Swastikas could be erased from Japanese maps after a survey revealed that most tourists associate it with Nazi Germany instead of Buddhist temples.

The ancient Sanskrit symbol was used to denote religious buildings long before it was appropriated by the Nazi regime, but it continues to spread confusion among Western visitors to Japan.

It has prompted the country’s tourism authorities to announce plans to update their maps, replacing the swastika with a more conventional image of a three-tiered pagoda.

But the proposals have prompted outrage in some quarters, with one Japanese academic calling for tourists to be better informed about the history of the countries they visit.

“We have been using this symbol for thousands of years before it was incorporated into the Nazi flag, so I believe it would be better for us to keep it on our maps and ask others to understand its true meaning”, Makoto Watanabe, a communications expert at Hokkaido Bunkyo University, told The Telegraph.

Adolf Hitler designed the flag that was to become synonymous with his regime – a red flag with a white circle and black swastika – in 1920 as a symbol of “the victory of Aryan man”, he wrote in Mein Kampf.

And while the symbol has come to be shorthand for many people in the West with the Nazi regime, in other parts of the world it has long been used as a sacred and auspicious sign.

To this day, it continues to be used by extremists to denote their political leanings.

In Japan, where the character is known as “manji”, it can be used to represent the figure 10,000 and has been used since the Middle Ages by a number of clans as their family crest.