Japan To Drop Swastikas From Maps

AdobeStock by Lin Mei

Japan is planning to cease its usage of swastikas on maps used by foreign tourists after receiving a large number of complaints that the symbols are offensive or difficult to understand. The country had used the swastika symbol to identify the location of Buddhist temples. The swastika has been associated with Japanese Buddhism for many centuries before the Nazis came to power in Germany in the 1930s.

With the country planning to host both the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, the Geospatial Information Authority (GSIA) of Japan wanted to clear up any potential misunderstandings for foreign visitors. As a result, the authority has released a new symbol that will replace an old symbol that largely resembled the swastika of Nazi Germany.

In the place of a swastika, a symbol of a three-story pagoda will now be used. The symbol will be officially unveiled at the end of March. The GSIA believes that the new symbol will be both less offensive and easier to decipher. This change will not be applied to maps that are in the Japanese language.

Additionally, the GSIA will also replace other symbols that were difficult for foreigners to understand. An “X” that was used to represent a police box will soon be replaced by a symbol of a saluting officer. A cross that is supposed to represent a church, but could easily be mistaken for a graveyard will also be replaced.

The GSIA said in a report, “Japan needs to create an environment where foreign visitors can easily use transport and find accommodation. For that purpose, it is especially important to disseminate multilingual maps that are easy for foreigners to understand.”

In addition to the upcoming major events in the next few years, Japan has experienced an influx of tourists in recent months. This is largely because of a weakened Japanese yen and relaxed visa regulations for visitors from China and other Asian countries.

Last year, nearly 20 million people visited Japan, which is an all-time record. Tourism had been reduced in recent years because of the tsunami in March of 2011 and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

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