Here are a number of Japanese language resources from which I've gotten some great mileage. Most of them are thankfully easy to get through major US retailers, but don't be afraid to look for overseas sources when your favorite book seller doesn't carry an item.
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Japanese for Busy People - Kana Version
This is an older book, but still highly regarded. It mixes dialogue examples, questions, and larger reading passages. I had the opportunity to read through this book recently, and found the passages to be the best part.
This title's available in a romaji version, and in a kana version. In the romaji version, for example, you read hajimemashite, whereas in the kana version, you would see はじめまして instead. Many people say that it's important to learn the hiragana and katakana before you do a lot of Japanese reading, since it will really train your brain to read more swiftly and pronounce things more accurately.
Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary
I would have to recommend this kanji dictionary as one of the best paper references for English-speakers learning their kanji. The information is presented in a very clear and readable way, and there are at least four different ways of finding a given kanji in the book.
Also check the Kodansha Furigana Japanese Dictionary, but I think it's not quite as good a reference. Two-color printing and tabbing marks in the margins would really help break up the terms and definitions. Thankfully, the Oxford Beginner's Japanese employs both of those features, but the book is a bit too thin so it misses out on a lot of useful words and idioms I'd want to have with me.
Rosetta Stone JAPANESE Level 1 & 2 Software
This is a huge application, and a great start at building some useful vocabulary. The lessons are generally multiple-choice, reinforcing reading and visuals and listening comprehension. While it may seem odd with such early examples as "four kids are jumping off the table," you'll start to recognize the value of hearing many similar phrases and picking out the right meaning. You should not expect Rosetta Stone to teach you everything about Japanese language, but you can get a lot of good comprehension and vocabulary from it if you stick to your lessons.
I am just an early student in Japanese language, so please send me comments or corrections on my study aids!
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