I keep reading about comments on Fender Japan with most people saying the 80's production till 2000 was great and than this and that ...
Well I have been living in Asia 12 years, tried sooo many Japanese Fenders that is almost impossible to list and owned:
Telecaster Thinline 72 (still have, and I also had in the past the mexican)
Stratocaster Traditional 50s
Stratocaster Heritage 50s
During these years when I tried and owned Japanese ones, I also had mexican and american ones (American Strat standard and American Special).
So few of my findings:
1 - American strat do not always have the same level of finishing and details as japanese.
For example the American Special strat bridge I had was not grounded, while all japanese were.
2 - It's true that some Japanese strat use a weird wood (Basswood), but the truth is it sounds unbelievably good! True also that is's a bit soft and easier to ding.
I sold my Stratocaster Traditional 50s because of that ding and I regret it every single day.
The level of consistency of Fender japan quality and finish is UNBELIEVABLE! It is impossible to find flows or corners cut (which i did find on the american special).
I had mexican and Japanese of the same exact model and I can tell that as much as the mexican was ok guitar, the japanese version was definitely another league. whoever says different never tried the japanese and out side to side the same model
For me the essence of fender japan is: perfect craftmanship, amazing tones, particular versions and finishes that are not available in other countries for about 40 to 50% of the equivalent american version.
One important downside, the entry level come with a terrible gigbag!
guys I go often to Japan (not this year yet!) if you are curious about a particular model let me know!
I'm attaching few pics of the traditional 50s, white blonde, with gold hardware and pickguard and a couple of videos (apologise I'm just an ok player) of both the traditional 50s and the heritage 50s (available only in Japan).
You stated in your post that you were possibly able to get Stratocasters that are made in Japan. Have you ever came across the 2013 model Fender Japan Dragon Stratocaster ST62-SPL
Let me know if you have any success.