Japan Center for Michigan Universities

Japan Center for Michigan Universities

The nihongo|Japan Center for Michigan Universities|ミシガン州立大学連合日本センター|Mishigan shūritsu daigaku rengō Nihon sentaa (JCMU), a study center operated by a consortium of the fifteen public universities in the State of Michigan and the government of Shiga Prefecture in Japan, is located on the shore of Lake Biwa, in the city of Hikone. Founded in 1989, JCMU offers May, summer, semester, and academic-year programs for the study of Japanese language and culture for American college and university students, a substantial number of them from Michigan and provides English language instruction to serve the needs of the local Japanese population. The US administrative offices of JCMU are located at Michigan State University.


As a part of the continuing sister state relationship between Michigan and Shiga Prefecture in 1988, an agreement was signed by the governors of Michigan and Shiga Prefecture to form the Japan Center for Michigan Universities. In September 1989, JCMU officially opened in a temporary building, The Cultural and Industrial Exchange Hall of Shiga, in Maibara, Shiga. The following September, construction on the JCMU campus in Hikone, Shiga was completed, and courses resumed there. In October 1998, an agreement was made with nearby Shiga University to provide courses on their campus. Five years later in 2003, a similar agreement was made with The University of Shiga Prefecture, also in the same city.


The campus is found on the shore of Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan, in Hikone, Shiga. It includes an academic building and a dormitory. Attached to the academic building is a Coco's restaurant, a Japanese family style restaurant. In the academic building, there are classrooms, a computer lab, a library, conference rooms, a traditional Japanese tatami room, a large hall for functions, and administrative offices. The classrooms feature windows overlooking the lake, the surrounding mountains and nearby Hikone Castle, and a Japanese style garden. The dormitory features apartments for both students and faculty, a fitness room, a computer lab, an entertainment room, and a large lobby.


In the beginning the program was exclusively an academic year program for Japanese; however, as it became apparent that this resulted in smaller class sizes, the administration expanded the program to allow for students to choose the semesters that they would stay there.

Today JCMU typically has six academic programs throughout the year: single semester program, the academic year program, the environmental sciences program, the May short program, the summer program, and the English language program for locals.

The main focus of the curriculum is intensive language study. It is loosely based on the curriculum at Michigan State University, although the professors take considerable freedom in adapting it to the needs of the facility. Students learn what they would normally learn in two semesters at Michigan State University in just one semester. During the summer, this is the only course that is offered as it is a mere eight weeks. During the two week long May short program, language courses are not offered at all but instead courses on specialized topics are offered, unique each year.

While additional courses vary by the semester depending on the visiting professors, they have been known to include classes on culture, film, art, economics, religion and environmental science.

Other opportunities for students include staying with host families in the area, field trips, and the ability to do internships concurrently with the regular courseload.


Perhaps the best-known and long lasting tradition at JCMU is Sugimoto. Sugimoto is a restaurant near Hikone Station, and is well known in the area. The owner and his family have a close relationship with JCMU. Early in JCMU history, students began going there every Thursday night to drink and socialize with locals. In the fall of 2003 the tradition was moved to Wednesday nights as the weekly Japanese assessment tests are on Friday mornings. The weekly event has become somewhat famous in the area, and many Japanese people looking to practice their English skills, as well as other English speakers looking for an opportunity to speak their native tongue have been known to come as well.

Students seeking an alternative to Sugimoto have taken to frequent YABS Sports Bar & Grill. YABS is located on Bell Road south of JCMU. The proprietor, “the estimable Mr. Yabu”, creates a fun atmosphere with Japanese and global sports in the many televisions. The loudspeakers blast American music and the staff jest with the customers in what can only be described as coarse English. YABS is also a congregating place for English speakers in the Hikone area. Besides JCMU students, many JET program participants can be found drinking along with other expatriates who have made their way to this particular city in Shiga Prefecture.

It has also become a yearly tradition to host a Halloween party. The party is divided into two parts, the first of which is intended for area children as Halloween is not a holiday that is celebrated in Japan although many have heard of it. The children are invited to come in costumes, and they participate in games, songs, and haunted houses put on by the students of JCMU. The second half of the party is primarily for the students themselves, and they are permitted to invite their own friends from the area. This part of the party includes food, drinks, and a costume contest.


Due to budget cuts in Michigan education, JCMU has faced some funding challenges in the past few years. Despite the lack of financial support from the State of Michigan, Shiga Prefecture has continued to support the program. Efforts are being made to reestablish support from the State of Michigan. These efforts include having former students speak in front of the Michigan legislature, increasing program fees, dramatically increasing enrollment, and inviting Jennifer Granholm, the governor of Michigan, and the presidents of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University to visit the facility in July 2005.

Aichi World Expo

In the summer of 2005, Expo 2005 (the World's Fair) was held in the Aichi Prefecture of Japan. The United States, absent from the Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany, was looking to participate in Expo 2005, and needed a facility to train guides. JCMU took on thirty young people in January 2005, primarily students, and trained them in polite language and the vocabulary that would be needed for the United States Pavilion. They were taught by the normal JCMU staff, divided into three classes due to the varying levels of ability among the guides; however, they were housed in a nearby resort hotel owned by Toyota due to the lack of space in the dormitory. In May, JCMU trained ten more guides who replaced those guides returning home early. Due to the success of the guide training program, JCMU has received more attention and praise.

External links

* [http://www.isp.msu.edu/jcmu/ Information on the Japan Center for Michigan Universities and its academic programs]
* [http://www.jcmu.net/ The official webpage for the Japan Center for Michigan Universities]
* [http://www.daninjapan.com/ A student's journal of his semester at JCMU in 1999]

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