Semester in Japan (Partner)

Basic information

  • Location: Hikone, Japan | Map
  • Dates: Spring, Summer or Fall
  • GPA requirement: 2.5-3.0+
  • Cost: (estimate)

Spend the semester studying the Japanese language and culture in Hikone, near Kyoto, Japan. In this program held at the Japan Center for Michigan Colleges and Universities (JCMU), language courses are taught at all levels and cultural engagement includes field trips, home stays and participation in local cultural events.

Students may choose to spend either fall, spring, or summer semester at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities in Hikone, Japan. The program was established in 1989 by a consortium of all the state universities in Michigan, including the University of Michigan and Michigan State. In the past few years, private colleges like Calvin have been invited to join in the program.


Hikone, Japan

Hikone is an old castle town located on the shores of Lake Biwa, in the heart of the main island of Japan, near Kyoto, Nara and Osaka. It is a very modern town now, but retains many of the aspects of traditional Japanese culture.

Things to do

Hikone offers all of the charm of a historic, traditional town with the excitement of a modern city center. All students receive a bike and helmet for the duration of their program which they can use to explore the area. Students often spend their weekends studying at cafes, exploring temples, singing karaoke with friends, walking along lake Biwa, sampling local restaurants and shopping at local retail centers and small traditional stores.

Japan is home to one of the most efficient train systems in the world. With Hikone station only a bike ride away, JCMU students have easy access to the large cosmopolitan cities of Kyoto, Nagoya and Osaka as well as historic towns like Nara, Taga and Gifu. Some students also choose to spend time in Tokyo (accessible by bus or bullet train) before, during or after the program.

In addition to individual travel experiences, JCMU provides guided excursion and cultural engagement opportunities at JCMU, within the local community and throughout Shiga Prefecture.

Hikone is the home of the famous Hikone Castle, which was originally built by Ii Naotaka after the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. It is one of only four castles in Japan designated as national treasures, and all of the original castle buildings and the castle garden still survive. Hikone is also known for its production of hand-crafted Butsudan (Buddhist Altars), a historic industry that still exists today.
Approx. 113,000
Hikone has hot, humid summers with temperatures as high as 100° F (38° C) and snowy winters that dip just below freezing. Fall and spring are celebrated in Japan as being especially beautiful and scenic.

Program Profile: Hikone, Japan

In most cases students adapt well to their circumstances, but it is helpful to know what to expect as you prepare for a specific experience. If you have specific questions about a program, we would encourage you to speak directly to your off-campus instructor or director or, feel free to stop by the OCP Office at any time.

Physical expectations: form

Social Expectations: By their nature, semesters and interims off-campus are inherently social experiences. Heavy emphasis is usually put on building a strong sense of community within the group, which requires openness, sociability, and a collaborative spirit from everyone involved. Acknowledging that having a diversity of personalities makes a group stronger, it is expected that all participants willfully agree to be an active part of the social community of their interim or semester program.


Physical Expectations


These experiences require no more physical exertion than being on Calvin’s Campus. You don’t have to worry about doing anything physically demanding unless you want to. No physical preparation is required to make the most of this experience.


Moderate physical activity is expected and an average level of fitness is required. You will be doing a great deal more walking then on campus, often over uneven surfaces and rough roads. Some physical preparation is recommended before departure to make the most of this experience.


Be prepared for some serious physical activity requiring an above average level of fitness. This will include a high level of walking over all kinds of terrain as well as other physical demands in all kinds of extreme temperatures. The fitter you are, the more you’ll enjoy this experience as many activities will be challenging.


Language Importance


English is the predominant language in course location.


Knowing another language is helpful to fulfill the goals of the course but English is also prevalent in course location.

Knowing another language is important to fulfill the goals of the course.


Cultural Acclimation Difficulty


Western conveniences are prevalent. Host culture is very similar to traditions and culture of West Michigan.


Few western conveniences, the need for students to blend in with the surrounding culture is important. Host culture shares similarities and differences with the culture of West Michigan.

No western conveniences, the need for students to acclimatize to local culture is readily apparent. Host culture is vastly different than West Michigan.


Level of Cultural Interaction


Interaction with local culture is limited and very formal (e.g. through organized tours).


Intentional opportunities to interact with local peoples and culture.


Intensive immersion in local culture – host families, service-learning, etc.


Safety & Security Considerations

Although no one can guarantee your safety or eliminate all risks from a study-abroad experience, Calvin College is committed to doing its utmost to provide secure environments in which you can live and learn. Our goal is to minimize risks and keep you aware of special situations as you make decisions about studying off-campus.


Safety concerns are similar to living on campus. Incidents can happen anywhere, but there are no indications that you are more at risk during this experience then you would be at home. You always need to continually be aware of what is going on around you and partner with your Calvin instructor or director to assure your safety while off-campus.


