Who We Are

KIKUSAWA Ritsuko (PI, Associate Professor)

Kikusawa specializes in linguistics (Austronesian languages, linguistic typology, descriptive linguistics, historical linguistics, and the linguistic prehistory of Oceania). Since 2011, she has been working to promote sign-related language research at the National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku). In the field of sign language, she is particularly interested in the development of research techniques on historical changes in sign language, and has previously developed e-learning materials including a program on guaranteed access to information in sign language.
Minpaku profile page:
Personal website:

IIZUMI Naoko (Professor)

Iizumi specializes in the education and training of sign language interpreters. Before joining Minpaku in April 2016, she worked as an equal opportunity officer in the private sector, a freelance sign language interpreter and instructor, a sign language news reporter on Japan's national public broadcaster NHK, and the head of the first privately run sign language interpreter training department (Setagaya Welfare College; April 2002–March 2016). From 2012, she has been involved in developing and promoting the Minpaku Training Program for Academic Sign Language Interpreters as an external facilitator and visiting lecturer.
Minpaku profile page:

SAGARA Keiko (Assistant Professor)

Sagara lost her hearing at the age of 19 years old. She specializes in sign language typology and education of deaf children. From 2010, Ms. Sagara spent four years as a researcher on a sign language typology research project at the University of Central Lancashire in the U.K. During this time, she researched the semantic fields (numbers, colors, and kinship expressions) of approximately 30 sign languages, with a particular emphasis on cross-linguistic research of numbers in Japanese Sign Language, and the distribution of numerical variation from the perspective of social linguistics. She started working at Minpaku in June 2014 and is currently researching Taiwanese and other sign languages with historical relationships to Japanese Sign Language from the perspective of historical social linguistics. She has published several papers including "Semantic Fields in Sign Language: Colour, Kinship, Quantification" (co-authored with Ulrike Zeshan, 2016).
Minpaku profile page:

ISHIHARA Yamato (Project Researcher)

Ishihara specializes in history, the history of thought, and religious studies (modern religious history, popular religion research). He has researched and analyzed the emergence and growth in popularity of "sosho-shukyo" (religions proposed by individuals or groups) in early modern to modern Japan in the context of the worshipper thoughts and behaviors as well as social trends. He has also researched the popular spread and acceptance of religious knowledge. In the field of language, he has studied the social welfare activities of the Oomoto religious sect, which promoted Esperanto. At the Sign Language Linguistics Research Section (SiLLR), he coordinates the section's projects as a research administrator with the goal of expanding the horizons of sign language from an historical perspective.
Personal website:

IKEDA Masumi, Administrative Assistant (Research Support)

Ikeda is deaf. From 2010, she studied for five years at the Chinese University of Hong Kong's Centre for Sign Linguistics and Deaf Studies after receiving a grant from the Nippon Foundation's Asia Pacific Sign Linguistics Research & Training Program, where she helped to publish a Japanese Sign Language dictionary while also studying linguistics. In 2015, she returned to Japan after having obtained her Higher Diploma in Sign Linguistics & Sign Language Teaching. Ikeda has been working at Minpaku as a research assistant since January 2016.

ISOBE Daigo, Administrative Assistant (Research Support)

Isobe is Deaf, who spent five years from November 2011 studying at the Chinese University of Hong Kong under the Asia Pacific Sign Linguistics Research and Training Program (APSL) supported by the Nippon Foundation. There, he obtained a Higher Diploma in Sign Linguistics & Sign Language Teaching. His graduation thesis was entitled "Topicalization in Japanese Sign Language." He spent the following year conducting research and creating a Japanese sign language dictionary at the Chinese University of Hong Kong's Centre for Sign Linguistics and Deaf Studies. Isobe has been working at Minpaku as a research assistant since January 2017.

SANO Fumiya, Administrative Assistant (Research Support)

Sano specializes in Cultural Anthropology. In 2011 and 2012, he conducted research on Japanese Sign Language and Deaf communities in the Kansai Region of Japan. In 2013, he started fieldwork at a Deaf school and special schools in the Republic of Fiji while also learning Fijian Sign Language. He has been with Minpaku as an assistant administrator of the Sign Language Linguistics Research Section (SiLLR) since April 2017.

HARA Daisuke, Visiting Researcher

Hara is a professor at the Toyota Technological Institute. He developed an interest in sign language and linguistics while a university student and, after teaching himself sign language, traveled to the home of modern sign language in the U.S. He researched sign linguistics at the University of Chicago, where he received his PhD in sign language phonology. He current research includes the eligibility of Japanese Sign Language syllables, word formation, intermediate sign language attributes, and end-of-sentence pointing. He has been a visiting researcher (professor) at Minpaku since April 2016.

Wataru Takei, Visiting Researcher

Wataru Takei is a Professor at the School of Teacher Education, Kanazawa University. He has a Doctorate in Disability Sciences and specializes in developmental psychology and the psychology of hearing loss. He has previously researched sign language acquisition and sign language evaluation in deaf children. Dr. Takei wrote his doctoral thesis based on two months of field work where he visited unschooled deaf people living on a remote island with no previous contact with sign language, and noticed that the structure of their home sign was similar to that of conventional sign language. His research demonstrated that humans are capable of not only learning language but also creating language. These findings inspired Dr. Takei to pursue postgraduate studies and gave rise to his subsequent interest in sign language used by deaf children. In addition to his research demonstrating the nature of sign language, Dr. Takei also researches sign language mainly from the perspective of psychology to show how people exhibit both potential and plasticity in acquiring language through signing. He has been a Visiting Research (Professor) at Minpaku since April 2017.