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

  • Four dead after missing plane from Alberta found in U.S.

    Canada News CTV News
    Four people are dead after a missing plane from Alberta vanished in the U.S. and was later found with no survivors. The four passengers included a father, son and two family friends, according to John Kaupp, whose family members were on the flight. Source
  • 'He's going to explode': Caller warned FBI in January about Florida shooting suspect

    World News CBC News
    A woman close to the man charged with killing 17 people at a Florida high school warned the FBI in chilling detail that he had a growing collection of guns and a temper so uncontrollable she worried about him "getting into a school and just shooting the place up. Source
  • Caller told FBI Florida shooting suspect 'going to explode'

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- A woman close to the man charged with killing 17 people at a Florida high school warned the FBI in chilling detail that he had a growing collection of guns and a temper so uncontrollable she worried about him "getting into a school and just shooting the place up. Source
  • Manitoba signs federal climate change deal, leaving Saskatchewan the only holdout

    Canada News CBC News
    After months of agreeing to disagree with the federal government, Manitoba has signed on to Ottawa's climate-change plan. At least for the next two years. The decision to sign on to the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change triggers approximately $67 million in federal funding for the province from Ottawa's Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund. Source
  • Charter plane with 10 people on board slides off runway in Abbotsford, B.C.

    Canada News CTV News
    ABBOTSFORD, B.C. -- An aircraft carrying 10 people slid off an airport runway Friday in Abbotsford, B.C. Airport general manager Parm Sidhu said officials were trying to confirm what happened but no one was seriously hurt. Source
  • Manitoba joins Canada climate change plan, province to get up to $67 million

    Canada News CTV News
    WINNIPEG -- Manitoba has agreed to a deal with Ottawa that could see the province receive up to $67 million to reduce carbon emissions. After more than a year of resisting Manitoba has joined the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Source
  • Trump receives recommendations on transgender troops

    World News CTV News
    In this July 26, 2017 file photo, people with the Human Rights Campaign hold up 'equality flags' during an event on Capitol Hill in Washington, in support of transgender members of the military. (AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin) Source
  • Notley says Alberta watching B.C. court bid closely, will get no free ride on it

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says while she doesn't believe British Columbia's legal challenge to the Trans Mountain pipeline has merit, her government will be watching it closely. Notley says she's not sure the B.C. Source
  • Rescue of dog from frozen B.C. lake caught on video

    Canada News CBC News
    Video captured on a cellphone shows the dramatic moment that an unidentifed woman rescued a dog after it fell through the ice on Trout Lake in East Vancouver. Ben West was enjoying the snow on Friday with his own dog when suddenly, another dog that had wandered onto the frozen, snow-covered lake fell through the ice. Source
  • Defence chief promises to fix morale tours, plays down allegations of partying

    Canada News CBC News
    The military's top general has promised to get to the bottom of what happened on a recent Team Canada tour, but says he has never heard of widespread problems with the morale-boosting trips. The Team Canada program has been under a cloud since military police charged former NHL player Tiger Williams earlier this month with sexually assaulting an Air Force steward while participating in a tour to Latvia in December. Source