Home International Japan plan to drop swastika as temple symbol ahead of Tokyo 2020 causes backlash

Japan plan to drop swastika as temple symbol ahead of Tokyo 2020 causes backlash


A Japanese proposal to stop using swastikas to identify temples on tourist maps ahead of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo has caused a backlash on social media.

The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI), the country’s official map-making body, believes foreigners could mistake it for a Nazi symbol and that temples should be represented by a three-storey pagoda instead.

Pronounced manji in Japan, the swastika is an ancient Sanskrit symbol meaning “good fortune” or “well-being” and has been used by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains for millennia.

Many say tourists should learn this with a number of Twitter users expressing their objections to the proposed change.

“It’s said some would mistake the manji for the Nazi symbol, but Buddhism has a much longer history with this symbol,” said one user, Konosaki Lem.

“So I strongly oppose changing our maps for some foreigners who are ignorant and extremely stupid.

“The idea is foolish.”

Takayuki Nakamura, GSI’s executive officer for national mapping, admitted that the change was not to everyone’s liking.

“Japanese users are divided in their opinions on the new symbols,” he told the Japan Times.

“Some say we should change symbols for Japanese-language maps at this opportunity, while others say the traditional symbols should stay.

“Either way, it will take a while before any changes are made, as we need to co-ordinate with related Government agencies.”

The swastika is one of six map symbols the GSI has proposed replacing after speaking to experts and polling more than 1,000 people from 92 countries, including tourists, embassy officials and foreign students, about the clarity of 18 symbols regularly used on maps.

Other symbols that will be changed for foreigners’ maps include that for a hotel, a capital H inside a circle, which research revealed looked too much like the sign commonly used for a helipad.

The traditional symbol for a post office, derived from an old Japanese term dating back to the 19th Century meaning “communication”, was also considered similarly baffling.

Also confusing many was the huge X symbol for police station – meant to represent two truncheons crossing each other – which will be replaced by a saluting policeman, and a cross that is meant to represent a church but could be mistaken for a graveyard. 

Some of the old symbols will be kept, however, such as the mark for hot springs, much to the amusement of some who have pointed out looks like a bowl of steaming miso soup.

  • By Daniel Etchells
  • This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, www.insidethegames.biz


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