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New icon for Buddhist temples proposed

45 Comments

One of the proposed new map symbols for foreign visitors, right, is seen on a list provided by Japan's official geographical survey institute on Thursday. Japan is considering a pagoda-shaped icon to mark Buddhist temples on tourist maps as it gears toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, after learning the current symbol is often mistaken by foreign visitors as a Nazi swastika.

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Leave at it was, so what if people in their ignorance think it's a swastika, it's not, and it's been around a hell of a lot longer too.

If Japan wants to educate and enlighten foreigners about their rich history and culture then leave it be! In this case I would say screw attempting to mollify ignorant folks.

13 ( +17 / -4 )

Ah but imagine the money someone can make by changing the symbol and justifying it as better for tourists who won't get Japan mixed up with Nazism.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

I am amazed !! In a country where flexibility or change is not a every day occurrence, this is indeed a step forward even if the swastika one wasn't really a swastika.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

New icon looks cute and atheist may like it, but above all it is about money as "Moonraker" says.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I am amazed !! In a country where flexibility or change is not a every day occurrence, this is indeed a step forward even if the swastika one wasn't really a swastika.

Step forward? More like appeasement to ignorance. There are plenty of other things in this country that the "inflexible" people should change and not out of appeasement but from a moral and ethical point of view, this is neither.

What's next? Force the temples and shrines that have used this symbol for literally hundreds of years, take them down or cover them up with this new mark? Hell the people visiting these places are going to see the mark anyway.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

In a country where flexibility or change is not a every day occurrence, this is indeed a step forward...

Or someone with an interest in a map-printing company is lobbying the government. Want to bet that someone is benefitting? Hint: it's not the tourist. A cultural education is of greater benefit to the non-Japanese visitor.

There is a small property once owned by the Filberg family (of some local historical note) with a garden in Comox, BC, Canada. This property is now a park, but on the gates is the same temple symbol. A note near the gate and in the literature explains that it is a Buddhist and not a Nazi symbol. No fuss needed.

There are so many more important things on which to take "steps forward."

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Shrine icon is OK but the temple icon looks more like a chinese temple. By the way, I find many foreigners do not know differences of shrines and temples.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

YubaruFEB. 05, 2016 - 07:58AM JST What's next? Force the temples and shrines...

One wonders why you think there would be a "next" in this scenario. One wonders why you think temples would be forced to do anything, when from the getgo it has been totally clear that they were only talking about changing the map symbol for international versions of Japanese maps, NOT getting rid of the symbol in general. I mean, other than your creating of a slippery slope making your rhetoric more dramatic, even if less factual.

I also wonder why the "Don't change history!" crowd hasn't raised a peep about the fact that Japan is also doing away with another long-standing symbol for international maps, the Japan Post mark, which is getting changed to an envelope to be more universally recognized, yet no one in the "Don't change history!" crowd seems to care. What are we to take from this discrepancy? One mark, with the potential to upset a minority of people, is getting removed from maps to loads of Internet outcry while another mark, with no potential to offend, is getting removed from maps and no one cares. It's hard to argue that the first mark isn't being protected because of its potential to offend, especially when the majority backing it aren't the people who are stakeholders in the discussion.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

There will be two reactions to the current 'swastika':

1) Confusion. Ask someone 'what does this mean?'. Find out it means 'temple' and has nothing to do with Nazis.

2) Confusion and anger. Condemn Japan as bad for using a swastika, without knowing what the swastika means.

The first person will solve the problem themselves. The second person is ignorant and not worth wasting time on.

Leave it as-is.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Cop-out. Panders to culturally and historically ignorant people.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

Wow! After seventy years they have decided to change it? Bwahaha!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Stop being so sensitive about what people think or how they see you on this kind of thing. There are FAR more pressing CURRENT issues that Japan gets defensive about and denies when foreign opinion demands action, so why on something that is harmless and GENUINELY part of ancient culture necessary to change just because some uneducated people assume it means something else?

Leave it as it is! The proposed symbol is better than the cute or sexual mascot I thought they might propose in its wake, but the Buddhist symbol for temple has REAL history and meaning, whereas this proposed one is just a picture. Are they going to desecrate the actual temples as well and get rid of the Buddhist symbols? I should hope not, so why bother doing it elsewhere? Okay, maybe on an otherwise cartoony hotel guide map, I can see it, but otherwise leave it be!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Agreed. Leave it as is. Teach younger generations how the Nazi party took this ancient symbol and reversed it. End of.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

It's only for tourist maps so leave the swastika or replace it, it's neither here nor there. No one's getting rich by changing the icon either.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Doesn't this just delay any confusion? They're not going to tear down ancient structures with this mark and replace them, right?

