I can relate to your situation. While I don’t live in Japan I’ve traveled there dozens of times in the last 15 years. I’ve spent about a month a year there for that timeframe and also gotten special permission from my company to work in Japan remotely for a few months on several occasions.
While I grew up with Japanese games (Nintendo, Sega, SNK, etc) and animations (Heidi, Macross/Robotech, etc) I find myself old and groggy and not interested in 99% of anime (the last series I really enjoyed was Trigun ~20 years ago). I’ve spent the New Year’s eve in Tokyo for the last 10+ years and my in-laws are tired of me complaining about how terrible the year old Red vs White songfest is. To the point where my MIL (politely) told me that it’s just a tradition to watch it and I should stop my bellyaching. Basically I “don’t even have a TV” when it comes to anime, manga, etc. I haven’t stepped a foot into Akihabara in over a decade and rarely step into Shibuya, Shinagawa, Shinjuku,etc (though we frequently visit Ikebukoro as a meeting point with friends). Anyhow, like I said, old and groggy. Get off my lawn 40 year old boybands and 24 year old women who are deemed to be too old and get to graduate out of the girlband.
With no impetus to learn Japanese, I’ve grown to entirely rely on my wife while traveling there. Doesn’t help that everywhere we go I’m automatically ignored while the staff beams with comfort when they see my wife. I kind of feel like I’m invisible and ignored because of that. It’s funny because my wife feels the same way in the US where store/restaurant staff usually mostly talk to me.
Anyhow, my inspirations for learning Japanese:
Speak Japanese with my wife
Speak Japanese with my in-laws and BIL
Speak Japanese with our friends
Possibly move to Japan in the future and not have to rely on my wife for everything
I bought some kid’s books in Japan and I’m trying to read those. But that’s going very slowly. The first time I tried to read “The ugly ducking” I was amazed that the duck ends up as an egg. Then I realized I had ended up in the beginning.
But even with all my complaints about popular media in Japan. I love the food there, and the best Italian food outside of Italy is in Japan. I’m also calm and at ease there like no other place. I stick to less crowded areas in Kanagawa, Saitama, and Nishi-Tokyo. All areas a little off the usual tourist hubs where knowledge of Japanese helps just a bit more.
I’m hoping I improve my Japanese enough before New Year’s to really blow some socks off! And hopefully do more than just be able to order at Gusto.