often as I can, my linguistic knowledge pales in comparison to students who even took a couple basic college Japanese language classes. Nonetheless, I try to work what I do know into daily conversation with coworkers and a few of my work responsibilities. When it comes to Japanese culture however, I have a much deeper embedded background that I incorporate in nearly every part of what I do. But, before I talk about cultural integration, it’s important to mention how I built my Japanese culture knowledge base and how I got to this point in my career. Let’s turn the hourglass all the way back to my elementary school days in the early 1990s.

I was first introduced to ‘Japanese-ish’ culture by my father. You see, he is a 六段 (rokudan) or sixth degree blackbelt in (Beikoku) Shorinryu Shidokan Karate/(米国)小林流志道館, who became my instructor. This style though originated in the Ryukyu Kingdom (which later became Okinawa, Japan). I continue to practice karate to this day and picked up Aikikai Aikido/合気会合気道 (a Japanese martial art) more recently.

It is safe to say that although my initial interest in Japan came from the martial arts, it quickly evolved to incorporate pop culture with my introduction to Anime and Manga in middle school (hardcore Dragonball otaku still). My fascination with Japan further expanded to include traditional culture as I continued into high school and learned about the food, temples/shrines, Japanese archaisms, and more.

While my cultural exploration of Japan was valuable to me, my post-secondary education took a different course. First, I tried my hand at theatre performance and ultimately ended up studying elementary education. I ended up getting my teaching degree/certificate and did teach for several years, but before that, I had an experience that had a profound impact on my future.

Near the end of my university tenure, I had the opportunity to visit Japan through a study abroad called Education, Society, and Learning in Japan. My first true immersion in the culture was a fantasy brought to life. The program provided me with a firsthand look at Japanese society and the education system (things that I shared with my students upon my return to the US).

Skip ahead a bit to 2012. I was now a few years out of university. A subtle mention of the JET Program by my study abroad sensei crept back into my mind and the program sounded like an amazing opportunity. I put together my application, interviewed, and moved to Shiga Prefecture to be a cultural and linguistic ambassador. Initially, I was overwhelmed with the culture shock and had a difficult time adjusting. Gradually, the city of Higashioumi became my second home and I developed a sort of makeshift family there (with whom I remain in touch today). Additionally, I was able to create friendships with people from around the world, showing me the value of a global mindset and broadening my perspective. To this day, I still say that JET was best year of my life. Unlike my study abroad, it provided me with a true glimpse into the day-to-day life in the Japanese countryside and, surrounded by nature, it allowed me to observe and participate in ‘grass’ ‘roots’ relationship building.

A few years after Japan I began working for the Japanese government by way of a friend and, at the time, soon-to-be coworker (connections matter). By this point, I had really begun to build a deep understanding of Japanese culture. My job has greatly evolved from when I began in 2015 until today. Now only did my actual position change, but so did my role and responsibilities. Some of the ways I utilize my Japanese cultural knowledge are simple. There might be a Facebook post here, or a newsletter there. I might even write an article or press release. However, my real passion shines when I venture outside the office. I sometimes have the opportunity to visit schools when I share the most fun, exciting, and enlightening aspects of Japanese culture that I can think of. I have emceed some Japanese performing arts events and, in doing so, tried to give the audience a detailed origin of said presentation. I also sometimes speak on TV segments to show the local populace some of the cool things that they may not have hear of.

I won’t ramble on with more examples, but I will state strongly that although I am still far from what I would call a ‘cultural expert,’ I nonetheless strive to learn more and share what I can about the wonder of the Japanese people, language, society, and geography.

So after reaching my current stopping point on my life’s journey. What are some major takeaways that I think are worth sharing?

Numero Uno- Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort cube! If I had not tried something scary, off the beaten path, or obscure, I would not have had the experiences that made my life full of meaning and value. A leap of faith can potentially take you a lot farther than trying to move while confining yourself.

Numerus II- Be willing to mix things up. I mentioned studying theater and then working in the education field and now with the Japanese government. However, I have also worked in the fields of retail sales, food service, entertainment, and landscaping. Like my mind, my occupation has jumped around. Sometimes moving on to something else is necessary and the best path forward. Who knows what the future holds, but be open minded to change.

三番(sanban)- Never stop improving. Someone asked me recently what my New Year’s resolution is, but I do not have one. I never have. My reasoning is that I am a strong believer in relentless self-improvement and learning. Every day I try to better myself both mentally and physically and, in doing so, try to help society as a whole. I know I have many flaws and I think it is important for me to reflect on them and see how I can improve. There is one very important thing to point out that may make this ‘suggestion’ somewhat hypocritical. While I believe in infinite self-improvement myself, I would never force this upon anyone else and believe that doing so would be wrong. Therefore, you can say this takeaway is something that works for me, but do not feel that it is necessary to thrust this responsibility upon yourself.

Finally, I want to end this blog with my lifelong motto:“No shame all gain.” You can live your whole life worrying what other people think of you and in doing so you will make certain decisions that limit your potential. This is not to say that restraint cannot be good, but when you do restrain yourself make sure you do it for your own safety and well being and not only because someone else told you not to do something. This does not mean to eliminate empathy to those around you and become selfish, but instead, strike a balance between respecting your fellow man and seizing opportunities. You will be amazed what you can accomplish when you disregard external judgement and say to yourself, “Screw it, carpe diem.”

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post.

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Youtube: (To see how random I really am, feel free to check out my channel R@ndom@dam at

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