The Manji Labyrinth

The first Zelda game ever made, The Legend of Zelda, consisted of eight
different labyrinths and Ganon's lair on Death Mountain. The game's manual shows a scroll with the symbol of each labyrinth on it. When I first saw this scroll, I was surprised to see that the third labyrinth, called Manji, was symbolized with what looked like a golden swastika, the Nazi symbol of hatred. You can see this scroll too by going to "The Return of Ganon" in "The Legend."

This remained an unsolved mystery for me, until on December 3, 1999, Core Magazine ran this article:

Nintendo representatives announced this morning that they've decided to discontinue a Pokemon card that bears a mirror image of a swastika, a symbol with a benign meaning in Japan after getting complaints from the Anti-Defamation League.

The red mark alongside the Pokemon characters Golbat and Ditto was a "manji," a reverse image of the Nazi swastika. In Japan, where the symbol predated the Nazis by centuries, it means good fortune and can also represent a Buddhist temple. On street maps, the symbol locates a temple just as a cross stands for a church on an American map. But to American eyes, it was a Nazi swastika and didn't belong in the enormously popular game.

The Japanese-language cards with the manji were not meant for sale in the United States, where a licensed vendor manufactures Pokemon cards in English and planned to issue the same card - without the manji - late next year. But collectors were hungry for the Japanese version, and many have been imported without Nintendo's approval, the company said.

This raises some interesting questions. Why did Nintendo decide to use the Manji symbol for one of the labyrinths? This would be similar to symbolizing a labyrinth with a cross and calling it "Cross." If the manji symbolizes good fortune, what has this got to do with a labyrinth in LoZ? Labyrinths represent challenge, travails, and evil creatures (labyrinths 6 and 7 are symbolized by a Dragon and a Demon). If the manji is taken to symbolize a Buddhist temple, where does this fit in? The third labyrinth of LoZ is not a religious edifice.

It is likely that Nintendo Co. Ltd. chose to simply use a familiar symbol in Japan, not intending it to symbolize anything in the game. In any case, they never intended it to represent Nazi racial hatred. If anyone had qualms about the meaning of the Manji labyrinth "swastika," their fears should now be soothed.