Soga Japan Center

Mission of the Soga Japan Center

The Soga Japan Center at Western Michigan University commits itself to making fundamental advances in the knowledge of Japanese history, culture, business, science and technology. In so doing, it serves as a generative force in international education. The objectives of Center are to: 

  1. Promote and disseminate faculty and student research on Japan.
  2. Stimulate creative curricular development, as well as extracurricular activities that enrich student and area residents’ understanding of Japan.
  3. Support students pursuing Japanese studies and those interested in studying in Japan. Aid in the recruitment of students from Japan.
  4. Serve as the nexus between WMU and the Japan-related business, arts and civic communities in West Michigan.
  5. Facilitate ties between WMU, the Kalamazoo community, and our partner institutions and alumni groups in Japan.
  6. Collaborate with faculty and University administration to put in place effective and efficient learning experiences, instructional strategies and scholarly inquiries.

History of the Soga Japan Center

Western Michigan University’s links to Japan date back more than 50 years, with WMU’s first Japanese alumnus earning a graduate degree in psychology in 1955. In 1961, the first academic partnership with a Japanese university occurred when Keio University sent a group of 66 students and three professors to WMU for a Summer Institute program. Currently, more than 500 WMU alumni reside in Japan.

More recently, efforts on both sides of the Pacific Ocean have resulted in the establishment of WMU’s Michitoshi Soga Japan Center. For more than 35 years, Dr. Michitoshi Soga, WMU professor emeritus of physics, worked tirelessly to establish a network of connections in West Michigan for individual visitors, as well as for businesses and Japanese partner universities and colleges. The Soga Japan Center is one of a number of centers that exist under the auspices of WMU's Haenicke Institute for Global Education. The Haenicke Institute was established in 1998 by the WMU Board of Trustees to promote globalization and internationalization of the academic domain of Western Michigan University.

ウェスタン・ミシガン大学と日本との関係は50年以上前に遡ります。1955年に、日本からの最初の留学生が心理学の学位を取得しました。1961年には 慶応大学と協定校となり、66人の学生と3人の教員が夏期講習に参加しました。現在は約500人のウェスタン・ミシガン大学の卒業生が日本に住んでいま す。 2006年には、太平洋を挟んだ努力が実を結び、曽我道敏日本センターが設立されました。35年以上にわたり、曽我博士(物理学名誉教授)は日本からの多 くの留学生の公私にわたる援助、日本の大学や企業との交流の促進に多大の努力を注がれました。当センターはディーター・ヘネカ国際地域研究所の傘下にあり ます。ヘネカ研究所は1998年にウェスタン・ミシガン大の更なる国際化に貢献するために設立されました。

Activities & Outreach


The Soga Japan Center at Western Michigan University:

  • Works with academic units to establish and institutionalize Japanese studies at all levels, with an emphasis on Japanese language and culture at WMU.
  • Works to build accessible resources on Japan including literature, audio-visual, and industry and government documents.
  • Works with WMU's Haenicke Institute for Global Education to facilitate sustainable Japan-U.S. cross-cultural education in both countries through collaborative research projects, study abroad, and exchanges involving students, faculty and staff.
  • Cooperates with the Office of University Relations and Development and Alumni Relations on all activities that will promote the mission and objectives of the Soga Japan Center.
  • Organizes and coordinates activities such as lectures, film series and cultural events to inform and educate the campus and area communities about Japan.
  • Reaches out to the Kalamazoo community, its immediate region, including school systems, and the State of Michigan through a variety of activities enlightening citizens about Japan in particular, but also about how Japan-U.S. interests are relevant to the global interconnectedness that is crucial to the economy and security of Michigan, the United States and Japan.
  • Cooperates with all organizations—educational, civic, economic and social—in activities that will contribute to the achievement of the mission and objectives of the Soga Japan Center.


Western Michigan University's Soga Japan Center presents information about Japanese culture, society, everyday life and language in local community settings, and organizes activities that foster exchange between the United States and Japan.

The center also offers presentations on WMU’s campuses as well as in K-12 schools, libraries, community centers, and other locations throughout Michigan.

Sample outreach activities include:

  • Presentations on everyday life in Japan, Japanese culture and music.
  • Demonstrations of Japanese calligraphy, Origami and kimono dressing.
  • Sharing Japanese stories through picture books.

For more information, contact Michiko Yoshimoto.

Dr. Michitoshi Soga (1926-2013)

Dr. Michitoshi Soga began his career at WMU in 1968 as a professor in the Department of Physics. In addition to his significant scholarly accomplishments, he dedicated his career  to working with students and community members to deepen understanding between Japan and the United States.

Dr. Soga retired from teaching in 1993, becoming an emeritus professor, then served as an adviser for Japanese relations through WMU’s Office of  International Affairs until 1996. In 2005, the WMU Board of Trustees honored Dr. Soga by establishing this center in his name to support research in Japanese studies and community outreach.

Learn more about Dr. Soga in this Memorial Booklet.