I hate to burst your bubble, but a lot of that obsequiousness is a bit of racism, Jimbo. If they thought that you "got it" they wouldn't do it, it's kind of a signal towards others that they think you're clueless. You might get it, but they aren't letting you into the group. They are "othering" you.It's the same with the "Hafu kawaii!" ("Mixed kid, so cute!") cry, which is a single towards others that someone's different. Japanese "other" those that don't belong, and trust me "belonging" is huge in Japan. Being different or standing out is the absolute worts for the average Japanese... they hate it. "The nail that sticks out gets pounded down." The folks that I interact with, and the bars and restaurants that I frequent treat me as they would another (Japanese) customer or a Japanese friend.
If they start the weird shit (eg treat me differently than they would my Japanese friends or family), I realize that they are not comfortable with my presence. It's pretty simple, because they don't like acting "formal", it keeps distance, if they wanted you closer, they would drop the formality.
I read the room and see how others are being treated... and more so, how they are treating my child. If they treat my child differently that other children, that's not a good sign, they are "telling" her that she is "different", which is not right. Random grannies and old men have no right to walk up and pet my child as if she's a pet, and likewise they have not right to single her out in public. There's a difference between a kindly person who wants to stop and chat because we are on the train together and someone who is testing the waters and trying ascertain "why are you in Japan, just visiting or living here", and it takes experience to figure which is which.
I'm lucky that I lived here when I was young, that I have several friends who grew up here and share their insights with me, several of my best and oldest friends are Japanese, I know how they treat me, and how I should expect to be treated.
I know a British guy in town, in his mid/late fifties, has lived in Hiroshima for about twenty years now, has two daughters, both in university now. He honestly thinks that there's no racism or discrimination in Japan, and that everything is lovely all the time. He also thought that his kids had never had any problems... it didn't take me too long to understand that this guy who first came here around age thirty or so, doesn't speak or understand Japanese. He's got some phrases and can buy a bus ticket, but he can't hang in most conversations unless they are specifically about him personally - superficial stuff like where he's from and what his job is, and then they compliment him on his Japanese, the obsequiousness shows up, because nobody actually thinks his Japanese is very good and they fear that gaijin that are upset might do crazy shit, so placate him. I met his daughters when they were visiting, mostly because I would get some idea of what my kid is in for in the future. Both expressed that they had been through quite a bit of othering and similar bullshit, including bullying (until they made it clear that they weren't victims), but that there was still weirdness - Japanese guys who only wanted to speak English with them to impress them some how for dating and other creepy ass shit.
I asked them how much their dad knew about this, and it was a bit awkward, but later one of them wrote me a really nice note about it, explaining that their dad gave up a lot to live in Japan, and that their mother really bent over backwards to make his life here easier... and that mom handled the tough stuff, and knew about her problems (especially in middle school), and that at that time her father really couldn't do much to help out. He just didn't understand the context, and girls, and would want to solve the problems "British style" not in the Japanese way (which she - and her mom - felt would potentially make things worse). Basically, he was unaware of many of the problems. She also lovingly put it that "he's happy in his bubble, and so why bother pointing out the things that might make him sad". It was an interesting way of looking at it, but it wouldn't work for us.
I'm the primary point of contact for adults (Japanese or otherwise) with my daughter - my wife works full time, is out of the country or in Tokyo about half of the year, often in war zones and meeting with diplomats and ranking government folks - mom just can't get involved with the day to day as much as she'd like to be. As a dad I've spent countless hours in playgrounds with my daughter, watching her playing with others, and then watching how other parents treated her... and the range goes from treating her normally, to overpraising her compared to the other kids, to being an outright asshole towards her. She tends to remain friends with the parents who just treated her like a normal kid, she doesn't need/deserve special treatment and she certainly won't be treated poorly. I deal with her school... we used the local public nursery for a while. She hated one class because the teacher treated her differently - as if she was a guest star or something. I also realized that the teacher talked to her differently - kindly, but like she was "slow" or incapable of understanding the things that other child could. She was "othering" the fuck out of my kid, and at two, my daughter already picked up on it. She was placed into another class, with a much better teacher, but I already knew, it'd be better if she wasn't the only mixed kid in her school. Her current school is about 40% Japanese, 20% none Western foreign (Chinese, Korean, Pilipino), 15% Western foreign (Australian, European, North American), and the rest, like her, mixed. It's a complete bubble, the kids (from age three to eighteen), are comfortable in a bilingual (and often multilingual) setting, with lots of kids who all have different backgrounds. Most families are at least middle class, and some are quite wealthy, the vast majority of the families travel internationally, and all have chosen the school because it celebrates and enhances these differences. The average Japanese school would have shock waves if two kids were speaking in a language other than Japanese - I taught Brazilian kids who refused to talk publicly at school because of the attention it attracted.
So no, there's rarely any actually violent bullying that my daughter will encounter... but I'm also aware of the other more insidious "bullying" that can happen to her. She doesn't model (we've been asked) or do entertainment or TV (she's been on, once with me, when I was interviewed by a friend - who knew to leave her alone). My wife is fairly high profile in town, and on TV several times a month, they've asked to follow our lives (and particularly our daughter). We've declined, we don't want our daughter to be an object of attention, at least for just her looks and factors that she has no control over. We expect her to aspire to art, science, ballet, music, or something that she doesn't know about yet. We know others who feel differently, but we feel this is the best course for her. We also know that we are not likely to live in Japan permanently and don't want her to have a rude awakening of becoming "un-special" if we move elsewhere, where hopefully her looks won't be her most prominent attribute.
the Eagles suck.