Guide to Japanese

By: Spideyday&Alanae

Update 7/8/2017

Update 12/2/2017

Update 9/20/2016:


Update 3/13/2016:


If you have any comments or wish to give feedback, please go to:
https://discord.gg/0m4q60Ni2kMCjddw

Introduction

Route descriptions

Common Route

Intermission

Anki Setup

Overture

Introduction

Welcome, if you’re reading this, you probably have some interest in learning Japanese, whether it be because you love Japanese culture or you’d like exposure to more Japanese media, as long as you’re motivated any reason is fine. While Japanese is often made out to be this scary beast that is impossible to get good at without spending years reading dozens of textbooks, taking classes and going on multiple trips to Japan, it doesn’t actually have to be that way. Through the use of a good method, after a few weeks of getting started, your studies will for the most part just be reading the things that you’ve been wanting to.

This guide will help you get your foot in the water and start soaking in Japanese and exposing you to different ways of learning efficiently, because after all, all ways lead to Rome.

Because of this, we decided to format the guide in a route system where there’s multiple paths to chose from that are predicated on reading and actively exposing yourself to source material. If you feel it would help, feel free to switch, mix and match, or even ignore all of it and just plunder the list of useful links at the end of the guide.

In any case, go fight and enjoy the ride!

Route descriptions

Reading Route:

Anki Route:

Wanikani Route:

Choosing to pursue a particular route doesn’t have to mean you are locked into only studying using that particular method. Feel free to drop a route and pick up a different one, or simply just mix and match. Whatever works for you!

Common route:

No matter what, if you want to learn Japanese learning Kana first is a must. Getting too comfortable with Romaji won’t help you, because pretty much all Japanese you’ll encounter won’t be written in it.

-Kana: approximate length to finish: (1 day~1 week)

What is Kana? Kana is the closest thing that can be considered the Japanese “alphabet”. It’s the building block of the language composed of both hiragana and katakana. Hiragana is used for native words and katakana is primarily used for borrowed words (other uses range from emphasis to the writer simply just feeling like it).

Note that there is no “best” way to learn kana in the same vein that there is no “best” way to learn anything regarding the language. Kana is probably one of the hardest initial barriers you’ll encounter, because there’s no real trick to it, just you and two walls of new characters to remember. However, once you’ve got it down, it will be much easier from there.

Here are some methods to get you started on Kana!

first of all get a hiragana chart from here and a katakana chart from here, It might be a good idea to print these out.

Simply write out the characters, and try to remember how to read them.

It’s a good idea to go from column to column (begin with a A I U E O and move to the left) and check if you still remember the previous columns when you’ve finished practicing a new one.It’s also a good idea to write out the kana you’re practicing, as it will help you remember them faster.

Anki is a pretty powerful tool, more information on how to use it in the anki setup section in the intermission.

        You can use this deck for practising your kana.

When done, a good method to get the kana to settle a bit is by reading some manga that has furigana out loud (you don’t actually need to understand what you’re reading quite yet).

Furigana is the adding of the reading (how to would pronounce the kanji) of a word in hiragana on top of the kanji, which helps with looking up the word, and in this case with reading it out loud for practise. An example here (「三月は俺様になります」 from ganganonline).

Don’t feel the need to 100% perfectly remember kana right away, you will be encountering them at a very high rate for the the entirety of your jp learning adventure, and it’ll be pretty easy to realize you forgot one of them and look it up


-Before We Begin Necessities

-Kanji Basics

Before we start off discussing kanji, feel free to check out what a native speaker has to say about why kanji is used.

 Kanji, The famous writing system that intimidates new learners. They’re seen as an “impossible hurdle”,  An almost “cryptic undecipherable set of symbols” or whatever else people see them as, which is simply not the case. In fact, Kanji is one of my favorite parts of the language since without it, reading would be much more difficult and they’re just cool. Having the mentality that they are an insurmountable hurdle is also only going to be damaging to your progress.

Kanji are your friend, not your enemy.

One of the most clear ways that kanji will be helpful, especially for learners, is that Kanji helps making distinctions between homophones. For example if there was no context and someone just wrote きかん without context, it could have many, and I mean many different meanings. Take a look and see for yourself. You can see that there are words vastly different in meaning yet, have the same reading.

Furthermore, there are also groups of (usually 2-3) words which have the same reading and a similar meaning, but depending on the kanji used the nuance differs. For example:  笑う「わらう」and 嗤う「わらう」, 笑う is the more normal laughter where everyone is happy, but 嗤う has the nuance of ridiculing somebody.

And, as brought up in the video above, reading a wall of text with only kana in it is a large pain.

Once you’ve gotten a bit more used to kanji, you’ll probably notice that you keep seeing the same shapes occurring in them over and over. This isn’t a coincidence, but part of how kanji works. A kanji is built out of various smaller symbols called radicals. While it’s not very necessary to go out of your way to learn them (you can easily do so passively), being conscious of them will help you to being able to tell 2 similar looking kanji apart much more easily.

Unlike other languages, words containing Kanji can’t easily be looked up through just typing them into a search engine (unless you already know how to read them), so we’ll be needing some methods to be able to do so.

two basic methods that will work in all situations when you have access to a computer are searching through handwriting and radical searching.

Searching through handwriting is rather simple once you have your IME set up (if you haven’t yet, the links that will help you to are at the top of the previous page), all you have to do is draw out kanji you’re trying to look up out on the IME pad and select it out of the list of options it gives based on trying to guess which kanji  you wrote (using the correct stroke order will help it a lot).

Radical search you can access on the jisho.org page by clicking on on radical button next to the searchbar. To reconstruct the Kanji, you select the components (radicals) that you see and as you select more. the options narrow down making it easier to find what you’re looking for. Usually you’ll only need to select 2-3.

An alternative offline option is wakan which has a radical search function included (press ctrl+r to start it).

In general it’s advantageous to use radical searching for more complex Kanji (more strokes/radicals) and handwriting for simpler ones.

When playing visual novels and some select PC games, you also will have access to the much easier method of using a text hooker. More on that in the reading section of the intermission

        

-Why it might be a good idea  to avoid Remembering the Kanji

        Preamble, I tried to use
Remembering the Kanji for about two months and I realized that it didn’t help me very much. Most new learners, I know I did, will probably search the internet in hopes for some magical method to “learn” Kanji.

I mean, it makes sense to learn the “alphabet” before starting to read it, right?

However, in the case of kanji, this alphabet is a huge one, full of symbols that all look like a random collection of lines and each of them having multiple ways to be read out that seemingly are used at random. This causes the thought of actually learning them to be a scary thought to many.

One of the methods that people come across often when they search for a way to cope is the book Remembering the Kanji by Heisig. RTK will, over the course of many months, teach you how to tell kanji apart and later on, in the second book, tries to teach you some of the readings of the kanji it covers.

When starting out this could be a great help against the legion of scary kanji and is indeed a good thing, but comes at the cost of a lot of time, time that you could have spent reading instead.

While it does seem to make sense to learn the alphabet before reading, due to how large the amount of kanji are, this is very unfeasible (even RTK doesn’t actually teach you all of them) and a huge time/effort sink if you chose to do so. Hence, it’s a better idea to do it the other way round, learning the alphabet by reading and learning words.

You see, most of the things you’ll gain from doing RTK are also things you’d just eventually gain through exposure, which you gain through reading.

For instance, you can tell apart different kanji by realizing that kanji aren't random lines, but are actually made out of multiple smaller shapes that belong to a group called radicals. Through the exposure of seeing them appear in various different, you’ll learn to recognize these and can use them to tell apart kanji you normally have trouble with. Another thing to realize is that while kanji do often look alike, you won’t actually just be seeing them isolated, you’ll often be seeing them as part of words, which are used in a particular context. Having a situation where the similarity will matter is pretty rare, because usually the similar looking kanji wouldn’t actually fit in the word in question, or they’ll turn it into a word that makes no sense at all in the context of sentence. Through the process of elimination, the few cases often 2 or more similar looking kanji could work can easily be dealt by taking a mental note of one or more differing radicals.

Furthermore, the readings aspect of RTK as well, can be gained through exposure.

As you see a kanji from a word you know already, used in a different word, sometimes the way the kanji will be read in a different way, by remembering this word as well, and mentally grouping these different readings, you’ll slowly begin building a list of readings that you’ll associate with that kanji and later on be able to guess with a recent success rate which of those will be used when you come across that kanji in another new word.

The main gain you won’t be getting through just reading would be the ability to write the kanji from memory on paper, however, if you’re in a situation where you’ll be needing that, as opposed to just typing them instead, you’d probably have alternatives, such as writing in a diary/journey/etc. by hand.

I imagine that back in the time when looking up words was a huge pain something like RTK would have been a godsend, but with all the tools that are available now, it’s usefulness has greatly diminished.

TL:DR: A good deal of what RTK spends many months teaching you, you’ll eventually also be able to get through exposure by reading, furthermore reading will also help you learn grammar and the vocab you’d actually be using for the reading you’d probably be learning Japanese to be able to do.

RTK very much feels like making yourself a head start, after the race has already begun.

Having said all that, part of the point of this guide is that there isn’t only one way to learn Japanese. Even if it will take longer, as long as you don’t give up, you’ll still be able to learn the language in the end, so if you’re very sure that RTK will help you, don’t let this stop you, and feel free to pick and choose which parts of the guide you wish to make use of.

However, for those that aren’t quite, please give the methods shown in this guide a try.

-Grammar Basics: Approximate time length to finish: (1 week ~ a few months)

Grammar is one of the most important aspect of the language to learn. Even if you learn every word in a language, it’s all for nothing if you don’t understand how they work together.

Two major methods people often use when starting out are Tae Kim and Genki.

A rundown on their differences below:

Tae Kim

Genki (leads to Textbook Route)

In short, Tae Kim is for if you want to quickly breeze through the basic grammar so you can do your actual studying by reading things you’re interested in. Genki for a much more slower paced and more school-like experience.

There are also other options such as “Japanese the Manga Way” that fall somewhere in between.

