Imperial sign language is polite and the same as when she speaks with her voice.
Kako, the second daughter of the Akishino family, has been active in her official duties. Among them, her appearances regarding “sign language” are attracting a lot of attention. The beauty of her hand movements as she speaks sign language is also eye-catching.
Kako has been appointed as a part-time contract employee of the All Japan Federation of the Deaf, and has performed sign language at the “National Speech Contest for High School Students with Sign Language” and other events. Before their marriage, Mako attended the same contest and also gave a speech in sign language.
Mako’s sign language and Kako’s sign language are both very polite, and each movement is not too fast. When she speaks with her voice, she also speaks slowly, and her sign language is just like that.
Mr. Yutaka Osugi, Secretary General of the Sign Language Institute of the National Sign Language Training Center, “speaks” in this way. Mr. Osugi himself is deaf. This interview was conducted with a sign language interpreter who works at Tsukuba University of Technology, where Dr. Osugi is a professor. Watching the two answer our questions, it was clear that they were very fast in their interactions.
The students at this university are creating new sign languages just as young people are creating new languages. They are so fast that sometimes I don’t even recognize them when I see the students interacting with each other.”
In contrast to these everyday signs, Mako and Kako’s sign language is,
“It’s elegant, and it’s the sign language of the royal family.
The reason why there are now more subtitles on TV is because the sign language of Mako and Kako is more refined and is the sign language of the Imperial Family.
Noriko also uses sign language to communicate with the deaf. I am very happy to see the sign language of the Imperial Family. It is very reassuring and warming to know that they understand sign language.
Nowadays, it is commonplace to have sign language interpreters for political broadcasts, etc., and there are many opportunities to see sign language spoken by members of the Imperial Family. However, it was not until after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995 that sign language interpreters became available for political broadcasts and subtitles appeared on many TV programs.
At that time, there was no way for the Deaf to get information through TV broadcasts. As a result, many subtitles were added and the number of sign language broadcasts increased. Standard Sign Language is mainly used, and it is becoming more widely used.
Standard Sign Language is a sign language version of the Japanese spoken by NHK announcers. Standard Sign Language is also used by the members of the Imperial Family.
Sign language is not taught in schools for the Deaf
The truth is that sign language varies from region to region. In the past, there were many cases where the signs used by Deaf people were different and they could not communicate with each other, just as students were creating new signs. In 1969, the Japanese Federation of the Deaf gathered members from all over the country and began to create a common national sign language, Standard Sign Language.
It is said that sign language was born in Japan around 1878. It is said that a school for the Deaf was established in Kyoto, and it was created little by little as the teachers and children talked with gestures.
It was in 1969 that efforts to create a standard sign language began. Why did it become more widespread after sign language broadcasting began?
The sign language workshops and sign language circles around the country have been spreading standard signs, so perhaps the sign language broadcasts have given a boost to the spread of standard signs. However, the connection between children who are deaf and standard sign language is still weak. Public schools for the deaf do not teach sign language as a subject. In many schools for the deaf, the number of students is decreasing, and there are fewer opportunities for sign language to be passed on from senior to junior, or for classmates to speak with each other in sign language. As a result, there are few opportunities for children to come into contact with standard sign language.
After graduation, or through after-school day service programs, children learn and use standard sign language through interaction with many people.
He continues, “Therefore, I am very grateful that the members of the Imperial family use standard sign language. Recently, there have been TV dramas in which the main characters use sign language, and the number of young people learning sign language is increasing. I hope that this will deepen people’s understanding of sign language.”
Dr. Osugi says that sign language is the language of the Deaf.
Before the interview, I was worried about how to communicate and how smoothly I would be able to “talk,” but after the sign language interpretation, we were able to communicate just as if we were speaking normally.
I was worried about how smoothly I would be able to communicate with him before the interview, but after the sign language interpretation, I was able to communicate with him just as if he were speaking normally. I hope people will be aware of this.”
Sign language has been featured in TV dramas and movies, and is said to be in a “sign language boom. However, there are still many things that people do not know. The active use of sign language by the women of the Imperial Household plays an important role. Knowing the true role of sign language, one cannot help but hope that it will not end as a boom and that sign language will spread further and further.
Interview and text： Izumi Nakagawa PHOTO： Kyodo News