There are no specific safety concerns of the U.S. State Department for the areas where you will be studying. However, additional care must be taken to assure a safe and secure experience. You always need to continually be aware of what is going on around you and partner with your Calvin instructor or director to assure your safety while off-campus.


There are safety concerns you should be aware of as you commit to this trip. The U.S. State Department has issued a Travel alert or Warning for the area where you will be studying. You will need to partner with Calvin in addressing safety concerns and follow all safety guidelines for the experience.


Health Considerations

Remember, Calvin follows the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for all Calvin sponsored off-campus experiences.


Health concerns are similar to living on campus. Illnesses and accidents can happen anywhere, but there are no indications that you are more at risk during this experience then you would be at home. Health Care resources (clinics, medical personnel, etc.) are numerous and you would have easy access to medical care if needed. Some vaccinations will be required, but overall precautions are minimal.


In general, health concerns are slightly higher than living on campus. Typical travel illnesses (diarrhea, intestinal issues, etc.) are often experienced and appropriate health care is available but can be harder to access than on campus. Several vaccinations may be required and students must be diligent in taking precautions before and during the experience.


Health concerns are higher than living on campus. Typical travel illnesses (diarrhea, intestinal issues, etc.) are often experienced at some point. Plans to assure adequate health care are in place but health care facilities could be hard to access during the experience. There may be many vaccinations required for the experience and students must be diligent in taking precautions before and during the experience.


Mental Health Considerations

Remember, the Broene Counseling Center cannot provide on-line or phone consultations with students.


Mental health resources are similar to living on the Calvin campus. Mental Health resources (clinics, counselors, etc.) are available and you would have access to these resources, if needed. It could be challenging to find the right resources on short notice and for a short period of time.


Mental health resources are present in various locations during the experience but maybe difficult to access for a variety of reasons.




Group will be camping (living outdoors) at times during the trip.

Host Families

Students will be staying with host families for parts or all of the experience.


Staying in College dorms, similar to Calvin. Roommates will be other Calvin students or other international students depending on your preference.


Dormitory style lodging, shared bathrooms.


Individual rooms (with roommates) and private baths.



Cost of off-campus experiences vary as a result of a number of factors, including the number of students enrolled in the program. Amidst all these factors, the following categories could be helpful, but students are encouraged to check with instructors and directors on specific cost information.


$ Within $500 of tuition, room & board on campus
$$ Between $501 and $2,000 of tuition, room and board on campus
$$$ More than $2,000 over tuition, room and board on campus


$ Less than $2,500
$$ $2,501 to $3,800
$$$ >$3,801


Each semester the Japan Center for Michigan Universities offers courses in both Japanese language and Japanese culture.

Students in the Language and Culture program will take a 10-credit hour language course as well as one or two elective courses. Language courses are taught at four different levels, and placement is determined by proficiency tests administered at the beginning of the program. Elective course offerings vary each semester, but have included topics such as Japanese Economic Practices, Environmental Issues in Japan, Introduction to Japanese Cinema, etc.

All language classes are taught at JCMU, and some elective classes are taught (in English) at neighboring Japanese universities.


Grades will be represented on your Calvin transcript, but will not calculate into your GPA. Learn more about Direct-Enroll credits in Academic Services.

Course Fulfillments

Japanese majors and minors who complete the Language and Culture semester will receive credit for JAPN-310 and JAPN-302. Some culture courses can help meet core requirements.


This program only has around 40 students enrolled each semester, which means that class size is small and students are given much individual attention.

The facilities of the program are new and modern, and are located on the beautiful shores of Lake Biwa. Students may live either in double rooms in the western-style dormitory provided on campus or do a home stay with a Japanese family for the entire semester (students may also choose to live in the dorms and do a home stay for just one weekend). Occasionally, Japanese students from neighboring universities will take English courses at JCMU and students are given the option of living with a Japanese roommate.

The program fee does not include a meal plan, but there is a family restaurant on campus where students receive discounts and each dorm room is equipped with a kitchen. Restaurants and grocery stores are easily accessible on foot or by bike.

Home stay students who need to use the train on their commute will be compensated for their travel expenses. Home stay families provide their students with breakfast and dinner.


This program is available to Japanese majors and minors. Even though the great majority of students who participate in this program have already studied some Japanese language, a background in the Japanese language is not required. GPA level and other requirements vary between programs, see the JCMU website for more information.



The Semester in Japan program is a non-Calvin program but students remain eligible for Calvin financial aid at the same level as if they were on campus. The cost is the same as Calvin’s tuition, room and board rate plus an administrative fee. For more details about the program cost, visit the financial information page.

Questions / contact

Kaori Schau

Kaori Schau

Assistant Professor
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