Desiring to establish lasting friendly relations, the formal Sister State Agreement between the State of Michigan in the United States of America and Shiga Prefecture in Japan was signed in Lansing, Michigan on November 14, 1968 by Governor George Romney and Governor Kinichiro Nozaki. They believed that this affiliation would unite the people of Michigan and the people of Shiga in everlasting bonds of friendship and promote mutual understanding of the peoples of the world.
The initial focus of the Sister State Program was to exchange information, knowledge and ideas on the preservation and development of natural resources in Michigan and Shiga. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources was the first department in the Michigan government to assume responsibility for the program. That responsibility was transferred to the Department of Education and is currently run by the Michigan-Shiga Sister State Board, a volunteer organization.
In 1969, the Michigan Economic Mission visited Shiga. A Shiga Prefecture Tourism and Products Fair was held in Detroit and Grand Rapids in 1970. The first Goodwill Mission to Michigan from Shiga took place in 1976. Michigan delegates visited Shiga the following year and annual visits commenced with the Shiga delegation coming on even-numbered years and Michigan delegates going on odd-numbered years.
Later, Sister City and Friendship City agreements were established through relationships made during these Goodwill Mission visits. Many of the sister cities have middle school student exchange programs. Other programs such as the High School Student Exchange Program, the Japan Center for Michigan Universities and various sister city projects were all developed through the Sister State relationship.