How I ended up in Japan...
I'm often asked why I came to Japan. Well, it's a very LONG story, but
the short version is that after a wreck in my personal life, I decided
to move to the Land of the Rising Sun after reading a tiny little ad in
the back of one of my engineering magazines about teaching English in
"Live in Japan! Teach English to Japanese businessmen. No Japanese
required. Mail your resume to..." You get the picture.
A Blessing in Disguise
Several blessings, in fact. Coming to Japan has, without question, been
the best thing that's ever happened to me. I've been blessed in so many
ways, that not a day passes when I don't count my lucky stars &
reflect back with sincere
gratitude for all the joy that living in Dai Nippon has brought me.
In the past 25 years, I've traveled to 45 of Japan's 47 prefectures,
climbed the 25 highest
mountains in Japan, and for 3 years even had the
pleasure of singing and dancing in a children's
And thru the past decade or so, I've done a little part-time acting and
modeling, which resulted in my appearing a few times on Japanese
My TV role as
President Richard Nixon
I've also been blessed with fairly steady, rewarding employment, and am
presently working as a university professor at 4 of Tokyo's largest
universities. For more on why Japan floats my boat, here's my Top 10 List, in
case you missed it on my welcome page.
I'm sure most of my childhood friends will tell you I was a pretty good
kid growing up, making good grades in school (the "D" I somehow eked
out in my "elementary structural steel design" college course would be
a notable exception) and
excelling in Boy Scouts, earning the highest rank of Eagle Scout
even having the pleasure of attending a Boy Scout world jamboree.
In my college days, I lived in Austin, Texas,
where I studied at the University of Texas
(yes, I am an avid Texas Longhorn fan!). I studied civil engineering
managed to squeeze a 4-yr. curriculum into only 9 semesters.
University of Texas Longhorns
I even lived in the same dormitory with Earl Campbell,
the famous Hall-of-Fame, Heisman Trophy-winning,
3-time MVP, and 7-time Pro Bowl running back from Tyler, Texas. LOVE
Prior to moving to Japan, I worked as a registered professional
designing streets, highways, and computer traffic signal systems for a
My last full-time position in the states was regional VP of marketing
for a national transportation engineering consulting firm, where I was
responsible for client relations, proposals, technical reports, and
marketing the firm's design services throughout the U.S. southwest
My hometown is Houston,
but I have lived all over Texas and in a number of places throughout
the western U.S.,
including Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.... most of these
places specifically chosen as a result of the John Denver Rocky
Mountain High fever I acquired (and still have) in the early 70s.
My first love
in the whole world has always been mountain climbing and, besides
scaling all of the highest
mountains in Japan,
I've also had the pleasure of climbing some of the highest peaks
("crawling sideways like a crab")
Of course, when I'm not snoozing, working, being stuffed like a sardine
into a crowded
Tokyo train, hiking, or working on my websites,
I sometimes enjoy cycling along the nearby riverside, playing tennis
and softball, working out at
the exercise gym, and terrorizing people with my harmonica.
And once in a blue moon,
I tickle the ivories on my 5-octave, 465-sound Casio Tone Bank
As a kid, I took 6 years of lessons from my church organist, so my
favorite pieces tend to be easy classical music (Claire De Lune,
Moonlight Sonata, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, etc.) and love ballads.
I also really enjoy partying (the non-alcohol version), telling jokes,
and trying to make
In years past, I gained notoriety with my Mr. Bean impersonations.
Remembering people's birthdays also has been one of my favorite
pastimes thru the years.
And all my close friends know
one of my favorite hangouts in the whole world used to be a tiny, yet
famous, little karaoke bar
near Takadanobaba Station named Pub Elvis, which unfortunately closed
in the late 90s.
It had over 3000 English songs, which was pretty phenomenal in those
early days of karaoke.
The famous Pub Elvis
A couple years ago there was a Pub Elvis reunion karaoke party, with
the former owner & many of the old staff, customers, and Elvis
impersonators in attendance. Here's my video
which hopefully captured the electric atmosphere that night, and by all
means don't miss Aaron, my all-time favorite Japanese Elvis
impersonator, @ the
As mentioned above, I'm from the Lone Star state and grew up in
Houston, the home of NASA,
the Astrodome (the world's first domed sports stadium, built in 1965),
NASA Space Center
Compaq Computer (acquired by Hewlitt-Packard in 2002), American
General, Kellogg Brown & Root, and
the former Continental Airlines (merged with United Airlines in 2012).
Sometimes referred to as the Energy Capital of the World,
due to the millions of barrels of oil imported through the Port of
Houston every year
and being home to America's largest petrochemical complex,
Houston is headquarters to a number of large energy firms
including Shell Oil, Conoco, Pennzoil-Quaker State, the former Enron
Corp. (which went bankrupt in 2001), and Haliburton Energy Services.
Virtually every major energy company is represented in the city,
and most foreign oil companies make Houston their U.S. base.
