Check out the most excellent analysis of "the Harajuku myth" by W. David Marx when you get a chance, along with Bardiac's blogging from Japan.
New readers here may be interested in my own unpacking of U.S. images of Japan from last summer, as well as my attempts at blogging our year in Japan and its aftermath. (Sorry for all the scrolling that clicking on most of these links involves.)
I'm struck at how apropos Melville's "Benito Cereno" is to all this, particularly its reversal of expectations that the closer view is the better view, its focus on the structure and consequences of Captain Delano's fantasies, and its subtle take-down of its particularly untrustworthy narrator. The fact is, there's no best perspective on Japan, whether near or far, from inside or outside. What matters is what comes from juxtaposing views and contextualizing acts of viewing. Including Japanese ones of outsiders. What happens after that is up to us.