From The Japan News, October 6, 2013:
The Tottori prefectural assembly will likely pass an ordinance to promote sign language by, for example, teaching it in schools, with the hope of making the prefecture a place where people who regularly use sign language can communicate with more people.
On Friday, the assembly’s standing committee passed a bill to create the ordinance, and the assembly is expected to pass it at a plenary session Tuesday.
It will be the first time in Japan that a local ordinance seeking efforts by residents and municipal governments to popularize sign language will be made, the prefectural government said.
In the draft of the ordinance, sign language is defined as “a cultural artifact [in the form of] a unique language system,” and requires the prefectural government facilitate the use of sign language.
The prefectural government also earmarked ¥22 million for teaching sign language in schools and will teach sign language to municipal government officials who work at service counters for residents.
Tottori Gov. Shinji Hirai was a sign language interpreter when he was a university student.
In his vision for the future of the prefecture presented in 2008, he stipulated that sign language is also “a language.”