Dear Google Maps Team,
I have noticed recently that Google Maps in Japan has stopped using the traditional Manji 卍 character for marking Buddhist temples and has substituted a plain gray drop pin. All the other religious organizations still get special icons to denote the religious group: Shinto, Christian, Islam and Judaism. Why does Buddhism get the short stick?
Apple Maps and Yahoo Japan Maps both respect local culture and display Buddhist temples the traditional way. Why can’t you? If you study history and culture you will understand that the Manji character has been used in Buddhism throughout Asia for hundreds of years. It has nothing to do with European history or the tragic events of WW II.
As a Buddhist I hope that non-Buddhists strive to respect Buddhist culture as Buddhists strive to respect other cultures and religions. It’s easy to understand why some Westerners might misunderstand this aspect of Japanese Buddhist culture, but misunderstanding is always an opportunity to learn new things and grow. When you whitewash one religious symbol because somebody who doesn’t come from that culture doesn’t like it or doesn’t understand it, you promote cultural discrimination.
I’m sure Google Maps does not want to promote cultural discrimination. Please do the right thing and respect all religions equally.
Love and Kisses,
Some readers have suggested this a result of the some preliminary map symbol proposals from the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, however the Manji symbol was retained in a later proposal with the word ‘temple’ included. What’s important to remember is that the map symbol suggestions were merely suggestions intended for non-Japanese language maps at tourist areas and such. It’s also important to note that the Japanese government did not consult with Buddhist organizations. In short what Google has done does not follow Japanese government guideline suggestions or respect local culture. It is censorship.
Related coverage on the WWDC19 Apple Maps Wish List
Manji temple place of interest icons have returned to Google Maps after a long and curious absence. Let’s hope it stays this way: