Life & Style

Japan Uses Swastika Symbol on Tourist Maps; Plans to Change Criticized


The controversial symbol, which represents a temple in tourist maps’ of Japan, might be replaced as it resembles a swastika.  The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan has proposed that the symbol be replaced with a pagoda in its foreign language maps. It is one of the six maps which GSI has proposed to drop as the country prepares for the 2020 Olympics.

A survey conducted by GSI on 1000 people from around 90 countries showed that the manji symbol associated with Buddhism had been confused with the German Nazi.  Although, the ancient symbol has always been used to represent Japanese religious buildings long before the Nazi regime in Germany used the swastika.

GSI in one of its reports said, “to build a tourism oriented nation and ensure smooth implementation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan needs to create an environment where foreign visitors can easily get transport and accommodation”.

It noted, “for that purpose, it is especially important to disseminate multilingual maps that are easy for foreigners to understand.”

But this recommendation is highly criticized by some Japanese.  As reported by BBC, many argued that the symbol has long been associated with Japanese culture and religion.  The tourists visiting the country should know and must understand that it is not the German swastika.

Makoto Watanabe, a communication expert at Hokkaido Bunkyo University said, “we have been using this symbol for thousands of years before it was incorporated into the Nazi flag, so I believe it would be better for us to keep it on our maps and ask others to understand its true meaning”.

He stated that people visiting Japan should be aware about the meaning and origin of the swastika or manji symbol. He believed that adequate information will help tourists understand the relevance of the symbol.  It will also help expunge any confusion whatsoever.

The survey also found that the letter H, which indicates hotel, was also creating confusion amongst the tourists. It was simply because in most of the countries it is used to indicate hospitals.

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