Map symbols

Japan revamps foreign language map symbols to make it easier for tourists

The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan is proposing to revamp the symbols used in its foreign language maps after criticizing that some of its pictograms are difficult to understand or offensive. GSI developed a set of 18 symbols with the help of a panel of experts and interviewed 1,017 people from 92 countries and regions, including representatives of embassies, foreign students and tourists on the streets.

Some current pictograms that have not been well received by foreign tourists include the swastika symbol for temples. A large X symbol for a mini police station or Koban has left tourists confused.

“To build a tourism-oriented nation and ensure a smooth implementation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Japan must create an environment in which foreign visitors can easily move and find accommodation,” GSI said in a statement. report on new cartographic guidelines last week. “For this, it is particularly important to distribute multilingual maps that are easy to understand for foreigners.

The pictograms cover the places and services that GSI considers most important for foreign visitors. They will be formally adopted by the end of March after a comment period during which members of the public can express themselves.

Of the 18 new symbols, six will replace the existing symbols. A temple will be designated by the image of a three-story pagoda and the police stations will be symbolized by a saluting officer. The Japan Times noted that four pictograms will remain unchanged. That includes the one from the hot springs, despite complaints that it looks like a soup dish.

The remaining eight pictograms are new and will include symbols for convenience stores and tourist information centers. These symbols are currently not even used on Japanese maps, but have been seen as useful to foreigners, said Takayuki Nakamura, GSI’s executive director for national mapping.

Nakamura said the new symbols will only be used on non-Japanese maps at this time. “Japanese users are divided in their opinions on the new symbols. Some say we should change the symbols or maps to Japanese, while others say traditional symbols should stay. need to coordinate with relevant government agencies, ”Nakamura explained.


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