(Optional (Can lead into the anki route), while reading through either option, you could set up anki for some daily reviews, in order to get a bit of a head start on your vocab for when you start reading)

An important thing to keep in mind while reading Tae Kim is that you’re not expected to immediately memorize everything upon reading it, just reading it enough to understand how the grammar points work is fine.

All the grammar covered in it is pretty basic (even that from the section that calls itself advanced), so they’ll show up rather commonly when you start reading. The actual memorizing part will start when you keep looking up the grammar points in question while reading.

Another thing to keep in mind is that while it is fine to use it as a starter guide, Tae Kim sometimes simplifies its explanations a little bit too much, so it might be a good idea to refrain from using it as gospel.

        

Intermission: approximate length to finish:(a day at most)

Now that you’re ready it’s time to set up everything you’ll need for the main stretch.

Reading tools:

One of the larger obstacles in learning Japanese is that Kanji makes it difficult  to look words up. Unless the words are in plaintext already and you can copy and paste, You’ll either need to know the reading already, draw it or look up the radicals. While the last two are manageable, it quickly becomes a huge, time consuming pain to do when you’re still at the stage when you don’t know a lot of words yet.

Thankfully, there exists a method to make your life easier called text hooking.

Text Hooking enables you to grab the text that’s currently being displayed on the screen as plaintext, so you can easily look up what a particular word means. There’s multiple tools that you can do this with:

  1. Interactive text hooker (ITHVNR) + Translator aggregator (TA)  
  2. Interactive text hooker (ITHVNR) + Firefox+furigana inserter+rikaisama (DTR)
  3. Interactive text hooker (ITHVNR) + chiitrans

For an idea of how they’ll end up looking like when you finish setting them up:

Result example translator aggregator.

Result example Firefox+furigana inserter+rikaisama        

Result example Chiitrans

A basic rundown on the differences:

Translator aggregator and Chiitrans are automatic parsers, meaning they will go through the sentence for you and separate/color words for you automatically, while rikaisama, being a manually one, requires you to manually hover over the word you’re interested in.

When starting out automatic parsing is something that could make things easier for you, however, it would be a good idea to switch over to manually parsing lines yourself.

Between Translator aggregator and chiitrans the main difference is that chiitrans is by far easier to install, but Translator aggregator lets you use 2 different parsers at the same time, thus having a higher chance that at least one of the two will get it right.

        First of all, download ITHVNR from
here.

ITHVNR is our actual text hooker and will be taking the text out of the game being played and store it in the clipboard, letting the other tools access it.

To see how to hook a game, please take a look at this. In short, select the game.exe in the processes menu, load a line, and then check all the options from the drop down menu until you find one that gives you the text that is currently being displayed.

If you only find options that repeat the same characters over and over, enter the Option menu and turn “auto enable suppression” on. Note

that this will sometimes cause words characters that actually do need to be repeated to get cut off, in that case you will have to manually double it in order to look it up, and if you’re not paying attention to the original text in the source it might lead to confusion. There aren’t many cases where turning “auto enable suppression” is necessary, but be careful.

If none of the options in the list give you any useable/complete text, first of all try going to the options menu of the program you’re trying to hook and try setting the text speed to instant. In case that doesn’t work check here  to see if the game you’re playing has a hook code made for it . If you find one, paste the code into the empty box above the drop down box in ITHVNR (the codes are version sensitive, so check to see if the version of the program you’re trying to hook matches .

ITHVNR and the other text hooking programs by generally only support various visual novel engines by default. This means that if you’re playing a vn using an engine/engine version that isn’t supported or a game. you’ll need to manually tell ITHVNR where to look for the text through the use of a hook code. You can either hope that somebody else cared enough about the game you’re playing to make a hook code for it, or make your own (there’s a guide on that here (warning: requires you to be very computer savy).

When done, go to the Options menu in ITHVNR and turn “Auto copy to clipboard” on so that the other tools can use the hooked text without you having to manually copy it from ITHVNR.

After setting up everything, it would be convenient to press the Save button so ITHVNR will automatically hook the game when it detects text from it and save you time.

Method 1: Translator aggregator (which you can get from here). , like its name suggests, can be used for aggregating a whole bunch of machine translations that will translate text that’s copied onto the clipboard, but we don’t actually want that (I hope), so disable them all. They will not do you any favors and will only further confuse you since machine translations tend to be pretty bad and won’t help you learn.

What we’re interested in is that it has the functionality to make use of parsers that will parse any text that has been copied to the clipboard and make it easy to look up words by giving the definition of any of the words you hover your mouse over.
There’s 2 different parsers available, mecab and Jparser, mecab is less prone to misparsing text and will recognize names, but jparser will also catch sayings and expressions. However, to get the best of both worlds, you can simply just set up Translator aggregator to use both of them at the same time.
In order to set up jparser, grab and extract the edict2.gz file from
here and put the extracted file, edict2.bin (which you can otherwise simply get from here directly, in case you’re having problems with extracting it), into translation aggregator’s dictionaries folder.
To set up mecab you can grab it from
here and install it.
After that, open up translator aggregator and in the “window” menu select jparser, mecab or both.

