The Japan Center for Michigan Universities is located in Hikone, a city of approximately 100,000 people situated on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa. Hikone is a castle town, tracing its origins to the early seventeenth century, when a cluster of samurai residences and commercial establishments grew up at the foot of the castle of the local lord. The original castle buildings survive, as do many of the traditional industries. Off the beaten tourist track, Hikone preserves much of its charm and traditional values. At the same time, Hikone is a 45-90 minute train trip from the large cosmopolitan cities of Kyoto, Nagoya, and Osaka. Students will thus have ready access to a wide range of cultural resources.
Hikone and Shiga Prefecture are famous for natural beauty and historic landmarks. Located almost in the center of Honshu, the largest island of the Japanese archipelago, Shiga has long been important strategically and economically. It lays at the crossroads of the major east-west and north-south transportation routes. It is important both culturally and historically as a province immediately adjacent to the ancient capital city of Kyoto. Shiga is the site of innumerable temples and private villas built over the centuries by the court and military aristocracy. Today the prefecture government is positioning Shiga as an important national tourist and high technology region in order to achieve future economic growth, while preserving the natural beauty for which the region is famous.