If I see the symbol on a map before hand I have a good chance of asking someone who might be able to explain to me what the symbol means / using my phone to google it..

On site, if I encounter the symbol for the first time I'm much more likely to just be confused as hell and go on with site seeing.

Again, it's just me, but I typically don't whip my phone out while looking around except to take pictures...in a taxi to grab trivia about where I'm going, sure.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I find many foreigners do not know differences of shrines and temples.

You might be surprised to know that there are plenty of Japanese that do not know the difference either.

I also wonder why the "Don't change history!" crowd hasn't raised a peep about the fact that Japan is also doing away with another long-standing symbol for international maps, the Japan Post mark, which is getting changed to an envelope to be more universally recognized, yet no one in the "Don't change history!" crowd seems to care. What are we to take from this discrepancy?

Talking about apples and oranges really. The swastika mark has been around for over 2,000 years, and carries a sacred meaning for believers well before Japan post came up with their mark for a post office. People should have complained when the Nazis stole the symbol for themselves, but then maybe some people in Germany did at the time, but I doubt they's be alive to talk about it much long after the fact.

Changing one mark to bring it up to international standards is not the same as changing one with historical significance.

One wonders why you think there would be a "next" in this scenario.

One wonders? Debating the issue is healthy, and maybe it will stop people from making changes to things on whims to appease others.

It would be much better to educate people to the facts than make unnecessary changes actual history. It's also rather ironic that a country that seems to set on revising it's own history to suit it's needs is willing to make, however small it may be, a change to something as historical as this mark is to appease those that associate it with something else.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

YubaruFEB. 05, 2016 - 09:42AM JST Talking about apples and oranges really. The swastika mark has been around for over 2,000 years, and carries a sacred meaning for believers well before Japan post came up with their mark for a post office.

So? Are you suggesting there is a time limit on when historical things should be preserved?

Changing one mark to bring it up to international standards is not the same as changing one with historical significance.

The Japan post mark does have historical significance. It's not as old as the swastika, but hardly anything on Earth is. Preservation is not an all-or-nothing issue, so why is the argument all-save-the-swastika and nothing-save-the-Japan-Post-mark?

and maybe it will stop people from making changes to things on whims to appease others.

Ah, there it is: "appease". You're constructing this argument to portray it as some evil group of outsiders demanding Japan change to appease them, even though that's 100% counter-factual. What really happened is the Japan tourist board polled tourists in Japan to see what confused them about Japanese maps, and the swastika came up enough that they decided to make a recommendation. This was a purely voluntary, purely internal move decided by the people who actually have a stake in this issue. It doesn't affect us long-term foreign residents one bit, so the outrage I'm seeing, I knew it had to be about something other than the ease of reading a map. Thank you: by sticking "appease" in your argument, you've shown me exactly what the sticky part of the issue was for you.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Step in the right direction. Proposed icon or image can lessen misjudgment etc. The past icon from an uninformed perspective has a odious similarity 2 the Nazi regime during the war when both countries including Italy made a military alignment.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

I recall years ago going to some gaijin event with a guy from Sri Lanka who dressed nattily with a jacket and tie and a tie pin with a reversed swastika but it was black on a white background surrounded by red. I suggested that the image might not be the best to show. He asked why, I gave a one-sentence history lesson and indignantly he pointed out that the symbol was sacred to him. He wore it anyway to the event, the last I heard of it, no biggie.

In hindsight I wonder about removing simple monochrome Buddhist icon in question. To do so in consequence of perceived pressure makes me feel that in the end those Hitlerites may have lost the war but certainly have hijacked popular consciousness

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What really happened is the Japan tourist board polled tourists in Japan to see what confused them about Japanese maps, and the swastika came up enough that they decided to make a recommendation.

True, I know this, yet they took the extraordinary step of changing the symbol instead of finding it as a golden opportunity to educate people coming into Japan about the actual history. Just as another poster commented;

There is a small property once owned by the Filberg family (of some local historical note) with a garden in Comox, BC, Canada. This property is now a park, but on the gates is the same temple symbol. A note near the gate and in the literature explains that it is a Buddhist and not a Nazi symbol. No fuss needed.

