Thus spake AJATTeer Shawn D.:
I used to tell my fellow JETs about how “studying Japanese” isn’t really just about “studying” at all, it’s about learning to live with the language, learning and developing in the language.
For example, my favorite thing to tell people is to do your hobby in Japanese. I am really into cycling, in Japan I used to hang out with bike builders, racers, etc. I raced, hung out at bike bars and even ended up training with a keirin (競輪) team. Think there was any English there? Nope, just a bunch of bikes and Japanese.
Because I was interested in the vocabulary it wasn’t like ‘studying’ at all, I was learning. I picked up terms, phrases and culture that I didn’t have to SRS, that I didn’t even to think about. It just stuck.
My version of sentence mining was reading and translating bike magazines. It was fun so it didn’t seem like work, because it wasn’t. I even got offered jobs and visa sponsorship due to my knowledge of bikes and Japanese/English. Do a hobby in Japanese if you can; it’ll pay off and it’ll be fun.