hmm this is an ornery multi-topic that might be tough to engage with in a satisfying way on all of the possible levels, but let me try and share a few connected thoughts.
1) @yeso lol.
2) i’m honestly having trouble thinking of things i Do Not Like which would be rendered likeable by simply somehow becoming Japanese (which is a process that, you must admit, is pretty hilarious to imagine). things i Do Not Like include: professional wrestling, gory horror films, jangly guitar-based music with lyrics about how much love and sex are painful to experience, anything with pork in it. Japan is good at all of those things, but so are other countries. i have experienced many countries’ takes on all of them, and think they’re all bad.
3) here are the things i like the most: novels and comics about normal people in bizarre situations, rap and jazz music, curry, 16 and 32 bit video games, basketball, baseball. Japan excels at all of these things (except basketball, and rap is debatable), and is the only country that has ever made good 16 and 32 bit video games (a Proven Fact). however, i don’t think i like any of these things because they’re Japanese, and the Japaneseness of my favourite examples of any of these things, when it occurs, seems incidental at best.
4) i am Canadian in origin, and relocated to Japan 12 years ago. while i do enjoy a great deal of Japanese entertainment and culture (including food), i must tell you that, living here, the 90% rule still applies. that is, 90% of the cultural output i experience in Japan, just like everywhere else i’ve been on this planet, is complete bullshit (to me).
5) while i currently do enjoy a great deal of Japanese culture and entertainment, a significant percentage of the stuff i like the most right now seems to be coming from The Good Ol’ USA, England, and India. this includes books, podcasts, food, music. i seek it out because i am surrounded by Japanese stuff and experiencing only Japanese stuff would quickly drive me insane. it’s hard to say the same would have happened in Canada because there is so little “Canadian stuff” (it’s mostly stuff made by folks from other places), and so when i lived in Toronto (which was most of my life), i both intentionally sought out stuff that was not “from Canada” but also constantly encountered stuff that was, thankfully, obviously not from Canada, without trying, because it was everywhere. back then, enough of the not-from-Canada stuff that i enjoyed came from Japan (largely but not entirely for geo-economic reasons beyond my control) to convince me to invest effort in getting good at Japanese and then coming to Japan.
5.5) i do love a lot of new, and new-to-me, Japanese stuff! i also still fiercely cherish the Japanese stuff that impacted me in my impressionable years.
6) maybe what it boils down to is: when you’re immersed in a culture (which all of us always are, unavoidably), there is a certain natural tendency to look outward, and see what else is out there. when your default culture is North American, you’ve got a few non-North American culture options presented to you without investing tremendous effort, some of which are major economic world powers. it’s very easy to be exposed to Japanese, British, Chinese and (i think depending on if you’re in certain parts of America) Mexican cultural exports. plus if you have a direct family member that comes from another, different culture, then that culture also applies. they all offer great things to experience! it’s pretty normal to latch onto aspects of any or all of them! i think until recently it was just really easy to accidentally get immersed in Japanese culture because Japan a) used to be the second biggest economy in the world, b) adopted and exploited the internet early, c) produces an unreasonably large amount of entertainment, much of which is just recognizable enough to North Americans to be different-and-interesting.
7) i mean look at younger kids nowadays: they still get exposed to some Japanese stuff, but less than i did! Minecraft, k-pop, Fortnite, TikTok… these are identifiably not-Japanese things, and Japan is already feeling the effects of less interest from weebs abroad.
8) i guess i wonder whether it’s “Japaneseness” that is appealing, or whether it’s really the “different from my culture” + “cool on an aesthetic level” + “extremely competently produced on a technical level” + “initially easily available and then also rewarding to pursue as a fan/enthusiast/completionist” combination that spellbinds so many of us.