This learning path is not made for everyone. It's made for people who enjoy reading, are happy to skip writing Japanese and enjoy learning with Comprehensible Input much more than Spaced Recognition Systems (SRS). It is organised such that you get multiple exposure to vocabulary in at least two different contexts.
This path is focused on the core steps. The more you do in addition the better : hiring a tutor, listening podcasts, using a textbook, learning Kanji with Wanikani...
All resources mentioned are free.
1-A Learn Katakana : they're a pain, as a new starter highly motivated you want to use your positive energy to learn them.
Read this page about Katakana to understand they are used esssentially for loan words.
Then go to H&M Japan and make an image search in your favourite search engine using the following keyword イタリアンレストランメニュー (Italian restaurant menu).
Start reading and realize how much you understand.
1-B Learn hiragana
2 - Interact with the language using Lingodeer or Duolingo. These apps will teach you basic grammar and vocabulary in a gamified way which is ideal to get you started.
3 - Read Sakubi : a concise introduction to Japanese grammar that will gives you the minimum of theory you need to start with. Its philosophy talks to me.
4 - Start reading Dr Dru's Main Experiment : I have spent the past few years creating comprehensible input for people who just started their Japanese learning journey. At the moment of writing, it will soon be 100 pages long. Assuming an average page introduces 3 words, that will expose you to 300 words within a very short time frame.
5 - Read as many Graded readers as you can : Ariane from Dokushoclub keeps an exhaustive list of the free ones. In these you will have the chance to encounter words learnt in DrDru's experiment and in Duolingo/Lingodeer once more.
6 - Confront yourself to native content like this relatively easy free comic book and realise how hard it is. Keep coming at it to measure progress.
7 - Use an SRS with a premade N5 deck. It will consolidate all the vocabulary you've learnt so far along with a few new words. By then you should know most of the words so don't be afraid to add a lot of cards per day. Once you know reasonably well 90%+ of the deck, stop SRSing (I personally think SRS is busy work that wastes precious time which could be used doing something productive or rest). To do that you can use the web version of Memrise. It is free and ad free.
8-A Start reading NH News web easy : here : it is a bit overwhelming at first but keep at it for a few weeks and it will become easier and easier. At some point you'll find yourself turning the furigana off. When reading it becomes boring, you're ready to move to something else.
Reading NHK easy news daily is so efficient that at this point you don't really need an to consolidate your vocabulary knowledge with an N4 premade deck.
8-B Read a more in-depth grammar book : such as the popular Tae Kim grammar guide.
By now your level should be around the N4 level.
Congratulations ! You just got out of the beginner level, you can now confront yourself to native content. From here onwards you're on your own. Welcome to the Intermediate Plateau(TM).
Some suggestions :
- Read the Tile world Chronicles : these are N4+ short illustrated stories I write that will get you used to the vocab used in JRPG.
- Sign up to Wanikani forum and join one of their bookclubs
A Final Word
Creating short stories in Easy Japanese has helped me a lot. I'd recommend doing the same sooner than later. I also encourage you to get them proofread and to publish them in a friendly format (bonus point if you can add illustrations) to help future learners. If every learner was to write just one and make it public, acquisition of the Japanese language would be a solved problem.