Hikone and JCMU

15 Jan

Hikone, Japan was a rather boring place to study abroad, especially after living in a vibrant city like Sevilla, Spain. The city was large enough, but JCMU was located at the far edge of town and we had only our bikes for transport. This made any trip into town long and annoying in the often poor weather.  Even Lake Biwa, in which I had been excited to swim and windsurf, disappointed me since it turned out to be extremely filthy and unsanitary. To some people, the small and somewhat rural locale of JCMU may be a selling point, but to me it was a poor substitute to living in Kyoto or Tokyo, both of which I visited and found much more to my liking, especially Kyoto to where we often traveled on weekends.  On the other hand, the Japanese language program at JCMU was well above par. The classes were intensive and immersive and challenged students while enabling them in all four basic language skills.  I found the extra classes – taught in English – to be a rather annoying waste of my time.  I took two of these classes, one at JCMU and one at the local Shiga Prefecture University.  The class on Minorities in Japan would have undoubtedly been a fascinating class were it not for the professor (who seemed completely unprepared for and unknowledgeable about the material covered in the class) and the lack of any truly meaningful research being conducted or studied.  The lectures were mostly vague and superficial regurgitated textbook information with one or two interesting points thrown in to appease our growing frustration and disillusionment with the course.  Perhaps worse was my Buddhism in Society class at the local Japanese university.  The professor spent several hours each week telling extraordinarily circular stories about his personal life that he attempted to connect with Buddhism.  These stories while interesting anecdotes had almost nothing to do with Buddhism as far as I could understand.  The only bright spot in these weekly lectures were the few guest speakers we had who, probably because they taught only once and on a specific topic, actually managed to connect Buddhism with the Japanese culture and society in a much more conventional fashion.  Also, since we routinely ate lunch with in the ESS (English Speaking Society) classroom with Japanese students who were interested in improving their English skills, we were able to make other Japanese friends besides those in our Buddhism class.  Overall, I am glad that I had the chance to study in Japan and make many good friends, Japanese and others, but I am sorry that my semester had not been in a larger and more vibrant city like Kyoto or Tokyo.

Here are a few pictures that I took of Hikone-jo and Lake Biwa. The green buildings in the second photo are those of JCMU.

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9 Responses to “Hikone and JCMU”

  1. Aimster Wednesday, 18 February 2009 at 10:52 pm #

    Sooo, overall, would you recommend the program?
    I’m trying to find a good summer intensive-ish study abroad program in Japan.

  2. Michelle Thursday, 19 February 2009 at 3:30 am #

    @Aimster: I do recommend JCMU for its intense language program, if not for most other reasons. As you’re planning to go only for the summer, you won’t be taking classes at the local universities so you won’t have to worry about the poor teaching quality. On the other hand, if you’re hoping to go to Japan for the first time I’m not sure I’d suggest Hikone. It is after all still a relatively rural town with little in the way of entertainment, but if you enjoy that kind of setting you may greatly enjoy yourself. Also, Hikone has the advantage of being relatively close to other places of interest in Japan. If you’ve read the other articles I’ve written about JCMU and Hikone in general and are still interested it, then I think it would be a good program for you.

  3. Aimster Saturday, 21 February 2009 at 11:04 am #

    Hmmm. Well, this will be the second time I’m going assuming I get accepted into the program.
    Would you recommend homestay or dorming??

  4. Michelle Sunday, 22 February 2009 at 11:28 am #

    I’d definitely recommend doing a homestay if you have a chance. The commute can be a bit of a pain, but the culture experience is definitely worth it. Otherwise you’ll be stuck in the dorms where almost everyone’ll speak English even if you try not to. On the other hand, if you’re very protective of your privacy or want to stay out really late every night, homestays aren’t the best option.

  5. Aimster Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 10:24 pm #

    Hmm…I doubt I’ll be out really late every night, but the commute part bugs me a lot. Now I’m stuck. The thing is, I’m really scared of homestays because I won’t be able to communicate with the family since I basically forgot all of my Japanese…

  6. Michelle Friday, 27 February 2009 at 8:15 am #

    Well, the commute isn’t terrible and you can always ask to be placed really close to the JCMU building. Also, when I stayed at JCMU, they took into account your level of Japanese so a first year student wouldn’t be placed with a family that spoke no English, etc. There were quite a few students who were only taking first year Japanese and still did homestays, and I don’t think any of them had a great deal of difficulty in communicating at least the basics with their families.

  7. dreamtomatoes Monday, 2 March 2009 at 12:49 am #

    Oh. I see. That makes sense, but I think I’ll still live in the dorm for building a community purposes.
    Thanks so much for helping me!
    I’ll probably do homestay the next spring. =]

  8. curious Sunday, 29 March 2009 at 6:56 pm #

    Hi! I am going to be at jcmu for the summer and I was wondering if you could answer a question about clothing. What is appropriate for a girl to wear? I am about 5’5″ and 110 lbs and in the summer it gets pretty hot in Texas so I am used to wearing shorter shorts and sleeveless tops. In your opinion what do you think would be acceptable that I wouldn’t offend people wearing? Also I plan on running every morning before class and I was wondering if you thought I could run in a sports bra and shorts or if I would totally freak them out. I’ve seen pics of the lake and was planning on just running along the edge – is that something you think would be allowed (in other words, is it okay to be on the grass on the shoreline)? Please let me know if you get a chance.

  9. Michelle Monday, 30 March 2009 at 9:54 am #

    @curious: I would suggest you wear clothes that aren’t ridiculously short or tight, but otherwise Japan is fairly open regarding clothing. There is a sidewalk/concrete pathway along the lake that you can run along, but it’s public so I’d suggest wearing a shirt over your sports bra.

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