Japan Finalizes Foreigner-Friendly Pictograms, Leaves Manji Symbol (卍) Unchanged


6 of the 15 new pictograms Japan will be incorporating into maps

Japan is in the midst of a tourism boom, and it’s expected to continue as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Olympics. Just yesterday the government doubled their estimates for annual number of tourists by the year 2020 from 20 million to 40 million. And one step they’re taking to make Japan more accessible is to redesign the pictograms used on maps to be more foreigner-friendly.

Earlier this year the GSI (Geospatial Information Authority of Japan), in an effort to improve some of the country’s pictograms that are only recognizable to the Japanese, announced an initiative to redesign many of them. And now they’ve officially finalized designs for 15 pictograms that will begin to be incorporated into maps. Most of the changes are understandable, but it’s going to be sad to see the postal code sign 〒 become a generic letter.

But on the flip-side, the organization decided to leave Japan’s manji symbol 卍 unchanged. The symbol, which indicates Buddhist temples, is often confused for the Nazi swastika and many groups had urged Japan to change it. But a counter movement to leave the symbol unchanged and educate tourists instead took root, which seems to have had an effect on the final decision.


  1. Formidable, pictogrammes très éloquents et conserver le symbole représentant les temples: j’approuve à cent/cent.

  2. Hi! Can I use the pic for my blog? Thank you!

  3. It would also be an idea if they indicate the area of high streets to promote the local businesses not just the convenience stores, etc.

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