If you're a bit more advanced than, say, first semester Japanese classes, the path to success is really only copious amounts of the following two ingredients:
1. Building word power through reading, speaking, and listening
2. A lot of bloody time reviewing kanji (combined with reading - but sometimes flash cards are easier).
I find that the best way to accomplish building word power is to mimic the way I learned English - namely, reading really easy books suitable for my language level.
So now I'm carrying around a copy of ドラえもん (whatever edition) with me so that I can practice reading simple passages when I have down time. It comes faster and faster - just like when I was reading books in English as a kid!
Take the following:
That's actual text from the ドラえもん issue that I'm reading. The first word is rendered in kanji (obviously) - and reads ’ことり’ or 'baby bird'. So you might think 'wow - that kind of kanji is what they put in books for kids?'
Well - it makes sense doesn't it? Didn't we learn 'baby bird' when we were kids? So the question of 'where do I start with kanji?' is most simply answered by asking yourself 'what kind of words did I learn first?'
Japan and any other country aren't so different. Kids everywhere are interested in pretty similar stuff when it comes down to it.
So to break down the sentence fully in English, you might say:
Apparently there were baby birds and squirrels!
It seems that there were baby birds and squirrels!
Nobita-kun (our 'hero' in these books if you don't count ドラえもん), says more - but for the purpose of this blog, I'm trying to point out that cracking the kanji code is simply a function of regressing to your own childhood.