They could have just as easily incorporated a small message with the same historical note. Better to educate than keep hidden in ignorance. They are going to see the mark when they visit the location anyway.

Again ironic that a "poll" of foreign tourists caused this change to occur, when typically speaking "foreign" opinions or "confusion" are dismissed out of hand as being "ignorant" of Japanese history and culture.

Thank you: by sticking "appease" in your argument, you've shown me exactly what the sticky part of the issue was for you.

I would rather that the ubiquitous "they" make appeasing "changes" in areas that actually mean something and there a a host of them that should be taking precedence rather than this. If Japan wants tourists to understand and appreciate it's rich culture and history then education when an opportunity arises is the better path to take.

That is of course MY opinion, and like the saying goes everyone has one.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yes, change it. There are already western symbols in Japan for restrooms, police, fire, trains, etc. The tourist industry should be 100% behind this change. There will be 1000s of Buddhist visitors as well other religious and non-- religious visitors coming for the Olympics. Simplify the symbol so that the tourists will know where it is safe to go.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

YubaruFEB. 05, 2016 - 10:43AM JST True, I know this, yet they took the extraordinary step of changing the symbol instead of finding it as a golden opportunity to educate people coming into Japan about the actual history. ...They could have just as easily incorporated a small message with the same historical note. Better to educate than keep hidden in ignorance.

You want every tourist map to come with an explanation of what the Swastika means in a Japanese context? Now that would be a pretty huge undertaking. Page real-estate isn't always available on every map for historical explanations.

By changing the symbol on foreign maps, people aren't being kept ignorant of history. When they visit the temples, they'll see these symbols, and there they can get all kinds of explanation of the swastika in its historical context. Only under the new tourist map plan, more people will be able to find the temple in the first place because the symbol is marked in a way that is more internationally recognized.

I would rather that the ubiquitous "they" make appeasing "changes" in areas that actually mean something and there a a host of them that should be taking precedence rather than this.

There you go, inventing appeasement where none is taking place. Why is it so necessary for you to push this false narrative that carries with it the implication that some outside power is pressuring Japan to change?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Hasn't anyone else noticed that the Swastika is two Ss entwined whereas the symbole for Japanese temples is two Zs entwined ?

Ridiculous waste of time, money and loss of historical correctness...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

There you go, inventing appeasement where none is taking place. Why is it so necessary for you to push this false narrative that carries with it the implication that some outside power is pressuring Japan to change?

You brought up the reason why the change was being instituted, because of a poll of foreigners, not Japanese. How much more "outside" can that be?

And it is appeasement, like it or not, they are making an unnecessary change to maps, because FOREIGNERS might be or were confused, because of their ignorance about the symbol and their ignorance regarding it's history and meaning.

There is no "false" narrative, it's a fact.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Yeah, it's about money, but I believe it's more an excuse to talk about the Nazis again.

-30 ( +2 / -32 )

It was the symbol carved in the chest of Buddha over his heart. Fundamental to the religion.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Former Axis power facilitates Hitler's total appropriation of Manji.

Now, watch it become a cause célèbre for the Uyoku.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What really happened is the Japan tourist board polled tourists in Japan

Yeah, maybe they did. Who knows, eh? Or maybe someone in the office suddenly discovered that the symbol resembled a Nazi symbol. Vaguely recalling that the Nazis were bad guys this someone thought, "Oh great! Here is a simple chance to make some work for all of us. Perhaps it might lead to some bigger work of changing maps all over Japan. Maybe we can keep our finger in that pie too. And we can say it is in the cause of international understanding, which along with "safety" and "preserving culture" is always a winner when justifying some kind of new expenditure." Of course, there is a bit of a conflict between preserving culture and international understanding here but, hell, bureaucratic expansion of control is most important.

Think this is too cynical? Then you really don't know how bureaucrats work in local, national or quasi-government bodies.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There is surge in Chinese traveler to Japan. Chinese don't like Sengaku Iceland on Japanese Map. Could you please gave them Sengaku and make Chinese traveler happy forever !!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

YubaruFEB. 05, 2016 - 11:19AM JST You brought up the reason why the change was being instituted, because of a poll of foreigners, not Japanese. How much more "outside" can that be?

Not remotely, when the poll was conceived of, designed, implemented, and analyzed by Japanese people. And all recommendations were made by a Japanese group.