(If the page refuses to scroll down along with the newly appearing text a few refreshes will fix it)

The advantages of using this method are:

Unlike the other methods, rikaisama supports dictionaries other that edict so it becomes more convenient to use the eiwa daijiten and/or J>J dictionaries.

You manually select words with rikaisama, so you can avoid misparsing.

You’ll have the browser open so you can quickly look up words that aren’t in any of your offline dictionaries.

        

        

In short, it’s ITHVNR with TA built into it, pretty straightforward to use. download from here.

You can turn machine translations off and insert hook codes in the options menu.

The hook engine of chiitrans is a bit outdated, so if you stumble upon something that lacks a  h-code and it can't hook, you should try and check if it works in ITHVNR.

A problem with most of these methods is that they rely on the EDICT dictionary for their definitions. EDICT sometimes lacks nuance and/or explanation due to sticking with one word definitions for the most part. Most of the time this will still be fine, but there will be times where it will lead to confusion. Hence it would be a good idea to also have alternate dictionaries to fall back on. A good one is the EPWING dictionary called the waei daijiten that gives its definitions in english (available from here) and/or an EPWING J>J dictionary (pick one, or bunch of them from here). There’s a good page that compares the different J>J dictionaries here.

Unlike EDICT,  the waei daijiten gives explanations and many example sentences that help with giving a better sense of words and grammar structures. J>J dictionaries are the endgame you should be aiming for because of those having the best explanations, but are tough for beginners to jump into.

In order to make use of the EPWING dictionaries, you’ll a program that can properly read them, such as Ebwin4 (available here).

When starting out (and later) edict is fine to use, but don’t hesitate to look up a word in a better dictionary instead if you feel something is off about the EDICT entry.

Extra: hook any text

In case of things that you can’t hook using the above methods, such as most games and emulators, it might be worth trying out the program called hook any text on it.

(The version linked on the page doesn’t seem to be working properly so here’s an edited version). Your mileage may vary as there’s a chance the devs are using a strange encoding or the text isn’t being written to just one spot in the memory, meaning this method won’t work.

As for using it, you could either follow the very useful interactive guide made by the creator or read on for an example of how to get it to work with the ps2 game Baldr force exe.

First of all, you’ll need to get the game, a ps2 emulator, cheat engine and hook any text onto your computer. Next put the contents of the compressed file into cheat engine’s autorun folder (if done properly a hook any text box will pop up when cheat engine is opened). After that, use the emulator to run baldr force (you’ll need to put the video plugin settings on a software renderer for it to work) and attach cheat engine to the emulator. Start a new game and stop at the first line, now either transcribe part of the line or just copy “……虚空を漂う感触は、経験したものにしかわからない。” and convert it to hex (from SJIS encoding in this case, but depending on the game you might need to use a different one) using this page, which will get you something like: “816381638b958bf382f0955982a48ab4904782cd81418c6f8cb182b582bd82e082cc82c982b582a982ed82a982e782c882a28142”. Back to cheatengine, set up your Value type to be on “Array of byte”  like this and do a first scan,a few addresses should pop up. Finding out which one the correct one is can be done through trial and error, in my case it was the second one. Select the address you can to try and press ctrl+b to make the memory viewer pop up, in there, drag and select the clump of characters and a bit of the zeros that are under it, like this. Now check the hook any text window, if everything went well it should look like this and you should be good to go. You can set hook any text to autocopy in the options so that it can function similarly to a regular text hooker. Once done, you can greatly shorten the process by double clicking the memory address and saving the cheat table, meaning you won’t have to search for the address again (However, in some games the address will change each time you start it, so this won’t work).

The reason for having to select all those zeroes is due to new lines overwriting the previous ones in the memory, so if a later line is longer, those zeroes will get filled with text that you might have missed otherwise. For the same reason, if a new line is shorter than the previous one, the last part of that previous line will be copied along with it.

Some other games I’ve managed to get it to work with include the Fate/extra (psp) and the Ar tonelico (ps2) series.

Anki (necessary for Anki Route)

Setup:

Upon installation, I recommend downloading the core deck to start off with. Double click the deck wherever you installed it and it will automatically import it. It’ll then be accessible in the anki main page when you open up the app. To the very right of the deck is an arrow, go to options as indicated here, which should open up a menu that looks like this, where you can tinker with the amount of new and review cards per day. The way the system works is all predicated upon your honesty (so it would be a good idea to not try and cheat the system by telling it you remembered a card when you actually didn’t). The easier a card is for you, the longer the interval is before you see it again. The more mastery you attain of a particular card, the longer the interval is.
When starting out, try setting anki to show you 20 new cards a day, and increase that amount in increments of around 5 every so often if you think you can handle it. One of the good parts of Anki is that even if you’re very busy with other things, you can put the amount to something low like 5 per day, which still is much better than not doing any practise at all.

Install this add-on in order to get anki to display the kanji stroke order and other additional information on the cards, so you don’t have to keep looking elsewhere for it.

