The best of its kind
The “Oxford Japanese Mini Dictionary” does everything right. Inside this little pocket-sized book, you get a Japanese-English dictionary, an English-Japanese dictionary, and even a short phrase book tucked in-between. The word definitions are kept short and sweet, often no more than a single word which is usually all you need and the words aren’t cluttered up with pronunciation guides or anything extraneous.
Best of all is that the Japanese entries are presented the way they should be; in Japanese. There is no romaji, and all Japanese words are given in either hiragana or katakana, and a kanji form when appropriate. This is probably the best feature of this dictionary, as there are few greater barriers to Japanese language acquisition than the use of romaji. Looking up words not only gives you the definitions, but also repeated practice in utilizing the Japanese writing system.
All of the Japanese words are presented in standard dictionary form, not the -masu/-desu forms more common with beginning Japanese study. Examples are sometimes given in the -masu/-desu form, but not always.
Because this is a British-produced dictionary, many of the entries follow British spelling and style (ie: “colour” instead of “color,” “apartment” being the first offered translation for the word “flat,” and “cash dispenser” rather than “ATM.”). This is very minor though, and the American spelling/usage is always presented as well. It can make looking up terms a bit difficult however if you are not accustomed to British English.
Obviously, at this size the “Oxford Japanese Mini Dictionary” shouldn’t be anyone’s main dictionary. If you are a serious student of the Japanese language there is no substitute for an electronic dictionary. Even with trimming the fat from the definitions, there is a limit as to how many words you can cram into a small space like this.
What is presented here, however, are the most common words in Japanese and English, and this “Mini Dictionary” is a great resource for people interested in Japanese but not yet ready to make the several hundred dollar commitment required from an electronic dictionary.
According to the introduction, the included words were selected based on the idea of both usefulness to students and someone taking a trip to Japan and needing a dictionary back-up. In both of these cases and at this scale of portability I think you would be hard pressed to find a better dictionary than the “Oxford Japanese Mini Dictionary.”