While your motive may not be that important when you start learning other languages, it is a decisive factor in determining how to understand them. If you are going to Japan for a short time and spend most of your time with people who know English, probably all you need is a short introductory course that teaches you some important phrases like hello, sorry, sorry and other things like that. However, if you need to speak and understand conversational Japanese from beginner to intermediate level, you need to learn more than a few basic phrases.
If you fit into this category, you can try a formal Japanese course at school, college or university.
You may also find it cheaper and easier to learn Japanese through audio programming, software games, or watching Japanese movies. Whatever your choice of how to learn a language, be sure to choose an audio-based method. You should be able to hear the language spoken by a native speaker. Books alone are useless. An excellent Japanese audio program is an example of a highly natural teaching method. Try to replicate how the children learn their japanesepod101 language in the first place.
How does it work? Young children first learn how their mother tongue sounds when their parents talk to them. They learn by listening carefully. When this happens, children acquire a vocabulary of words to use themselves when they learn to speak. You have acquired a passive language but not yet active. As you learn how to learn Japanese, you will follow the same progress.
What about a letter? You can ask. How can you learn to write Japanese if you can’t even read these strange characters? Well, it’s up to you whether you need to study them or not. If you are only planning to come to Japan for a short vacation, you may not need to learn Japanese to start. It would be good to learn to read in that language. If you choose to do so, reading is an important step in learning Japanese, learning kanas, hiragana, and katakana, two main components of a very complex writing system. And make flash drives!
At the end
Speaking the language is the most important aspect, not reading and writing as most people want us to believe. People who travel to Japan and do not speak the language can learn spoken Japanese even at the beginner level. So whatever your decision on how to learn Japanese, focus on learning how to speak it well and enjoying your immersion in another culture!