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Princess Kako Turns 29 With a Vision for Inclusivity

In 2023, Princess Kako undertook many official duties, championing inclusivity, including engaging with the hearing-impaired communities in Japan and Peru.

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Princess Kako, the second daughter of Crown Prince and Princess Akishino, takes a walk through the Akasaka Estate on December 2, 2023. (Provided by the Imperial Household Agency)

Princess Kako, the second daughter of Crown Prince Fumihito and Crown Princess Kiko, marked her 29th birthday on December 29. In 2023, she expanded her official duties significantly, including her second overseas visit, leadership in the Japan Kogei Association, and engagement with young individuals and people with disabilities.

Compared to 2022, Princess Kako's schedule in 2023 proved more demanding. As reported by the Imperial Household Agency, she made 58 public appearances in Tokyo, a notable increase of 23 from the previous year. Additionally, she made 10 public appearances in other regions including Miyagi, Hyogo, Tottori, and Kagoshima, marking a threefold increase from 2022.

Furthermore, Princess Kako has been serving as the president of the Japan Kogei Association. In September, during the 70th Japan Traditional Art Crafts Exhibition, she acted as a guide for His Majesty Emperor Naruhito, Her Majesty Empress Masako, and their daughter Princess Aiko.

Princess Kako, the second daughter of Crown Prince and Princess Akishino, takes a walk through the Akasaka Estate on December 2, 2023. (Provided by the Imperial Household Agency)

Visit to Peru

In November, Princess Aiko played a significant role during her visit to Peru, commemorating the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the country and Japan. There, she engaged with the local Japanese community. She shook hands with a woman who was a first-generation Japanese immigrant, expressing wishes for her well-being.

As noted by the Imperial Household Agency, Princess Kako envisions "a society where everyone can live with peace of mind and have a wide range of options." This guiding principle informs her approach to her duties.

Since 2019, Princess Kako has been working part-time at the Japanese Federation of the Deaf, engaging in sign language on a daily basis. Her commitment to connecting with hearing-impaired people was particularly evident during her visit to Peru, where she learned and employed the local sign language.

An Imperial Household Agency official remarked, "It shows her desire to connect more deeply with people with hearing impairments both domestically and internationally."

Princess Kako using sign language at an elementary special education school in Lima on November 6. (©Kyodo)

Using Sign Language Around the World

During the 40th High School Student Sign Language Speech Contest in August, Princess Kako delivered a message to encourage the participants. She conveyed the opening lines in speech and the rest through sign language. In signing, she expressed, "I'm cheering for all of you so that you can show the fruits of your practice to the fullest."

According to one of her aides, Princess Kako purposefully chose to deliver most of her speech in sign language to "avoid giving the impression that sign language is used alongside spoken language."

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Princess Kako has expressed her eagerness to use sign language to "greet people around the world." In November, she turned this into action during her visit to a special education elementary school in Lima, Peru.

At the school, she conveyed her gratitude to hearing-impaired children using the local sign language, expressing, "I thank you with love for all that you have done to welcome me." It was revealed that she had been diligently practicing the local sign language by watching videos for a month and a half prior to her visit.

Building a Rainbow Bridge

Since 2014, Princess Kako has been attending events related to sign language alongside her mother, Princess Kiko, who has years of experience. Subsequently, she has also attended many events on her own.

Tetsuya Isaki, an advisor to a deaf theater group with which Princess Kako is affiliated, said, "I believe her interest in sign language, inherited from her mother, naturally extends to sign languages used in the countries she visits."

Describing Princess Kako's use of sign language, Isaki said, "She articulates her thoughts clearly so that her communication is straightforward and understandable to the observer." Looking ahead, he expressed hope that she would continue her activities in sign language "to build a rainbow bridge between deaf and hearing people."

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(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Tomomi Yoshizawa

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