When I was learning German, the quickest way I found to pick up new vocabulary was to read everything I could get my hands on. I’d write down all the words I didn’t know, and then go and look them up in a dictionary. It worked quite well – after a few months I was able to get by.
That approach doesn’t work with Japanese, because it’s impossible to look up the words unless you already know how to pronounce the kanji, or you’re prepared to spend a long time looking them up based on stroke count or radicals.
But then the other day while I was on the train I happened to look over the shoulder of some guy and saw that he was reading a manga that was written with furigana – smaller kana printed next to a kanji to indicate its pronunciation.
So off to the bookshop I went, trying to find some furigana’d manga. No luck – they were all sealed in cellophane (to stop people just standing there and reading them) so I couldn’t check them out.
I found success at the local library though. They didn’t have much choice, but as luck would have it they did have a series based on the Nausicaä movie.
Tough going so far. I haven’t even made it through the character introduction page yet…