日本手話 Japanese Sign Language

I almost asked the forum if y’all could help me find this, but I managed to find it on my own, yay!

Here is a NHK program for learning 日本手話(にほんしゅわ) (Japanese Sign Language).

I’ve seen a couple of episodes of it while channel surfing and it was really cool to watch. I think it’s also useful because they are teaching the basics using spoken Japanese and subtitles, so it’s good for Japanese listening and reading practice.

Is anyone else interested in learning JSL?

A coworker who knows JSL taught me to count to 10. Do you know any JSL?


I don’t know any JSL but I learnt some British and German sign language a while back. It’s fascinating how many different systems of fingerspelling there are!

I’m curious about the 50音 signs in JSL. Is there actually a difference between signs like し, しゃ,しゅ,しょ? In the pictures on this website it seems like they’re sliiightly differently angled, but that seems hard to tell apart in conversation. Or is it all about mouthing?


No, but I caught a TV show about a school for the deaf one time when I was in Japan. I was vaguely amused that the kids would always dry their palms on their trousers before they started signing. Like, it was an unconscious reflex action, but all of them had it.


I can try asking, but usually that coworker and I don’t have overlapping shifts. That’s a great question though!


That sounds a lot like when speakers clear their throat or swallow before speaking. I haven’t seen people who sign ASL do that, so I wonder if it’s a common habit in Japan or just a thing at that school :thinking:

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Wow, I don’t see that coworker very often. Today she taught me how to say (おな)じ、みてる、and えええええ

For (おな)じ,
You pinch your fingers together. If something is (すこ)(おな)じ, then you make a smaller motion

I think I might be wrong on みてる or maybe it was ()てる? but it looked like these emoji :point_right: :point_left: and you would clip your index fingertips past each other. I can’t find it online though :sweat_smile:

Very quintessential to Japanese conversations, へええええ

and you just make the gesture bigger based on how much you want to exaggerate


Had a couple deaf friends during college here so learned a bit by then and later on attended JSL classes for a while.

It’s been a couple years since the last time I actually studied it, but very now and then I happen to come across a deaf person and use it.

If you are fine with just memorizing words (and thus using “Signed Japanese” (日本語対応手話) there are several channels on YouTube. I remember using these two for reviewing vocabulary I learned at class:

But if you want actual “Japanese Sign Language” (日本手話), which has different grammar, word order and etc from Japanese, it’s a bit harder to find good material for free available on the internet. They usually advise you to take the free classes Japanese prefectures are required to provide.

On a side note, as absolutely anything in Japan, there are exams for evaluating your skills, lol.

For JSL there are two different ones, 手話技能検定 and 全国手話検定, with several levels.

When I was studying it I took 4級 of 技能検定 because it was the one available where I live, but Japanese Deaf community tends to prefer the later one.


These are some awesome resources and thank you for sharing about the tests as well! :smiley:


I couldn’t find the picture you referred to, but if you are fingerspelling in Japanese, you actually make two signs for しゃ and such.
First a regular し and then a や pulling to yourself, which means it’s small.
Since it’s one mora, they often say you are supposed to make them both in one tempo.

But truth is deaf persons fingerspell in an insane speed anyway, so it’s not like the tempos are clear at all, lol.

Not the best video but it’s what I was able to find for now:


I’ll try to start sharing them here, but my local community newspaper shares a little JSL every month. I think this month was “I love you.” They specifically used the English and not Japanese, which surprised me.


But underneath it says “world communication sign language”, if I’m not mistaken? Japanese sign language would be 日本手話 according to Jisho.

I think in that context it makes sense that they use English.

Edit: I think nobody linked the Wikipedia article on JSL yet? Japanese Sign Language - Wikipedia I thought that it was quite interesting.

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世界共通手話 basically means “sign language shared (understood) around the world”

The use of English seems necessary since they seem to also be illustrating why it means that (that it’s a combination of the letters ILY).


Yes, that’s what I was aiming at.

So if it’s understood around the world, it must be different from JSL which (according to the Wikipedia page I shared above) “is a complete natural language, distinct from but influenced by the spoken Japanese language. […] Because JSL is strongly influenced by the complex Japanese writing system, it dedicates particular attention to the written language and includes elements specifically designed to express kanji in signs.” As such, it seems to only be used in Japan, with the exception that “The sign languages of Korea and Taiwan share some signs with JSL, perhaps due to cultural transfer during the period of Japanese occupation. JSL has about a 60% lexical similarity with Taiwanese Sign Language.” according to the same Wikipedia page.

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It’s not saying „This is I Love You in 世界共通手話“, it’s saying „I Love You is the same in all sign languages around the world“.

The sign is part of JSL, but of course the acronym ILY originates from English, which is why they wrote I Love You underneath in English. But it’s still JSL.



Now I get it, thank you! :+1:

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I read it as referring to International Sign Language.

Those signs do not mean I love you in 日本手話.
Of course they might mean something else in movement, but in the static way in they are presented, they mean

Not a letter, but the hand shape for airplane. It’s usually not used in statics ways as far as I understand.

If you show it to a Deaf Japanese who is familiar with ASL or International Sign Language they might understand it as I love you, but not from a JSL point of view.


That does have a name in Japanese though, if they wanted to specify it. 国際手話

I think the intent of “I LOVE YOUは世界共通手話” is just “ILY is a sign that people will understand around the world”.


Honestly it just bothered me that “I Love You is the same in all sign languages around the world” is definitely not true.

Saying “I love you” might be understandable around the world due to cultural reasons, but that itself doesn’t make it “Japanese”, “Chinese” or whatever.

Same for those signs. Some people might understand them, but they are definitely not JSL.


Thank you for the clarification! I guess I did a little too much reading into it on my part, since I’m not familiar with JSL or any other sign language at all.


Sorry for generating a bit of controversary! Next month I’ll try to share an actual picture of what they share in the community magazine. The description was just what I could remember since I’ve already thrown out the magazine but a ping reminded me of this thread.