Princess Kako Greets Hearing-Impaired Children in Sign Language at School in Peru

Photo by Michiko Otsuka / Yomiuri Shimbun photos
Princess Kako uses the Peruvian sign language to greet students at a school for hearing-impaired children in Lima on Monday.

LIMA — Princess Kako, the second daughter of Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, visited a school for hearing-impaired children in Lima on Monday morning, where she greeted the students in their native sign language.

The students at CEBE Ludwig Van Beethoven, which has about 70 kindergarten and elementary school pupils with hearing disabilities, welcomed the princess with a dance performance.

The princess used Peru’s sign language to say, “I’m very glad to meet you. I’m really happy that I’ve been able to come here.”

She then visited the classrooms for each grade. In the classroom for the fourth graders, the students were having an arithmetic lesson, and she gently asked a student through sign language, “Do you like arithmetic?”

Because there is no universal sign language, it can differ between countries and regions. To learn the Peruvian sign language, Princess Kako practiced for about 1½ months by watching videos prepared by staff at CEBE Ludwig Van Beethoven, the school said.

Photo by Michiko Otsuka / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Princess Kako uses the Peruvian sign language to talk to students during an arithmetic lesson at a school for hearing-impaired children in Lima on Monday.

The princess, who works as a part-time staff member at the Japanese Federation for the Deaf, started to study signing eight years ago when she was 20.

“Princess Kako’s sign language gets better and better each time I see her,” said Tetsuya Izaki, an advisor to the Japanese Theater of the Deaf who is close to the crown prince’s family.

Izaki said that how one does sign language reveals the personality of the user. “The princess always moves her hands slowly, which shows that she considers the feelings of whoever she is talking to,” he said.

The princess is creative in her expressions in Japan. According to Izaki, spoken Japanese and Japanese sign language are different grammatically. For example, the word order for the question “When were you born?” is “you,” “were born,” and “when” in sign language. Apparently, those whose mother tongue is sign language find its grammar more natural than that of spoken Japanese.

The princess has often made speeches using her voice and hand signs simultaneously. But at a sign language speech competition for high school students in August, she addressed the gathering only with signing, which was well appreciated by those for whom signing is the native language.

Referring to the princess using Peruvian sign language, Izaki said, “It’s proof of how the princess cares for the hearing impaired. It will be nice if this becomes an opportunity to deepen understanding among society of people with hearing disabilities.”