I've been studying Japanese on my own for over a month now. It's real challenge for me, because I have a lousy memory. Just trying to keep all the words straight is difficult even without the kanji. If I had someone teaching me, it would probably be easier. I've always had difficulty learning things on my own. I think that's why I didn't do very well in high school.
I recently became a fan of the show Heroes and about 1/3 of the dialogue is in Japanese, because the character Hiro, a Time Traveler, doesn't speak English very well. His friend Ando travels with him as his sidekick/translator, but later in the series, he meets a girl with the ability of "super memory" who helps him with his English while he teaches her Japanese. As appealing as all the other powers are, this is the one I'd want. The ability to learn quickly and retain everything I read. If I had that power, I'd never worry about flunking out of college and learning every language would be a piece of cake.
Wishful thinking aside, I plan to learn as many languages as I can. So far, the best method I've found for self-teaching is to write the word and meaning a few dozen times, say it aloud each time, and then wait a day to check if I recall it without having to look.
I learned all the hirigana and katakana this way. Even after a few weeks of not looking at them or thinking about them, I can still write both sets of characters. Whenever I successfully remember anything I taught myself, I feel a sense of accomplishment. It's a feeling I never experienced in school.
Learning the phonetic kana helps with pronunciation, but the kanji will be difficult without first learning the words and how to form coherent sentences. Some of them look like random clusters of dots. I'd love to know how the Japanese remember them all.
It must be the fish. I read that the best brain food is fish, which is a pity, since I can't eat it.
I wish Ramen was a brain food.