Ad Blankestijn was born in the Netherlands and studied Chinese and Japanese languages and cultures at Leiden University. He also studied for one year at Nanjing University in China and two years on a Mombusho Scholarship in Japan, mainly at Kyoto University.
After teaching a few years in the Sinological Institute of Leiden University, Ad joined the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) of the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands. In May 1987, he was posted to the Netherlands Embassy in Tokyo to become part of a team of Japanese and Dutch assigned with attracting Japanese companies to the Netherlands. Ad has worked for 20 years in several roles at the NFIA, mostly in Tokyo, including six years as head of the Japan Office (Tokyo and Osaka) and as Embassy Counselor. He was also responsible for activities in Taiwan and Hong Kong. During stints working for the head office of the NFIA, he also assisted on projects with Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean businesspeople and advised on major investments by well-known Japanese companies in the Netherlands. Ad returned to Japan in 2006, and also serves as a special advisor to the NFIA Japan Office.