Let’s get back to basics, I suppose.
From the very moment I began learning Japanese, and even before, I became aware of a specific breed of person – one that I instinctively had very little respect for. This type of person was called a “weeb”, which is short for “weeaboo”.
There are many different characteristics of weebs, but the primary characteristic is a kind of escapism in to Japanese pop culture. I’m trying to find a way to express it that’s not horrifically insulting, but you get the type. Basically they love to the point of obsession everything that Japanese culture exports, with no regard for the actual culture itself.
So you get bastardizations of Japanese language, like “waifu” or “husbando”, bastardizations of Japanese culture (like a story I read once of two transfer students in Japan who tried to get two male students to kiss because they like yaoi), or similar things.
But I don’t think I’m a weeb, and I don’t think I’ll ever be a weeb. I’ve successfully inoculated myself against that.
See, there is one thing a weeb will never, ever do, and that is acknowledge the dark side of Japanese culture. They haven’t gone deep enough in to know about it, and if they did anyway, it would puncture their illusion of Japan as a wonderful place with all sorts of Japanese schoolgirls that love tentacles, and all that crap.
But I did. I know their dark side. I’m very familiar with it.
I love the Japanese in spite of their dark side.
As I mentioned, I know about all the stuff that they would probably rather I didn’t. But I also know about most of the stuff the weebs and otaku know about. And I can enjoy all of that stuff if I want. But that stuff doesn’t define Japanese culture to me, it’s defined by Japanese culture, and that makes all the difference.
I won’t worry about being perceived as a weeb anymore. I know why that’s not true.
I do want to emulate one thing about the weebs though. Only one. They have fun with Japan and Japanese culture. Being obsessive about anything is never a good thing, but the Japanese export their pop culture for a reason: people are supposed to have fun with it, and enjoy it. They’re not exporting their dark side (for the most part) and there’s a good reason for that. So there is nothing wrong with having fun with what they offer, and even sometimes gently making fun of them for it. I mean, after all, they’ll wear a big nose when they’re imitating us, right? (Yes, I’ve seen it!). I don’t take offense to that, but hey, turnabout is fair play!
So my new perspective on Japan and Japanese: don’t worry about it, have fun with what they’re offering, but recognize that their pop/kawaii culture is just that and doesn’t reflect on their actual history or everyday life.