Monday, January 10, 2011

How Well Do You Know Japanese Map Symbols?

Here's a link to a Wikipedia page that lists chizukigou, or symbols on Japanese maps. They're fascinating. Let's take a look.

I'm not very good at reading maps in English (my native tongue), much less in another language. However, I recognized three of the chizukigou listed on the page. 

To me, the most recognizable of these Japanese symbols is for the yuubinkyoku, or post office.

At first glance, people might think this is a swastika. And it is. Sort of. This was a religious symbol long before it became the badge of Nazi Germany. The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit word svastika, which means "all is well," and it is important in both Hinduism and Buddhism. An auspicious character that denotes good fortune, it represents the Buddha's footprints and thus marks the sites of Buddhist temples.

Japan is well known for its abundance of onsen, or hot springs, that dot the small island nation. If you're looking to soak in Japan, you have plenty of options, as evidenced by this map on This symbol is also stamped on all kinds of products sold at onsen, including my Onsen Manjuu.

I find the above panel interesting, particularly Power station and Volcanic crater or Fumarole. 

While looking through these, I wondered if the U.S. had comparable symbols. For instance, what marks paddies and tea plantations in the States?

How many Japanese map symbols do you know?

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