Japanese islands
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
April 18, 2024 ·  2 min read

Japan sees its number of islands increase by 7,000 after recount

In 1987, the Japanese Coast Guard set out to determine how many islands comprised the mountainous country. They determined there were nearly 7,000 known islands. However, thanks to a new study, scientists believe there could be around 7,000 more unaccounted for. In December 2021, the Japanese parliament concluded the first estimation is outdated and, therefore, might be inaccurate.

Estimates show more than 4/5 of the island country’s land mass is mountains and volcanoes. Although some are inactive, many are classified as active. For example, although it hasn’t erupted since 1707, geologists still consider Mt. Fuji to be an active volcano. It’s a popular tourist destination but holds a deeper significance to the country on which it sits.

The mountain is a sacred symbol of the Japanese islands, and many shrines and temples can be found at its base. Despite the rugged landmass, their climate makes it easy to grow several crops and lush vegetation.

Read more about Japan

Outdated Maps of Japanese Islands

Some things have changed in the 35 years since the original study. For example, volcanic activity has likely caused many new islands to form. Furthermore, the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea explains an island to be a “naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide,” and now includes river sandbanks. Lastly, the technology available at the time was considered pretty basic and would likely misclassify groups of islands as one island.

Conducting a New Study

The new study was conducted in 2022 and used more advance mapping technology to cross-reference previously used aerial photos. Thus far, the new technology has discovered over 100,000 tiny Japanese islands. However, only those 100 meters or more in circumference will be classified as official Japanese Islands. The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan is expected to release a report, ideally in March, containing an updated map and disclosing the new total of Japanese islands. Scientists estimate that their number will likely change as new information becomes available.

Impacting the Country

The legislator who made the observation explained, “An accurate understanding of the number of islands is an important administrative matter that is related to the national interest.” Despite the discovery of new Japanese Islands, officials don’t believe this will affect the size of the country’s borders or territories. However, it will likely change educational materials.

The world is constantly shifting, and with that will likely come plenty more opportunities to explore its ever-changing landscape. The Japanese Islands house thousands of hidden gems in their waters. Now it’s up to scientists to determine how many of the tiny Japanese islands will be included in the country’s official map.

Keep Reading: A golden chamber buried under a mountain in Japan contains water so pure it can dissolve metal.

Sources

  1. Japan recounted its islands. now geographers say there may be 7,000 more of them.” NPR. Roshan Fernandez. February 17, 2023.
  2. Recount with Digital Map leads to doubling of listed Japanese islands. Kyodo News+. February 15, 2023.
  3. Japan discovers 7,000 new unknown islands.” UNILAD. Anish Vij. Retrieved February 18, 2023.