Overture (estimated time ~forever)

This is where the real deal begins. Now that you’ve fully set up everything and have gotten a grip of the basics, you’ll now be able to start off the process of gathering vocab, grammar and entertainment.The main method to accomplish this will be through reading things, a good chunk of them. Due to this, even if you pick the Anki route or any of the other ones, you should still read through the reading route section since doing the other routes on their own will not lead to very good results.

Reading Properly

The game plan behind reading is simple. When you encounter a word you don’t know yet (and there will be many of them for quite a while), then you look it up using one of the methods described in the intermission, and probably forget it again after a while. The next time you come across the word, you look it up again and this time remember it a bit better than the last time. After a repeating this a few times you’ll reach the point when you’ll remember the word.

When starting out with something new to read, there’s a high chance you’ll feel as if you’re colliding into a barrier at a high speed, due to the large amount of new vocab and in some cases, the unfamiliar way the text is structured. However, if you keep at it for a few hours, you’ll quickly memorize the words the writer loves to use, memorize the words important to the setting and get used to the writing style used by the writer. This will let you focus your energy on the remainder that consists out of the less common words.
You might have noticed that aside from the basic grammar taught by Tae Kim’s guide and
Genki, there hasn’t been anything else on grammar brought up to this point. This is because the remainder of the grammar will be learnt in a way similar to vocab. By looking them up as you encounter them when reading. Edict often will contain grammar constructions, but it's (often one word) definitions are not the best at helping you understand, so here are some better resources you could use:

These are an excellent resource that will most likely be very useful when starting out. The differentiation between the difficulty of grammar points is rather arbitrary, but they range quite thoroughly in the contemporary Japanese grammar that you’ll be looking for when starting out. An extremely condescended version of the series has been made by the kind fellows of DJT which can be downloaded here. The PDF in the link provides easy navigability while not having the most complete explanations. If those do not prove to be sufficient, then the scans of original books in the link above will prove a more in depth explanation. If possible though, please buy the books to support the creators.

If you decide to read the scans, please note that only the advanced book has a complete index of all 3 the dictionaries.

Contains more content that the DoJGs have, but has a slightly confusing layout. One of the best features of the site are insightful comments that a lot of the pages have.

Has a rather overwhelming amount of content (which is part of why it is not in the common route along with tae kim and genki), but the content itself is good. However, it can be a bit hard to search through for specific things. There’s also a pdf version of the site here.

Tips:

Native Japanese Resources

Once you’ve gotten the hang of reading, there are various other resources you can use to deepen your understanding of grammar, first of all, this breakdown of how verbs work will teach you the true Japanese terminology for verbs which will make reading a Japanese dictionary much more sensical. There are also a few resources on more advanced grammar points, such as Classical Japanese, so understanding the terminology will eventually come in handy.

A good Japanese resource is 庭三郎の現代日本語文法概説 (in order to read it you will have to have to set your encoding to EUC-JP like this), however, it might be pretty difficult to understand, so if you find yourself struggling much, 「国語の先生が教える国語文法」would be a better place to start off with.

For classical japanese there’s the site called Hello School that would probably help.

Also goes by the name of 「google/yahoo searching the thing you’re curious about and add either 意味「いみ」(meaning) or とは(used when defining terms) to your search and clicking the first option that seems like it’ll help」-method.

You’ll often be able to find things that aren’t listed in the J>J epwing dictionaries this way.

A few of the good sites to keep an eye out for are:

When starting out J>J grammar definitions will probably be a bit more difficult to understand than the vocab ones, so those are more of a thing to keep in mind for later

.

-S.O.S. (asking questions)

You will often encounter things that would be pretty hard to figure out on your own and there will be cases where when you check to see you understood what you just read, your understanding of a line won’t sense and you’re unable to figure out where exactly you went wrong.

Hence I can’t stress the importance of asking questions enough.

Make sure to always paste a few lines of the surrounding text, though. This way those you’re asking for help will have the context to be able to help you properly.

Some places where you’d have a significant success rate of getting an answer are:

-Media

When reading, there’s a bunch of different media to use for practice, each with other methods to tackle them well.

Visual novels:

Probably the most convenient method as it’s the one with the most tools that can help you. If you’ve read the intermission you should be ready to go already. For those looking for inspiration in choosing what VN to read, there’s a list of recommendations here.

Manga:

These usually have short and easy to parse sentences + clear visual cues, making them very easy to start off with. Due to manga consisting out of images, the only surefire method to look up words are either radical search, handwriting search or OCR (Optical character recognition). the first 2 time consuming, and the last potentially very annoying to use. Thankfully, most manga aimed at kids have the useful addition of furigana, which is when they write the reading of a particular word above the word itself, so you can easily type that into any dictionary to look it up. there’s a useful list of various manga + whether they have furigana (振仮名) or not here. I would recommend trying to stick to manga that has furigana at first, as that would be far more time efficient than spending more than twice the amount of time using the other lookup methods.

A surprising amount of manga publishers release their manga digitally online for free, with restrictions of course. Most of the time you’ll only be able to read the last few chapters, meaning you’ll have a time limit to read read them. Although in the list below there are some sites that don’t have a time limit at all (mainly the webcomic ones).
A lot of these sites have manga you won’t be able to find in any of “those places”, so it’ll probably be worth it to look around.

