Map symbols

Japan is changing confusing map symbols for tourists

Photo by James Ruggia

In response to recent criticism, the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) has released a new set of standard symbols for maps in foreign languages.


According to Tomoko Otake of the Japan Times, the criticism stems from the fact that several of the previous pictograms were offensive or difficult to understand. For example, ancient symbols included a swastika-shaped image of a temple and a large “X” indicating a police station.

The new symbols will be officially adopted by the end of March, including a pagoda to represent the temples and a saluting officer for the police station, and were chosen by a survey that asked for the opinions of 1,017 people. from 92 countries and regions.

The adopted set of 18 symbols includes six replacement pictograms, four existing and eight entirely new, including images depicting convenience stores, tourist information and more. However, the symbols will only be found on non-Japanese maps.

GSI issued a statement on the symbol changes, saying, “To build a nation focused on tourism and ensure a smooth implementation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Japan must create an environment where foreign visitors can easily obtain transport and accommodation. For this, it is particularly important to distribute multilingual maps that are easy to understand for foreigners.

Takayuki Nakamura, Managing Director of GSI, also released a statement, saying, “Japanese users are divided in their opinions on the new symbols. Some say we should change the card symbols to Japanese on this occasion, while others say traditional symbols should stay. Either way, it will take some time before any changes are made, as we need to coordinate with the relevant government agencies. “

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