My comments, below, come from my own on the 'Buoyancy' blog, which is worth checking out for a change from our Anglos-in-Japan Internet echo chamber: the writer is Japanese, and the blog is in English.
Any non-Japanese who gets the N2 (Japanese Proficiency Test, level II) is to be respected!... Any who get the N1 I am a little suspicious
least suspicious of the 'Westerners' who do. They often are the type
to try to be 'more Japanese than the Japanese' and make themselves, and
the rest of us, look very foolish. They have often come to Japan with
personal problems. Converts are strange. My father converted between
Christian sects and was a fine example of what's wrong with that.
As many problems as one may have
with their birth-culture, whether language, religion, class, etc., it is
impossible to avoid or deny. I have many issues with mine by birth:
Anglophone, British-Canadian, Catholic, middle-class... However, those
things inform who I am, even when I am against them, such as
Catholicism: I disagree with the Catholic church's stand on many
political, social and sexual issues, but I have a habit of framing my
arguments with a Jesuit's logic and precepts. The same is true of my best friend, a
Reform Jew: he argues like a moderate rabbi.
When I see 'Westerners' deal with disagreements with
their own culture by suddenly denying their experience and becoming
'Buddhist' or what have you, it is inauthentic. Very much true with
'Japan experts', and Japanese people should be more aware they represent
a fairy tale version of Japan, that never was, to 'the West'. The
'experts' are unaware of their own 'Orientalism'. I have seen the same
with Japanese become exaggeratedly 'Christian' (not that a Japanese
person cannot be Christian - Endo Shusaku understood Christianity
We are all damaged people, but it is foolish of
those who travel outside of their own culture to think they will not
be doomed to take their damage with them. Why should they be special?
Finally, nobody should want to assimilate into Japan. You aren't wanted. You should always hold yourself a little apart from Japan; Japan returns the favour.