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Born from the strong sister state relationship existing between the State of Michigan and Shiga Prefecture, the Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) has run programs in Hikone since 1989.

Sister State

Michigan, the Great Lakes State, and Shiga Prefecture, home to Lake Biwa, joined together in 1968 to form a sister state relationship. This bond is the oldest and most comprehensive sister state relationship between the U.S. and Japan.


The governors of Shiga Prefecture and the State of Michigan signed an agreement to create the Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) in September 1988, the 20th anniversary of the sister state relationship. Michigan's 15 public universities formed a consortium for the purpose of operating JCMU. Shiga Prefecture provided the new institution with grounds, buildings, and on-site staff to cooperate with JCMU in the development and execution of cultural exchange activities.


JCMU's flagship intensive language and culture program was initially the institution's only offering, but over the last 25 years the selection has expanded to a include a diverse array of study abroad programs, including internships and short professionally-oriented courses covering a wide range of subjects.

In addition to the American consortium universities, JCMU has partnered with local Japanese universities, beginning with the University of Shiga Prefecture (USP) in 1998. Then in 2003 Shiga University (SU) became another partner and joined the USP in forming official student exchange agreements with the JCMU consortium member Universities. Finally, the Shiga University of Medical Sciences (SUMS) also created an exchange agreement in 2008.

These relationships allow JCMU students to take elective courses and participate in social and cultural activities at these universities, and the partnerships allow Japanese students from these universities to study at consortium institutions in Michigan. The exchange programs have created lasting connections among students in both countries, further strengthening the bond between Michigan and Shiga.


The level of exchange between the State of Michigan and Shiga Prefecture is unprecedented, displaying the dedication both political bodies have for intercultural development. JCMU is a living symbol of that dedication, representing a commitment to prepare citizens of both Japan and the U.S. for the reality of our increasingly international world. It is upon cooperative efforts like JCMU that the future will be built, and JCMU strives to give its students the global awareness to forge those mutually beneficial partnerships.