And it is appeasement, like it or not, they are making an unnecessary change to maps, because FOREIGNERS might be or were confused, because of their ignorance about the symbol and their ignorance regarding it's history and meaning.

Every speaker of English knows "appeasement" requires a demand. There was no demand made in this story. GSI polled some foreign tourists. Foreign tourists said what on Japanese maps confused them. GSI then made a recommendation, which it appears is gaining voluntary traction. There is no demand, therefore there is no appeasement. It might be that certain westerners of a certain political persuasion may reflexively imagine issues of appeasement in every dispute they see, but that doesn't mean it's actually there.

MoonrakerFEB. 05, 2016 - 11:33AM JST Think this is too cynical? Then you really don't know how bureaucrats work in local, national or quasi-government bodies.

Sorry, but when my choice is between a conspiracy theory in a comment section and something documented in the news, http://www.japantoday.com/category/arts-culture/view/group-urges-changing-buddhist-temple-mark-on-maps-to-avoid-nazi-connotations I'm going to go with the news story.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Perfect, and kind cute. Change it, better for everyone including Japanese.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Every speaker of English knows "appeasement" requires a demand.

Really? Then I guess you are not a native English speaker;

Appeasement in a political context is a policy of making political or material concessions in order to avoid conflict.

They are changing the symbols in an effort to avoid conflict, plain and simple.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

The current trend in the world is to make everything convenient for the think-lazy, illiterate consumer populace in the world because they are the ones that can easily be milked. There are plenty of things wrong with this trend but money rules everything today so the dumb people will always get their will and the exploitive people will always get their wealth.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The Buddhist temple "sign" is as authentic as the world heritage sites. I am sure in coming years they will change it back. Its all about budget and spending propaganda.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

People, don't be afraid of change. Nobody is destroying the original Buddhist sign, just replacing it on maps and signs - no biggie, chill.

They can educate people about the original symbol on pamphlets and posters around the temples.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

How are tourism development agencies going to convince temple monks to change their signs?

If it's that easy, why don't they start with razing the WWII-apologist museum at the Yasukuni Shrine?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Well, I just have my doubts about the story, katsu78. I actually saw the piece you refer to and commented on it in favour of not changing the manji. The determination to change it anyway sounds like more than simple "being kind to the ignorant". There will be other motives because there usually are. True I am cynical, borne of association with bureaucrats, but not conspiratorial. The kind of story I made up was meant to illustrate how thinking often goes. I might be very wrong in this case but I actually think it would be good if people were more sceptical of what the bureaucrats were up to and did not just accept what they say. It would save them money for one. And, by the way, the survey you refer to was, as you might know, conducted by The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, which is part of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. It is not just some independent group with no material interest in the outcome.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

How are tourism development agencies going to convince temple monks to change their signs?

They don't have to - they just have to convince the map makers.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Igloobuyer, above, is right. Listen to him. As a PR professional I vote for the pagoda symbol on maps. Good move. The reversed swastika is still offensive to Europeans who fought the Nazis and even Germans visiting Japan are offended. Good move. Finally.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hey, money is money, and today the foreigners are the cash cows, the geese that lay the golden eggs. Can't risk turning them off. BTW, isn't that a pagoda? They should differentiate them. Leave the old symbol, I say.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

...how boring this world will be when PC Liberals get through with it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The reversed swastika is still offensive to Europeans who fought the Nazis and even Germans visiting Japan are offended. Good move. Finally.

Ok then change the church symbols, the one's with the cross on top, those offend the over one billion Muslims, and get rid of the Crescent symbol for Mosques as they are offensive to Christians, and the list keeps on growing, all in the name of not offending anyone.

Maybe the Chinese had it right, a simple triangle as a symbol for a place of worship.

BTW there are not too many Europeans who fought the Nazis left alive today, and there are even fewer Asians.

Time to quit with appeasing folks in the name of PC.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Yubaru, I don't think this about PC. It's about PR. Images matter. No?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yubaru

Ok then change the church symbols, the one's with the cross on top, those offend the over one billion Muslims, and get rid of the Crescent symbol for Mosques as they are offensive to Christians.....

Sure, if there is a call for it, but there isn't. With the temple symbol there is. End of.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sure, if there is a call for it, but there isn't. With the temple symbol there is. End of.

No there was no call for it, the group went out of their way to create the problem for what ever reason. Some may have said, "It looks like a swastika" and the ball started rolling.

Very UNtypical Japanese response.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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