From my thoughts,  Japan Culture,  Temples and Shrines

Let’s talk about replacing the “offensive” symbol in Japanese Maps.

I’m late to the party but I recently learned about the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan decision of changing a few of the symbols used on maps. Since the Olympic Games are only a couple years away and the tourism is growing so wildly, I guess they want the maps to be more standardized (meaning similar to the European and American ones). Apparently, some foreigners find Japanese maps difficult and offensive

The decision was to replace six map symbols with “easier” ones. Among them, the sanskrit symbol , which is used to mark the placement of temples.



There is a lot of controversy around the symbol 卍 ( called manji in Japan) because it resembles the nazi swastika. They are technically not exact twins but they definitely look alike. When uninformed tourists start seeing the false swastikas around Japan the reactions range from confused to offended, and everything in between.

This symbol was here many, many, many years (6th millennium BC) before it was misused by the nazi movement- and its various, ancient meanings are related to luck, harmony, health and well-being. It’s an important symbol in Buddhism and it’s easy to find literally carved all over Japan.

I understand that the association can be misinterpreted but I think education is key. The Japanese manji does not hold any kind of real relationship with the nazi, but quite the contrary. 

In my opinion, it’s healthy to learn about the symbol and respect its history and traditional use. Keeping it in the maps would have been a great first step. I would love to see Buddhism reclaiming its symbol and using it fearlessly with the positive meaning it has, and it was meant to have.

And, to be honest, I also suspect the manji was first in line of replacements- after all they did not change the onsen symbol even when people complained that it looked like a soup bowl. ♨️

What do you think? Did the manji need to go away? How do/would you react seeing it on Japanese temples and signs? 

Thank you so much for reading and happy weekend!

5 Comments

  • Eddie San Roman

    Definitely the should remain untouched. It is people’s responsibility to study other countries culture and religious backgrounds. Changing the maps just because the 2020 Olympics just encourage more ignorance. Hiding to avoid hurting People’s sensitivity, doesn’t surprise me from the Japanese and I just pray so they don’t remove Kanji next to avoid tourists get offended for everything.

    Greetings Bunny

  • Cam

    Most well informed tourists know it’s meaning and use throughout Asia, and that it is the reverse of the swastika. In that sense education is key – the reverse version utilized by the Nazis can easily be associated with evil. We should not rewrite history in order to be politically correct.

  • Kavey Favelle

    I am a 100% with you. I would rather see education to teach people that the swastika is not the symbol of Nazism buy had a long history and significance before that which should not be erased from history. That allows the Nazis a win they do not deserve.

  • Lincoln

    As a Buddhist as well as just being a guy who believes information is the key to understanding this universe, I totally agree with you. People should definitely learn what the symbol meant before it was perverted by the Nazis, and if at all possible, take the meaning back from its negative connotations. Perhaps any controversy could be a wonderful learning opportunity for the world? Cheers!

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