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Sign for new era name 'Reiwa' in Japanese sign language revealed

Eiichi Takada, head of the Japan Institute for Sign Language Studies, signs the new era name "Reiwa." (Mainichi/Yoko Kunimoto)

KYOTO -- The National Center of Sign Language Education unveiled the nationally standardized sign for Japan's new Imperial era name "Reiwa" on April 2.

According to the Kyoto-based social welfare corporation, the speaker is supposed to gather their fingertips with their palm facing upward in front of their bodies, and then move their hand forward while slowly spreading their fingers. It can be performed with either the right or left hand. The sign envisages an image of a flower bud blooming toward the future, according to the center.

The Japan Institute for Sign Language Studies, the research unit of the center, is commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to create new signs.

After the new era name Reiwa was announced by the government on April 1 to replace the current Heisei, the institute's nine regional groups from the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido through the southwestern island of Kyushu each submitted a proposal for the sign for the new era name.

A six-member committee comprising sign language interpreters and academics then examined the proposals for about one hour before deciding on the new sign unanimously.

Normally, it takes several months to determine a new sign as the final candidate needs to go through the public comment system. This time around, however, the institute skipped the procedure as it had received numerous inquiries from sign language users calling for an early decision.

Eiichi Takada, 82, head of the institute, said, "The new sign (for Reiwa) is the fruit of the wisdom of 44 research staff members across the country. I was surprised at the new era name as it was something I'd never expected, but we've been able to come up with a sign that is easy to understand and use."

A video showing how to perform the new sign can be viewed on the institute's website.

(Japanese original by Yoko Kunimoto, Kyoto Bureau)

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