The add-on Distill web monitor is incredibly useful for remaining aware of new chapters so you don’t miss them. Make sure that you’re smart and select a part of the screen that will only change when a new chapter releases, though.

Short version list:

There’s a list of recommendations of things to read here.

Anime/Drama (and watching other things):

Trying to learn Japanese by watching anime with english subs + listing extra hard is often seen as a joke, a good method to make sure you  won’t be getting anywhere anytime soon. However, if you get down at least the basics of Japanese first, watching anime also becomes a worthwhile method of practice, as now you’ll actually have an idea what you’re even trying to listen to.

However, listening is still relatively hard to start off with, so starting off by practicing with visual novels or games that have voice acting would probably be a good idea.

Otherwise, you could also try using Japanese subs (anime/drama) in case you’re trying to watch a show that has them.

By opening the subs up in an subtitle editor such as aegisub or subtitle edit you can easily copy the words to look up, too.

Since the subs are based on the tv airing of the show, that means they will probably unsync due to the ad breaks during the original airing.

There are a few ways to fix this:

The easiest to use is the subresync feature of media player classic. First, let your show play until one of the characters is just about to start talking.

Then, open up subresync (you can also press ctrl+6) and look for the first line with speech in it. Select the line and press F5 to set that line to appear at the time you’ve paused the video at. If done well, you’ll be able to see that the rest of the lines have been adjusted as well in the preview row.

Since shows often have another ad break (sometimes multiple) in the middle, you might have to do repeat this process, this time, look for a line that appears with a relatively long delay after the previous one (make sure you reset the previous change you made using the F1 button otherwise the combination of both changes might mess up the timing).

You can also change the subs through aegisub or subresync (the latter having a helpful feature concerning this) however, due to not having a function that lets you sync the subs to the point where the video currently is, they’ll take more effort to use. On the flipside, since you can use them without needing to reset your previous sync each time you resync, you can share your retimed subtitles with others.

Sites where you can find submitted properly synced subs are:

If you are fine with streaming, the site animelon has a player with built in japanese subtitles. By turning off the Auto Hover Translate in the options (like so) it becomes possibly to conveniently use rikaisama on the subtitles like this.

Games:

These are a bit tricky, as consoles games are probably the hardest to look up words for, due to the complete lack of tools to make your life easier available on these and games for pc will most likely not have a h-code made for them yet. Furthermore, most genres of games are pretty low on text, meaning you’ll end up playing more than actually practising which is something to be mindful of.
On the flipside, most games have relatively easy writing, so it won’t take all too long to be good enough at reading that the handwriting/radical searching becomes manageable.

There are also some games here and there that make use of furigana (the ps2 wild arms games for example)

There’s a list of recommendations of games to play here.



Light novels/novels:

Work similarly to games if you chose to go physical, with the difference that they will often have partial furigana for the more uncommon words. If you choose to go with digital books however, the kindle app that amazon uses for its digital books comes with a built in dictionary function. This function lets you easily look up the words you highlight in either a J>J or J>E dictionary and is very useful.

If you decide to read webnovels you can just use rikaisama, but beware typo’s.

-Anki Route

If you plan on going down this route, first go back to anki setup and set it up if you haven’t yet.

Remember that you should try and keep your anki routine as compliment to your reading activity. If you end up spending far more time doing anki than you spend reading then you might want to reconsider your planning and the amount of new cards you’ve set to appear each day.
Anki isn’t as much of a  learning as it is a review tool, so it’s best to avoid making it your primary source of study, not to mention that would probably get kind of boring at some point.
A good starting point is to start working on the core 2/6k deck that’s linked in the anki setup section. Just do it until you start until you start feeling more confident in your reading reading ability, or until you reach around the 2000 card mark.

After that, it would be a good idea to start creating your own decks based on the things you’re actually reading.

A useful tool to help you with that is
epwing2anki. First of all, download the program from that site. After that, you’ll need to need to create a text file containing the words you want to turn into a flash card. You have 2 options, you can either get epwing2anki to generate the example sentences itself, or you can simply add the line you saw the word in the card. I’d recommend the latter, but if you’re reading something that can’t be hooked, typing in the entire sentence could be annoying.
Thankfully it’s not too difficult to mix the two options into the same anki deck.

In order to add in the sentences yourself you’ll have to format your text file in such a way that the line is first, and separated from the word with a tab like this, make sure to put each line+word combination on a new line.
If you want epwing2anki to generate example sentences for you, then it’s enough to simply put a word on each row. Make sure you don’t mix words where you provide the example sentence and those where you don’t, you’ll need to put them in separate text files. You’ll also need to make sure you use the dictionary form of the words you add, or epwing2anki won’t find them.
Next up is setting up epwing2anki itself, first of all you’ll need to set up the dictionaries it will be pulling its definitions from. As its name suggests, those dictionaries are the EPWING dictionaries that were brought up in the intermission earlier. To add them, simply click on the Add EPWING dictionary button and
 find the catalog file of the dictionary you wish to use. By moving the dictionaries up and down you can change the priority of which dictionary epwing2anki will use for the definition, so that if a word is missing in one of them, it will use the next one.

