Whether you’re taking the JLPT or just hoping to be able to order food in a restaurant, there is a large number amount of tools to help you improve your Japanese language skills. Here’s a a short list of some self-study tools compiled just for you:
Wani Kani: This website uses SRS (which stands for Spaced Repetition System) to help make learning kanji feel as natural as possible and build a strong foundation of knowledge so that you won’t easily forget them. It is free up until a certain level but then you’ll have to pay a monthly fee if you want to continue learning. Regardless, if you plan to live/work in Japan for a decent amount of time, I highly recommend using this website to learn and study kanji.
Genki I & II: Excellent textbooks that come with workbooks and audio CDs. These textbooks gives detailed explanations on grammar points and integrate Kanji. They are considered to be ideal for self-study students, but also work well in classroom/tutoring environments.
スピードマスター (Speed Master) Series: Fantastic series aimed at getting you through JLPT Levels. Focuses on four main areas: Vocabulary, Listening, Reading, and Grammar. It’s pretty easy to find at bookstores here in Japan, whereas some other study materials are more difficult to locate.
Daiki Kusuya’s Kanji Starter 1 & 2: The first one, although more basic, works better than the second one. This pictographic method helps you remember how to write and read kanji. It’s inexpensive, small, and easy to carry around. Great for beginners.
James W. Heisig’s Remembering the Kana: A quick and simple method to help you learn the Hiragana and the Katakana. The author boasts his method will take you 6 days if you dedicate about 30 minutes to it, to learn both of these alphabets.
James W. Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji: A three part series using imaginative memory to learn the meaning of over 3000 characters. It does not, however, cover their readings.
Kodansha’s Read Real Japanese Essays collection: A collection of essays varying in complexity. It includes an audio CD and accompanying translations and explanations of difficult sections.
All Japanese All the Time: This blog is more of a self-help guide than an actual tool. If you want a shot of motivation or study structure, www.alljapaneseallthetime.com is the place to go.
The JET Programme Japanese Language Course: The official JET course book. Should you choose to sign up for the course, packages will be sent monthly to your house or to your school. You will be expected to fill in a test each month. After finishing the course, you will receive a certificate of completion.
White Rabbit Press Kanji Flash Cards: Excellent resource for studying kanji. Available in three volumes that span all of the 2000+ kanji appearing in JLPT N5 through N1. Each card will show the character’s stroke order, readings, usage in several different compounds, and English translations.
Minna no Nihongo: Another textbook series which is very similar to Genki, but that eventually covers more advanced Japanese.