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Living in Japan


Calling to Japan

There will be a telephone in each student apartment. The bill for local phone expenses is included in the JCMU housing fee. You may not make international calls from your room unless you use an international calling card. You can easily obtain an international calling card from convenience stores, however, the instructions are in Japanese.

Calls made from the US to Japan are expensive, though they are generally cheaper than calls originating in Japan, so it is a good strategy when calling home to make a short call, and have your parents and friends call you back, if they do not mind.

Japan doesn't participate in Daylight Savings Time, so it is 13 hours ahead of the Eastern Standard Time Zone during Daylight Savings Time (summer) and 14 hours ahead during Standard Time (winter). Family and friends may dial directly to reach students at the Center, by dialing the international access code (011), the country code for Japan (81), the area code for Hikone (749), the local exchange number (26) and 7 + the number of your room: 011 - 81 - 749 - 26 - 7 + (room number).

Internet Calling

Programs like Skype, Facetime, and Facebook Messenger have become many students' preferred method of contacting home. These services connect you to other users for free, and some can even call regular phone numbers for a small cost. That method is cheaper than a calling card because it uses the internet to carry the calls until it reaches its destination area, then only a local charge is issued. It is possible to use the computers in the lab for these purposes, but you won't have a guarantee of privacy. For this reason we recommend using a laptop or smart phone.

Cell Phones

Students in the past have been able to get Japanese cell phones using pre-paid options, however most cell phone companies in Japan no longer have pre-paid phone service. Getting a long term plan is a feasible option for academic year students, however students must have a Japanese residency card (this is issued at major airports when entering Japan on a long-term visa).

One option recent students have recommended is renting an international cell phone before leaving the US to use while in Japan. Those students recommend PicCell Wireless.

Internet Services

The Residence Hall and Academic Building are equipped with wifi, and all bedrooms have Ethernet ports. Students should bring their own Ethernet/LAN cable in case the wireless reception in their room is very weak. Please be aware that the internet, wireless in particular, is slower than what you may be used to the States.

All personal computers must be registered, and students will be asked to observe JCMU computer policies as well as the proper use policies established at MSU. Internet access may be limited under certain circumstances as determined by the Resident Director.

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Ground Transportation


Bicycling is the main mode of transportation for JCMU students. Most places in the local area are accessible by bicycle and train. Each JCMU student is issued a bicycle, helmet, and a bike lock to be used during the program.

If you cannot ride a bike, you might find travel to and from the grocery store, train station, and elsewhere difficult. We recommend brushing up on your biking skills (or learn how to ride) before coming to JCMU.

If you are unable to ride a standard bicycle for any reason, please contact us or set up an advising appointment as soon as possible so that we can better understand your needs and discuss potential alternatives. If you currently receive accommodations for a mobility disability, please also see our Students with Disabilities page for our disability accommodations process. 

JCMU students must wear a helmet when riding bicycles at all times. If a student is found to be riding a bicycle without a helmet, there are penalties that are stipulated in the bike loan agreement each student must sign upon receiving a bike.

Due to limited bike parking space at the Center, students are not permitted to bring their own bike to Japan or purchase a bike while in Japan unless special permission is granted. For example, individuals over six feet tall might find they are more comfortable on a large frame bike brought from the States or wheelchair users may wish to bring a handcycle. Students who wish to do this must make prior arrangements with the Student Services Coordinator in Japan.

Local Hikone Locations

Below are approximate distances from the center to several locations in the city.

[1.6 km = 1 mile]

  • Beisia Grocery Store - 2.7 km
  • Post Office - 2.7 km
  • ATM inside 7/11 Convenience Store - .5 km
  • Shiga University - 2.7 km
  • Hikone Castle - 2.9 km
  • Hikone Train Station - 3.8 km
  • University of Shiga Prefecture - 6.4 km
  • Hikone Hospital - 5.6 km

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Living in the Residence Hall

Gender Inclusive Housing

In order to best support our students of all gender identities and sexual orientations, JCMU's on-campus housing arrangements are gender inclusive.

During the post-application process, students will be asked to fill out an "Apartment Partner Information Form". Among other questions, students will be asked to answer the following questions as a part of this form:

  1. "Describe your gender identity"
  2. "For pairing purposes, I am comfortable rooming with students of the following gender identities..."
  3. "Is there a participant with whom you would especially like to share an apartment?"

This information is only for roommate pairing purposes and will be kept confidential. Students are encouraged to write in whatever is most accurate and comfortable for them. JCMU will do their best to match students with a roommate according to their answers -  however, in the case that this is not possible, we will contact the student and ask how best to move forward. Furthermore, if two students list each other's names for the third question above, JCMU will pair you both together regardless of other considerations. 