I’d recommend setting your priorities as JP dictionary > waei daijiten > EDICT once you feel somewhat confident in your japanese or waei daijiten > EDICT if you’re just starting out (putting edict definitions on your cards is really something you’d want to avoid if possible).

The same goes for the priority in which to set your example sentence source (replace edict with tatoeba concerning the priority).

For the card layout, depending on whether your text file has example sentences or not, there are 2 different ways to set it up. In case of the example questions being included, remove the example sentences field and check the append line from word list field box (like this). Otherwise, leave the checkbox unchecked and keep the example sentences field in (like this). The order of the fields matters so be mindful of that.
On the next page, you’ll need to give the location of your text file and where you wish your anki import file to be created. Make sure to tell it that the column that contains the word is the second one, or the first one if you didn’t add example sentences to the text file. When done it should look like
this (this is with example sentences added). After that all that’s left is to press the create anki button, and tell it which entry you want in case there are multiple dictionary entries for that word.

Lastly, we’ll be needing to set up anki itself as well. On the main screen, press the Add button to bring up this screen and then click on the button that is next to Type. In order to create a new note type you select  manage>add> Add:basic > and type in any name. Next we go into the fields menu and create 4 fields in the order Expression > Reading > Definition > Sentence like this (the exact names you use don’t matter, as long as you remain consistent and keep the order correct). Next we go into the cards menu and use the add field button to add the expression to the front, and add the rest to the back (like so).

Feel free to mess around with the font and fontsize if you think it will help. The end result will be something like this.

Next, make a new deck on the main screen.

Now you can either go to file>import and look for the import file epwing2anki made or just double click it. On the screen that comes up make sure the note type and the deck match the ones you just made and you check the Allow html in fields box (result will look like this). The end result of the the deck I made to explain this looks like this (still needs a bit more formatting done).

After doing all this, adding more words is simply just a process of replacing (if all you do is just adding them it will result in you getting double cards) the contents of the text file with new words/sentences, overwriting the import file by creating a new one, and importing the new import file into the deck you made.

A big advantage that anki has is that you can run it on your
phone, so whenever you’re on the go and can’t read, but still feel you want to get some Japanese review in, that’s a perfect opportunity to make use of it.

If you choose to pursue this route, you will have have to to stick to your reps daily without slacking off (too much), elsewise the cards of the days to skipped will overwhelm you.

Finally, when you feel you are getting used to reading and anki is mainly just getting in the way/boring you, don’t hesitate in dropping it and simply just switching to the reading route.

-Wanikani Route

        

Wanikani is a preset curriculum designed to teach you some vocabulary and two thousand or so Kanji within the span of around a year. The first three lessons are free to take, so you can see if you want to pursue it any further. The structure is rather intuitive and the sense of progression can be motivating. At the start, radicals get introduced to you and only after you correctly identify a certain percentage of them, you’ll get to move on to the Kanji that the radicals form. Once you get a certain percentage of those corrent, you get to move on to vocabulary. When you’ve completed all that, then you get to move onto the next level.
It shares some of the faults that RTK has where for some of the radicals and Kanji they give nomenclatures that don’t make much sense, just for the sake of memorizing the shape of the Kanji using mnemonics. Therefore it would be a good idea to not take the English labels of the radicals or Kanji it gives as gospel.
The readings that it teaches are usually just the ones used most commonly, so please do not assume that when you graduate from a Kanji in the program, you’ve also reached mastery of its readings and usage.

Wanikani, just like Anki, is something that should be done on a daily basis and the process itself is self explanatory. Similarly to anki, you should make sure that the time you spend on it doesn’t start drowning out the time you spend reading.

Furthermore, don’t let yourself feel pressured to finish the entire curriculum, feel free to drop it once you get confident in reading or feel that it’s getting in the way (don’t forget to cancel the subscription if you decide do so).

-Textbook Route

        This route is for people that really feel like they need a much more structured learning curriculum and do not necessarily want to nosedive straight into reading. You’ll get a rounded out experience with a good understanding of modern Japanese however, the acquisition process will be slower and not necessarily as efficient if your main goal is to be able to read and listen. It is more easy however, in fact, mixing parts of this route in conjunction with the other ones will help you to solidify your understanding.

Starter textbook: Use the Genki series previously spoken about here. Read through each chapter and try to memorize the vocabulary (by their Kanji). If there’s a grammar point of which the explanation you don’t quite understand, it would be a good idea to consult Tae Kim or one of the other grammar resources brought up earlier and see if an alternate explanation would help. Try and do the exercises at the end of the chapter and then proceed by doing the workbook exercises in order to solidify the concepts. It would be wise to use the audio cds (also brought up previously) to have auditory exposure if you don’t already get much of it through other means.

