Tokyo Mokyo's Kana and Kanji Practice Sheet Download Page
I really recommend this page for anyone starting to learn Japanese and wanting to learn the basic writing system. It includes PDF format practice-sheets for both Hiragana, Katakana, and some of the elementary level Kanji.
I want to keep this post more focused on internet resources and books, but I have to give a shout-out to my school first! GenkiJACS has practically been my home in Japan for the past 2 months, and 5 days a week I attend school there to learn Japanese. The teachers are very approachable, fun and loving people, and the quality of the classes are top-tier. We always have a great time there too, both in and out of the classroom. It is a bit on the expensive side, but not deathly unaffordable, and completely worth every penny I think.
I cannot say enough about YesJapan.com, it is in my opinion the best way for someone studying Japanese by themselves to learn the language. Compared to many of the books I've read and used, YesJapan's lessons are much more interesting, engaging, and easier to stay motivated with. The site requires you to have a monthly subscription to use it though, but is relatively cheap and even has a free 7 day trial to check it out before-hand. Along with the lessons, (complete with a free ask-a-teacher service for when you get stuck) YesJapan has quizzes, games, and lots of useful tools to aid in your studies as the site was designed from the ground-up for the self-studier. It also has a very fun and interesting Japan/Japanese language related video webcast that explores different cultural aspects of Japan and teaches the language in ways that textbooks never could. Here's a clip they uploaded to youtube from an episode about Taboos to Avoid in Japan:
I use Flash Card Exchange mainly for pounding new vocabulary into my head, but it is honestly a really great tool for any language learner, it lets you make your own flash-card sets which can be studied any time using a friendly interface, and from anywhere in the world where you can log in to the site. When I am chatting online with my Japanese friends and they use a word that I don't know, and look up the word in my dictionary and think "Hey, that's a cool word/phrase, I should remember that", there are two things I do. First, I try to use the newly learned vocabulary ASAP, the sooner you use it, and the more you use it, the more it sticks.. but also, I log in to my account on FlashCardExchange and throw the new word into one of my flash card sets..
SharedTalk.com is a voice-chat website that is setup for the soul-purpose of language exchange. It is free, and is a really great place to meet people to practice speaking the language you are studying with, in exchange for helping them practice speaking your native language. Unlike a lot of other chat sites, sharedtalk is specifically set-up as an international language exchange community, and thus you wont find perverts, weirdos, and other low-lifes there, but rather just people who are students of language and who want to exchange culture and language with you. It's also tonnes of fun!
Genki: An integrated course in Elementary Japanese (book)
Although I find the content of the book to be more class-room geared, and not as engaging for the self-learner as YesJapan, I have to say I am thoroughly impressed with this set of books (there are 2 textbooks, 2 workbooks, and a set of CDs which can be purchased, but really you only NEED the textbook).
Minna No Nihongo
I have only looked at this book briefly when one of my classmates at GenkiJACS showed it to me after I asked him how he learned Japanese, and I was impressed enough that even without having read it from cover-to-cover myself, I thought it deserved a mention. Minna no Nihongo (みんなの日本語) is a book written completely in Japanese using the Japanese syllable-based writing system (see This Page for an explanation of that writing system), so maybe it sounds intimidating for complete-beginners, but as a complimentary tool to other tools like YesJapan, I think this book has a lot of great content and a sound teaching method.
Well, I feel like somewhat of a salesmen for these links, but I thought in the spirit of academics I would share some of my resources with everyone, in case anyone else reading this is interested in learning the language of the rising sun.