Yeah, the best place to learn Japanese is of course in Japan. A good way of getting down the language at a faster pace is to enroll in a Language School. 3 years ago I studied Japanese for about 4 months in the Northern part of Japan for like 4 months at a University. That was way too short of a stay, and so I came back and tried to study on my own. However, that pretty much sucked, and also my college didn`t offer Japanese classes. I really wanted to learn Japanese, so I researched online and found a Japanese Language School. Before I came to Japan this time, I had a small base, but I could hardly hold a conversation. However, after studying at a language school for about less than a year, my skills have improved drastically. I can get by pretty well now, so that is definitely a cool thing.

I also have been living with a homestay family for the last 6 months, so that has really helped my conversational skills as well as my listening skills. Also, having a Japanese girlfriend has improved my language skills as well, but that is only one of the many benefits about having an intercultural relationship. Everyday in Japan is basically a learning experience, because you are forced to speak Japanese to get around. Plus when you are hanging out with Japanese friends, you can pick up lots of new words, because they ussually end up repeating those same words frequently through out their conversation. I also have some good American buddies over here as well, so it is good to go out and speak some English once in a while.

As for Kanji, I invested in an electronic dictionary, and as I would write sentences in class, I would look up the kanji for the word and write that down opposed to hiragana. It was kind of a pain at first, but once you write the kanjis down a bunch of times, you start to get the hang of it. In my practice book, I also wrote down the kanjis individually about a billion times until they were pretty much engrained in my head. As of right now I can probably read close to 800 or 900 kanji, and probably can write about half. However, I am not even close to where I want to end up, so I`m going to have to keep on with those kanjis.

I also depends on how dedicated you are to studying the language. I worked myself hard day after day to get where I am.
If you are a slacker and you don`t like to study, then it will take longer to become proficient. There are so many things you can do to improve your language skills. For example. watch Japanese TV, listen to Japanese music, read Japanese books, etc.

If you already have a good base of the Japanese, then it will be even easier to pick up on the language. Therefore, you shouldn`t have any worries about studying here in Japan, because it`s the best place to learn Japanese. All I can say is best of luck to all of you guys studying, and the most important part is just having fun with the language. It gets frustrating, believe me, but don`t give up! You can do it!