J-List has a popular Twitter feed and Facebook page, and I like to post random slice-of-life thoughts from Japan. When Google Maps for iOS came out a few days ago, I took it for a test-drive to see how good it performed in my semi-rural Japanese city. While the streets and turn-by-turn directions worked fine, the satellite data for my city is particularly bad, looking like it was photographed by the first Sputnik. I tweeted a screenshot showing this, and received several questions about why there was a swastika on my map. This is actually a “manji,” a 4500 year old symbol from Sanskrit used in the Hindu and Buddhist religions. In Japan it’s used to indicate the location of Buddhist temples on maps and totally unrelated to the Nazi version, which is pointing the other direction. You learn something new every day! You can even type a swastika as a character with your computer. Turn on Japanese input and type まんじ (manji) and hit the space bar and 卍 will appear.
The swastika (reversed actually) is closely associated with Buddhist temples.