Changing signs

Good morning everyone,

You probably won't be hearing anyone complaining about winter not coming next week. We're expecting a high today of around 9C and it's going to be the same for the rest of the week and into the week. But they're calling for highs of only 6C on Monday and Tuesday of next week. Well, I'll believe it when I see it...

The government has released a set of new standard symbols for foreign-language maps after criticism that some of its current pictograms are hard to understand or are even offensive.

map symbols

The most notorious of these is the swastika-like symbol for a temple. Likewise, a big X always leaves foreigners scratching their heads: It's supposed to denote a police box.

“To build a tourism-oriented nation and ensure smooth implementation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan needs to create an environment where foreign visitors can easily get transport and accommodations,” the government said in a report on new map guidelines released last week. “For that purpose, it is especially important to disseminate multilingual maps that are easy for foreigners to understand.”

In coming up with the set of 18 symbols, the national surveying and mapping agency convened a panel of experts and polled 1,017 people from 92 countries and regions, including embassy officials, foreign students and tourists on the streets.

The pictograms cover the places and services they believe are most important to foreign visitors. They will be officially adopted by the end of March, after a period in which members of the public can comment.

Of the 18, six will replace existing symbols, including that for a temple, which will become an image of a three-story pagoda. Police boxes will be denoted by a saluting officer.

Four pictograms will remain unchanged, including the one for hot springs, despite complaints by some respondents that it looks like a soup dish.

The remaining eight are new and include symbols for convenience stores and tourist information centers. These currently are not used on Japanese maps, but they will be helpful to foreign users, said Takayuki Nakamura, the organization’s executive officer for national mapping.

Nakamura said the new symbols will only be used on non-Japanese maps for now. Whether to introduce them on Japanese maps will be discussed at some point in the future.

“Japanese users are divided in their opinions on the new symbols,” Nakamura said. “Some say we should change symbols for Japanese-language maps at this opportunity, while others say the traditional symbols should stay. Either way, it will take a while before any changes are made, as we need to coordinate with related government agencies.”

I guess the reason they are so confusing is that many maps in Japan use symbols used by professional cartographers (the people who make maps) without a lot of consideration for the people who will actually use the maps. And I doubt it's just foreigners. Did you know that an 'X' was the symbol for a police box?

How about this symbol? Can you guess what it is without looking it up?
map symbol castle 
I had no idea what it was supposed to be...and there are a bunch more like it.

I can't believe that some people are opposed to the change, but that's human nature, isn't it? Most people hate change...

Have a great day!

PS That symbol's a 'castle'.

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