Japan may change temple map icon to avoid Nazi confusion

TOKYO - As Japan gears up to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and caters to a surging influx of foreign visitors, the country faces a cultural dilemma: Should it stop identifying Buddhist temples on maps with the traditional "manji" symbol that is often confused with a Nazi swastika?

See Full Article

The symbol, from ancient Sanskrit, means happiness and prosperity. It has been used for centuries by Hindus and Buddhists, and has turned up in archaeological digs in Europe. But many Western tourists associate it with anti-Semitism and the Holocaust because the emblem was adopted by Nazi Germany to try to enhance a sense of ancient lineage.

The swastika in Japan - which usually points counter-clockwise, the reverse of the Nazi symbol - has been used for centuries in Buddhist decorations and to denote Buddhist temples on maps.

At Sensoji Temple, a top tourist destination in Tokyo, a big gold "manji" emblem appears on a pair of lotus-shaped bronze ornaments, while smaller, more subtle ones decorate roof tiles. It's even an official emblem for Hirosaki, a city in northern Japan.

In a report released last month, a government panel at the Geospatial Information Authority proposed a three-tiered pagoda symbol to replace the swastika. It is one of 18 suggested icons for landmarks like hospitals and convenience stores for foreign-language maps, part of a broader push to create user-friendly maps for the growing number of foreign tourists, which jumped more than 40 per cent last year to a record 19.7 million.

A final decision is expected in late March following a period of seeking public comment.

Japan's main Buddhist group is nonchalant because the change doesn't affect domestic maps and therefore likely won't alter perceptions at home.

"We are aware that some people say the 'manji' symbol could remind them of the 'hakenkreuz' symbol, which was created much later in history," said Ryoka Nishino, a spokesman for Japan Buddhist Federation, referring to the "hooked cross" term often used to denote the Nazi emblem.

"Even though we have more foreign visitors, our symbol that decorates each temple will stay," he said.

Public opinion seems divided on Twitter and other social networks.

Supporters for the change say it would help avoid confusion among tourists, while opponents say there is no need to change the ancient sign just to cater to foreigners. Instead, they say, the symbol should be kept as a way to teach people about the ancient history behind it. Others point out that the "manji" symbol turns the opposite way from the Nazi symbol, so it is different.

The objective is to make symbols easier to understand, said geospatial authority mapping officer Takayuki Nakamura.

"A good symbol on the map should be able to tell a visitor what it is at the first glance," he said. "The question is whether one can easily tell it's a temple by looking at the current symbol."

The recommendation was based on survey results collected from more than 1,000 foreigners, including embassy officials, exchange students as well as tourists.

Other symbols that would be altered for foreign maps include the one for a hotel, which currently looks like the symbol for helipads, and a saluting policeman would replace the current giant X sign supposedly representing a pair of clubs for police station.

The maps would add a new symbol for convenience stores, which are ubiquitous in Japan - a sandwich and water bottle.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Missing journalist died in accident on submarine, vessel's owner says

    World News CTV News
    HELSINKI -- Danish police say that the owner of a home-built submarine has told investigators that a missing female Swedish journalist died onboard in an accident, and he buried her at sea in an unspecified location. Source
  • Search for Barcelona van driver widens across Europe

    World News CBC News
    Spanish police on Monday extended the search for the man who killed 13 people in Barcelona by ramming a van into crowds to all of Europe as details emerged of how he fled on foot through the streets of the old town before disappearing. Source
  • Barcelona attack driver still at large, identity confirmed

    World News CTV News
    BARCELONA, Spain -- Spanish authorities confirmed on Monday the identity of the driver of the deadly van attack in Barcelona and said that he is the last member of the 12-man Islamic extremist cell still at large. Source
  • 1 dead, 1 injured as van rams bus stops in Marseille, France

    World News CTV News
    PARIS -- A van rammed into two bus stops in the French port city of Marseille on Monday, killing one person and injuring another, a police official said. The driver of the Renault Master van was arrested in a third location, the scenic Old Port area of France's second-largest city, David-Olivier Reverdy of the Alliance police union said. Source
  • Trump to outline Afghan strategy in national TV address

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump will use a nationally televised address to outline for a war-weary nation the strategy he believes will best position the U.S. to eventually declare victory in Afghanistan after 16 years of combat and lives lost. Source
  • Ten sailors missing after U.S. destroyer collision

    World News CTV News
    SINGAPORE -- Vessels from several nations are searching Southeast Asian waters for 10 missing U.S. sailors after an early morning collision Monday between the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker ripped a gaping hole in the destroyer's hull. Source
  • Big Ben bell to go silent in London for repairs until 2021

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- The British Parliament's Big Ben bell is due to sound the hour for the last time on Monday before it is silenced for almost four years of repair work that will deprive London of one of its most iconic sounds. Source
  • 1 killed in Marseille after van crashes into bus shelters

    World News CBC News
    At least one person was killed and another injured in Marseille on Monday when a van crashed into two bus shelters in different parts of the French city, police said. Police advised the public to avoid the Old Port area where the driver, a 35-year-old man, was arrested. Source
  • 100 years on, 'forgotten' WWI Canadian victory at Hill 70 memorialized

    Canada News CBC News
    A group huddles around a collection of large black-and-white portraits strewn across a table at the armoury in Kamloops, B.C. Peering through magnifying glasses, they search for a specific face among the rows of troops dressed in identical uniforms. Source
  • Amid Trans Mountain uncertainty, pro-pipeline Indigenous peoples make a pitch for development

    Canada News CBC News
    Some Indigenous leaders in B.C. scored a major victory recently after they successfully lobbied Premier John Horgan to join a legal fight to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The $7.4 billion project, which got the green light from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last fall, now faces an uncertain future in the face of vehement opposition from some anti-pipeline protesters, which count many First Nations peoples among their ranks. Source