JCMU strives to be open, flexible, and supportive for students of all gender identities and sexual orientations. Together with Michigan State University, JCMU is committed to creating and maintaining an inclusive community in which students, faculty, and staff can work and live together in an atmosphere free from all forms of discrimination and harassment. The MSU Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) is available to provide information on related polices, connect community members to resources, and investigate complaints.

Ground Rules

JCMU is a living learning facility in which students are living alongside JCMU faculty and staff as well as Japanese students from the English language program and others engaged in teaching and scholarly activity. To promote a healthy balance of private, social and intellectual life, we request that respect and consideration for all residents and the building to be maintained at all times.

Keeping the residence hall lobby and TV room neat is both a courtesy to your fellow residents, and helps maintain a good public image for JCMU. Guests and tour groups that visit the Center base their impression of the residence hall and its residents on the appearance of the residence hall's common areas. Do not leave glasses, cups, or other kitchen items on the lobby tables or in the TV room. Please dispose of any garbage in the appropriate containers (e.g. burnable, non-burnable, cans, and bottles).

Some of the basic JCMU rules are as follows:

  • The possession and consumption of alcohol is forbidden in all Common Areas.
  • Please keep the volume of stereos and other amplified sounds at a level that cannot be heard beyond the confines of the individual's room.
  • Please refrain from excessive noise or disruptive activities in the corridors, the Lobby, and near the exterior of the buildings.
  • Unauthorized social events should not be held in the Residential Building Lobby.
  • JCMU is a smoke free environment. Smoking in all buildings is prohibited.
  • Daily Quiet Time is observed between the hours of 10 PM and 8 AM. Visitors must leave by 10 PM.

The residence hall doors will be locked from 10:00 PM until 8:00 AM. The doors can be opened from the inside but shut and lock automatically from the outside. Faculty and students wishing to enter the residence hall after hours must use the residence hall side entrance using a push-button combination lock. Students will be given the combination and are expected not to give the combination to non-residence hall residents.

Students are provided with housing from the Move in Day through the Move out Day(s). Students are not permitted to stay at the Center outside these dates unless they are staying on for the next program in which case they may stay during the break. This policy is strictly enforced.

A small computer lab is located in the JCMU residence hall and is accessible to residents 24/7. Detailed rules are posted in the computer labs. Some of the basic computer lab rules include:

  • Do not download or view pornography.
  • Do not change the computer settings, or install software without authorization.
  • Do not keep personal files on the machines. Unauthorized software (including personal files) may be deleted without notice.
  • Laptop users: Do not connect directly to the hub at the laptop station.

Important Note on Utilities: Each student room is supplied with a fan for the summer and a space heater for the winter. There is also a built-in air conditioner/heater unit. However, electricity in Japan is very expensive, so students are asked to only use the air conditioner/heater unit when they are in their room. Basic utility use is factored into the housing/program fee, however, students will be charged for excess utility use (over $150) in their room.

Learning to use less electricity is a difficult adjustment for many students – the adjustment can feel extremely frustrating at times, but keep in mind; it is part of the cultural experience. People in Japan are careful to only heat or cool the room they are in, and have learned to layer their clothing up or down to stay comfortable.


JCMU does not allow guests to stay in the residence hall. Friends or family members visiting Japan will need to find alternative lodging. In a community like Hikone, visitors who cannot speak Japanese will require an escort at all times. Assuming the role of chaperone, tour guide, and interpreter places an enormous burden on JCMU students; at the very least, it will be an impediment to participation in the Program and academic progress. For the students' own welfare, visits from family and friends are strongly discouraged until the program is over.

Answers to commonly asked questions:

  • Guests cannot sleep in your bedroom.
  • Having an extra bed in your room does not entitle you to let people spend the night.
  • Crashing in the lobby (or the TV room, laundry room, hallways, etc.) constitutes spending the night in the residence hall, and is not allowed.
  • Home stay students may only spend the night in the residence hall (with authorization from the Resident Director) in the event of a typhoon, snowstorm, or other extreme weather conditions. Missing your last train because you were out partying with friends is not a valid excuse to stay in the residence hall.
  • Allowing someone stay in your apartment without authorization will result in penalties and/or sanctions.
  • Guests must leave the residence hall by 10 pm so the genkan (front entrance) door can be locked.

Garbage Sorting

The Japanese have an extensive garbage and recycling sorting system. In fact, residents and citizens are fined for not properly sorting trash. We ask that all students are sensitive to this and adjust to sorting their trash while living at the Center. Sorting will be described and explained during orientation. You must separate your trash and throw it away in the appropriate bins behind the residence hall.

Apartment Furnishings

Student apartments at the Center come furnished with the following equipment, assuming double occupancy. You may find some minor variations. Most apartments have many more plates, utensils, and cookware than is listed, due to previous students purchasing them and leaving them in Japan. This list contains the minimum numbers of each item.