More than 250 import/export companies operate in the area.
Houston's strategic location on the Texas Gulf makes it an ideal
gateway to inland points.
Three major railroads and one terminal switching railroad serve
In addition, about 130 trucking companies serve the Houston area,
and modern highways link the port with the continental United States,
Canada, and Mexico.
Many world dignitaries, including kings and presidents, have been
Houston's world-renowned Texas Medical Center --
42 medical institutions and over 50,000 employees, including 14
such as the Texas Children's Hospital (the largest pediatric hospital
in the U.S.),
and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Center.
Texas Medical Center
(Photo credit: chron.com)
Also, 2 medical schools, 4 nursing colleges, the country's largest
schools of dentistry and public health,
nearly 5 million patients a year,
and the former workplace of the late Dr. Michael DeBakey,
the internationally famed cardiovascular surgeon and pioneer
in artificial hearts and transplants,
who supervised the
quintuple bypass surgery performed on Russian President Boris Yeltsin
The Houston area is also home to
Rice University, the University of Houston,
the world's largest livestock show and rodeo,
George and Barbara Bush,
Olympic Gold Medal figure skating champion Tara Lipinski,
former world heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman,
strikeout ace and Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan, and
four-time Indy 500 winner and now successful Indy car owner A.J. Foyt.
Also, actors Randy Quaid, Dennis Quaid,
(I went to high school with these brothers), Renée Zellweger,
and Patrick Swayze;
singers Kenny Rogers, B.J. Thomas, and Clint Black;
and the famous blues-rock artists ZZ Top and brothers Johnny &
Also, the 2-time NBA champion Houston Rockets basketball team,
the former 4-time champion Women's National Basketball Association
(WNBA) Houston Comets (disbanded in 2008),
and the former 1999 International Hockey League Turner Cup champion
& 2003 Calder Cup champion Houston Aeros (moved to Des Moines, Iowa
in 2013 to become the Iowa Wild).
NBA Houston Rockets
Houston is America's 4th largest city,
with a regional population of 4.3 million, and its 2nd largest port
(8th in the world),
so I guess you could say I'm a "big city boy,"
but sometimes I like to dress up like a cowboy
(talkin' about getting some stares on the Tokyo subways --
especially wearing that 10-gallon hat!!). Yee hah!
Houston has become quite the international city,
now with consular offices from 65 countries, 45 foreign chambers of
and 28 foreign bank representative offices.
The Port of Houston, besides being America's 2nd largest port in total
is the nation's top-ranked port of entry for foreign cargo,
and thus has been nicknamed "America's Gateway to the Rest of the
Over a decade ago, Houston's Downtown District underwent a massive
program worth three-quarters of a billion dollars,
including the Year 2000 completion of Minute Maid Park,
the retractable-roof baseball stadium for the Houston Astros.
MLB's Houston Astros
The 50-block area is already home to Houston's Theater District,
which is 2nd only to New York City's Broadway in the number of
theater seats. Also, in addition to the highly-acclaimed Houston
Symphony Orchestra, there is the Houston Ballet and
the Houston Grand Opera.
As for modern-day Texas culture, these days it can for the most part be
summed up in only one word, TRUCKS,
an automotive classification that includes not only pick-ups, but
sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and minivans as well.
It has been said that America loves trucks, as they now account for 50%
of overall vehicle sales in the U.S.
But in Texas, people are OBSESSED with them.
Almost 10% of all trucks sold in the U.S. are registered in Texas,
and the state sells more trucks than 22 other states combined,
including Montana, Nebraska, and Wyoming,
where trucks have always been popular.
Close to a quarter of all Chevy Suburbans, often nicknamed the "Texas
Cadillac" because of its popularity there,
are sold in the Lone Star State.
OK, well maybe I slightly overdid the Houston part, but just think how
much more you now
know about America's 4th largest city. All joking aside, I guess it's fair to
say I still remain very proud of my hometown.
Houston, Texas skyline
Oh, one more thing. Although I'm not looking for work,
just in case you happen to be hiring and have that dream job available,
I've decided to throw in my (very outdated) resume
(a more current & detailed listing of my work experience is on my LinkedIn
However, try not to fall asleep in the process
(you could spill coffee on your keyboard!).
Thanks so much for visiting and I hope you have time to check out the
rest of this site. Have a nice day!
Apr 21, 18 03:39 AM
One of the biggest culture shocks I had when I first arrived in Tokyo, and that even after all these years still haven't completely adjusted to, is the overwhelming propensity for most people to wear…
Apr 21, 18 03:35 AM
Gary J. Wolff's blog keeps you up-to-date with my everyday life in Japan, as well as recent additions/changes to the GaryJWolff.com website.
Apr 11, 18 06:23 AM
Longtime Tokyo resident Gary Joe Wolff shares his uniquely American perspective of Japan's fascinating culture, including regular photographic updates.