Japan Discovered More Than 7,000 Islands, But Should You Visit Them

In contrast to the archipelago’s previously estimated 6,852 islands, 7,273 new islands have just been discovered by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI).

Although only islands with a radius of at least 330 feet were formally counted (the GSI technically discovered 100,000 islands),

This does not, however, imply that the amount of Japan’s land has altered. The new discoveries “will not affect Japan’s territory and territorial waters,” the GSI stated in a statement.

There are a few reasons for this unexpected discovery, according to news organization Kyodo News based in Tokyo. First off, since the last study, geospatial technology has advanced, enabling mappers to correctly identify small groups of islands that were previously mistaken for single landmasses.


The island nation’s topography is constantly changing as a result of natural disasters and extreme weather, which could cause Japan to lose or gain territory. Esanbe Hanakita Kojima, a Japanese islet that was four and a half feet above sea level, reportedly vanished after being eroded by wind and ice, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

On the other hand, Japan can also acquire territory, as was the case in 2015 when a landslide caused a 984-foot strip of land to cling to Hokkaido, the second-largest island in Japan. A crescent-shaped island was also formed in 2021 as a result of an underwater volcanic explosion 750 miles south of Tokyo, according to Kyodo News at the time. Islands built by volcanic eruptions frequently vanish due to erosion; comparable islands appeared and vanished in 1904, 1914, and 1986.

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Finally, a new understanding of what an island is has emerged. Sandbanks and islands located in lakes and rivers were not included in the 1987 assessment since the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea did not classify them as islands. The definition of an island as currently stated by the governing body is “a naturally formed portion of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide.”

The four major islands that make up Japan’s territory are Shikoku, Kyushu, Honshu, and Hokkaido. Honshu is the country’s largest island and is home to major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Other smaller islands include Kunoshima, also known as Usagi Jima or “rabbit island,” due to the large number of wild rabbits that live there, and Naoshima, often known as “art island” because to its three museums of modern and contemporary art.

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