Utensils & Plates

Kitchen Equipment


Bedframes (2)

mattress (2)

Futon covers (2)

Sheets (2)

Top futon [comforter] (2)

Blankets (2)

Pillows (2)

Pillow cases (2)

Book shelves (2)

Desks (2)

Desk chairs (2)

Desk lamps (2)

Cupboard (1)

Dining table (1)

Dining chairs (2)

Chopsticks (2 sets)

Forks (2)

Spoons (2)

Teaspoons (2)

Butter knifes (2)

Rice scoop (1)

Ladle (1)

Spatula (1)

Drinking glasses (2)

Mugs (2)

Tea cups (2)

Teapot (1)

Dishes in 3 sizes
(2 sets)

Rice bowls (2)

Soup bowls (2)

Refrigerator (1)

Gas stove (2 burners)

Rice cooker (1)

Toaster oven (1)

4 qt.  sauce pan (1)

Frying pan (1)

Kettle (1)

All-purpose kitchen
knife (1)

Cutting board (1)

Dish-drying rack (1)

Sink basket (1)

Trash boxes (2)

Trash can (1)

Bath brush (1)

Toilet brush (1)

Broom (1)

Dust pan (1)

Dish sponge (1)

Fire extinguisher (1)

Garbage cans (2)

Iron (1)

Storage boxes (2)

Clothes hangers
(2 sets of 3)

Thermos (1)

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Living in a Home Stay

The opportunity to participate in the JCMU sponsored Home Stay Program with a Japanese family offers the student an environment in which one can develop language skills, get a better understanding of daily life, and gain insight into the values and customs of the Japanese people. JCMU's Home Stay Coordinator will conduct interviews with interested students after arrival in Japan. Every effort is made to match students with suitable families according to their interests, expectations, and language levels, so that home stay might develop into a warm relationship.

Students who sign up for a home stay are committed for the period of time of their home stay and will not be provided housing in the JCMU residence hall. Students in the past have often wanted to cancel their home stay because they found it less convenient to commute to school rather than live at the Center. Home stay families go to a great deal of trouble in preparation for a student home stay. Last minute home stay cancellations by students create a bad impression in the community and significantly reduce the number of families willing to provide a temporary home for JCMU students. It is important to expect to interact with the family as much as possible and share your interests in Japanese culture and American culture.

Daily Commute

The average commute for the home stay participant is approximately one hour each way by train and bicycle, and the Center will cover the cost of commuting on class days, if you have to use a train. You will need to take a train no later than 7:30 - 8:00 A.M. each morning in order to be on time for class.

Meals, Allergies, and Dietary Restrictions

Your home stay includes 2 meals per day. Whenever you do not plan to eat meals at your home stay, especially dinner, you must let your host family know otherwise they will prepare you a meal and assume you will be eating at home. Please realize that the host family cannot always make special arrangements in order to meet certain dietary restrictions.

Japanese Language Proficiency

Since many host families have limited English language skills, preference is given to students at the third level of Japanese and above. In general students who are first level Japanese students will be placed in a family that has an English-speaking member. Students who plan to stay two semesters or have level-two proficiency will be placed in a family with limited English capabilities.

Single Host Parents

There are a few individuals who look forward to hosting JCMU students and appreciate the company.

Telephone & Internet Use

Telephone charges are not included in your home stay. You will be required to pay for all telephone calls, especially long-distance. Some families may not have internet access at home. However, all students are able to access internet at the Center.


You will have a room to yourself at your home stay; however, you are responsible for keeping your room as clean and neat as possible.


Unless your host family invites you to travel or go sightseeing, you must pay for your own expenses, including any admission fees or tickets.


Always carry the phone number and address of your host family in the event that you have an emergency or are delayed. Leave a telephone number with your host family for emergencies.

House Rules

A successful home stay experience is based on accepting and adjusting to the family's house rules. Each home stay family will have different house rules that are consistent with the family's existing schedule and lifestyle. Please remember that you are a guest in their home and abide by their house rules.
If you plan to stay overnight somewhere or be late in returning home, you must tell your host family where you are going and when you plan on returning. Home stay families will often come to see you as a member of the family and will care for you and worry about you just as your own parent might.

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Independent Travel During the Program

Independent travel in Japan and visits from family and guests, etc. are not acceptable excuses for missing classes. Unexcused absences will negatively affect your grades. Class-attendance records are required by the Ministry of Justice and could affect continuation or renewal of visas.

The JCMU academic calendar is designed to allow opportunities for individual travel in Japan, both during and after the academic term. As noted above, however, individual travel may not conflict with classes or other scheduled program activities.

Make sure to follow safe travel practices when traveling around Japan. Students who will not be at JCMU's Hikone Campus for a period of time due to personal travel should let our Student Services Coordinator (or other staff member if unavailable) know in advance.

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