Afterwards: After you’ve cleared the Genki series, have a look at this site. The central hub for your next textbook, Tobira. A word of advice, do a quick scan of the prerequisites list to check if you’ve seen most of the kanji in it before, as the textbook won’t be giving you furigana. While most of them them are contained in the words you’d have been taught in Genki, there’s a segment of the list that shows those that aren’t. If you’ve been reading there’s a high chance you’ll know all of these, elsewise the list will be convenient in that you can simply copy the kanji from it when you need to look up words that contain them.
Check out all the links in the drop down near the top of the page where all of your supplementary resources will be provided. The textbook may be purchased
here along with the additional grammar and Kanji supplements (or you could download them here). If you don’t really care about handwriting, then feel to skip the Kanji book, but it could help you with memorizing the vocab.The Cornucopia of Resources may help you as well.
When you start, I’d recommend reading the first pages as well, so you’ll be familiar with the terminology the authors use when explaining grammar points.

Link Hell:

http://bitlasers.com/djt/ the culimination of the legion of DJT posters blood, sweat and tears. In particular, the Cornucopia of Resources (note that there are multiple tabs) contains many useful links and uploads (including things like textbooks and manga), many of which are made use of in this guide.

Kana links:

Hiragana chart

Katakana chart

Kana warrior Game made for practising kana, kind of fun.

Anki kana deck

Grammar links + Textbooks:

Tae Kim's grammar guide the starter guide, would be best to read through it before getting into the bulk of reading.

Genki and the audio files the introductory textbook series that covers approximately the same amount of information as Tae Kim. The workbooks may prove to be useful practice.

Tobira Kanji prereqs and main site

Tobira+the supplements (downloads can be found here)

Imabi grammar guide but with an overwhelming amount of content, probably not a good idea to read it before other things, but still useful. Pdf version here

Jgram contains many grammar constructions and has useful comments. Easy to search through.

Dictionaries of japanese grammar (scans) (DJT pdf and docs for extra clarification)

Hello School 

Tool links:

Rikaisama used to easily look up definitions when reading webpages, can enable it to work with epwing dictionaries too.

Rikaikun inferior version of rikaisama made for those that use chrome.

Microsoft IME set up

Google IME download Recommended IME to use. The set up in the guide is for this one specifically.

Wakan contains an offline radical search alternative (press ctrl+r to start it)

ITHVNR the text hooker used for displaying text from (mainly) visual novels in plaintext, pretty useful.

H-code list check to see if what you’re playing is in here if ITHVNR fails to hook it by default.

H-code creation guide if nobody actually made a h-code for it, then it can’t be helped that you’d have to make one yourself. doing this requires you to be very computer savy

Translator Aggregrator program useful for making looking up definitions less of a pain, unless you want to machine translate for some reason, you’ll need to set up Jparser and/or mecab to for it to use.

Furigana inserter used in the guide for its clipboard monitoring function  to get text from ITHVNR into an empty page.

Chiitrans very easy to set up text hooker.

http://kitsunekko.net/ contains japanese subs for various shows.

Anki used for SRS practise

EBwin 4 used to read J>J and the waei daijiten dictionary files.

Dictionary links

http://jisho.org/ dictionary site that makes use of the edict dictionary, the radical search function is very useful

EBwin 4 used to read J>J and the waeidaijiten dictionary files.

waeidaijiiten Alternate, better J>E dictionary

J>J dictionaries (torrent). A good write up on the differences between them can be found here

Anki links

Anki used for SRS practise

Core deck + guide how to use it. probably the best premade deck you can get.

Stroke order viewing add on so you don’t need to constantly look it up manually

Places you can probably ask people for help:

plus.shonenjump.com/ shounen jump's websection, has a lot of series that don't appear in the normal magazine. the stuff there is very easy to read.

www.zeppan.com , large collection of old manga out of print manga, uploaded with artist's permission, started by Ken Akamatsu (love hina mangaka)

comic-walker.com/contents/list/, has a huge amount of LN adaptions, might need to set the site to japanese first.

www.comico.jp "what if naver webcomics were actually japanese ones."

http://comic.mag-garden.co.jp/blade/ has some nice series, site also has a BL, shojo and another section

http://seiga.nicovideo.jp/manga/ niconico manga section, contains a huge collection of both serialized and webmanga.

www.tsuredurechildren.com feels

www.tonarinoyj.jp young jump web section, has a bunch of good stuff like onepunchman.

www.younganimal-densi.com/index young animal web section

www.kurage-bunch.com not quite sure what this is

www.famitsu.com/comic_clear Famitsu's comic section, contains mostly game rela            ted manga (bravely default, danganronpa, etc)

www.neetsha.jp lists, ranks and links to various webcomics.    

www.comic-r.net more webcomics

www.ganganonline.com/comic websection of square's comic gangan, lots of good comedy series

www.mangalifewin.takeshobo.co.jp comedy

www.mangabox.me/ Might need to switch the site to its japanese version

www.alphapolis.co.jp/manga more obscure light novel adaptions

www.comic-meteor.jp/read_comic websection of comic-meteor, bunch of stuff I like in there.

http://tap.akitashoten.co.jp/ websection of champion tap magazine

www.yawaspi.com/index.html websection of comic big spirits

www.zenyon.jp not sure what this is either

www.webaction.jp/ comic action's web section

www.garakunomori.com never heard of any of these before.

www.moae.jp/comic/list/series more unknown stuff, seinen

http://urasunday.com/ contains some wierd stuff.