一 Why Japanese ?
The first thing I remember being exposed to when it comes to Japan and Japanese things is an anime called Yū Yū Hakusho / 幽 ☆ 遊 ☆ 白書 created by Fuji Television and broadcast by TV Manchete in Brazil. As in every anime, there's always some Japanese cultural facet implied, even when the story is mostly about a ghost detective trying to deter demons from taking over. Yū Yū Hakusho taught me, at least in a superficial way, what Japanese people thought about religion, death, love... Theirs was so much different from my heavily Catholic Brazilian culture that it instantly fascinated me and imprinted in me this almost weeb-like respect and admiration.
One thing I never understood though, is ... why do they use these seemingly complicated scribbles when they could use a far easier writing system that I so happened have mastered and understood. I could not find a pattern in those scribbles (which irritated me a little) and in a way ended up creating a virtual barrier to a culture I could only access through a dubbed-over TV show.
As I grew up, I nurtured an attraction for challenging things. This is mostly why I wanted to join ITA, an engineering institution in Brazil known to have one of the most difficult admission tests. Even though I never cared about engineering, the process itself was an end to a means to me. The process of learning, acquiring, going through hard things have always had an appeal with me, almost like a drug-induced thrill (I don't know why though...)
Unfortunately, many of these thrilling challenges never came about for some reason or another and mastering the Japanese language (which to me meant understanding those scribbles) was one of them until recently. I never found a reason to prioritize learning Japanese although in hindsight I could probably start doing it when I went to college (I had access to internet and the spare time).
At the end of the day though I think it's best I'm learning the language now. My English (which I consider a bridge language) is much better and learning tools are more mature. Also, the East and its cultural / economic impact (particularly Chinese) on Western society in the last years has been only increasing and I think in the coming years, this now understated strength will be an indisputable fact. If you want an unbiased, unhindered access to that power, you have to immerse yourself in that culture (language is how you best access it).
Now, the Chinese and Japanese use Kanji (the scribbles I mentioned before) in their writing systems so by studying Japanese, I also layout a path to fluency in Chinese. Two birds with one stone. Due to being verbose and not at all obvious, learning Kanji takes mnemonic discipline and perseverance, which requires a learning mindset different from when we are learning an alphabet-based language. Once you master it though, you gain access to a whole new body of knowledge, once denied to you by sheer ignorance.
I could learn Chinese first but Japan has always had a special place in my heart. It's the aesthetics, it's the way of life, it's the strength... so much alien in a good way. The fact that a little island on a very active geological region could be so much thriving feels like the proof of what humans can ultimately achieve when they do their best. The Chinese and their culture certainly have admiring traits but Japan wins it in my heart today. And this is why I want to learn their language.