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 卍, 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!