I was watching an old Saturday Night Live sketch from the 1970s, called Night of the Moonies, making fun of the Unification Church by putting them in the context of the movie Night of the Living Dead.

The video I was watching happened to have Japanese subtitles. I noticed that in the subtitles, when they referred to the Unification Church, which is called 統一{とういつ}教会{きょうかい} in Japanese, they replaced with , so it looks like 統◯教会.

My understanding of the use of is that it is the equivalent of when in English words are blacked out, to censor them so as not to offend. But I'm a little baffled by this instance of censorship, or even if that's what it is.




"The Unification Church is my family. I don't like my parents."

Why censor the name of the church? Why block out only one of the kanji?

  • We do the same thing in English, no? ‘D*mn’ etc.
    – Zhen Lin
    Commented May 4, 2013 at 7:48
  • 1
    @ZhenLin: Sure, and I've seen similar instances in Japanese, like マ◯コ. But, I've never in English seen "Ctholic" or "Sc*ntologist".
    – Questioner
    Commented May 4, 2013 at 8:56
  • I've never seen カト○ック or プロテ○タント in Japanese, but I've never seen 統○教会, either... で、この女の人は、その「統○教会」にマインドコントロールされている?
    – user1016
    Commented May 4, 2013 at 10:32
  • 4
    Maybe they were paranoid about getting sued? (I have no idea if this makes sense or not)
    – user1478
    Commented May 4, 2013 at 13:29
  • 3
    @taylor, if you watch the video, you'll see they use the character consistently whenever referring to the church, so it's almost certainly not a typo.
    – Questioner
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 2:22

3 Answers 3


You are right that ◯ is used here to mask a letter.

There are several related but different reasons as to why one would do this. The comment section already refers to one such use, where certain words are deemed inappropriate (especially on broadcasting), the equivalent of f*ck. But I don't think that explains this one.

In this case, I think the intention is to poke fun at 統一教会 in several ways.

First, by disgracing their name, by implying that it needs masking, as in the same league of f*ck and such. It also implies that the content refers to them in a negative way, which would actually make it more attractive to certain audience (who despise them.)

And finally, because the masking in this case doesn't really mask anything, for those who do not see 統一教会 nagatively, this sends a signal that they should.

(Perhaps you aren't aware of the controversies surrounding 統一教会, and if so, reading upon it a bit might make it easier to understand this.)

  • 1
    I'm fully aware of the reputation this church has, but I've never seen controversies lead to this kind of censorship. I've never seen オ◯ム真理教, for example. Nonetheless, your insight that this "censorship" implies that the author of the subtitles is conveying that the reader should find the name offensive, rings very true. That it's another layer of poking fun at the church is a very nuanced yet very accessible message now that I see it. Great answer.
    – Questioner
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 4:26
  • 4
    I've seen several TV shows, news articles, etc where proper names are "censored," not just to poke fun but to show that they're talking about some establishment in a way that they perhaps wouldn't like (i.e. negative/scandalous article about AKB48 using "AK○48"). This is likely in the same vein, but definitely more poking fun, given that it's a comedy show.
    – Khakionion
    Commented May 9, 2013 at 19:26

It's to ward off potential legal issues. The idea is that if you use a brand name or real name of an organization they could claim a trademark or that the sketch was about them or whatever. Changing one letter is a kind of fig leaf.

It can also be done as a kind of joke, where the author is acknowledging that what they are saying is somewhat questionable or might anger the owner of the mark.


I think they are just trying to not offend a particular denomination, though it's pretty obvious which one they are talking about.

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