Japan is one of the most popular destinations and as you probably know, it’s an island nation. And the last time Japan counted all of their islands, they had 6,852 of them. But they’ve just done a recount, and they now have 14,125! That’s right; Japan just found over 7,000 “new” islands. As you can imagine, these are tiny uninhabited islands… but still!
Here’s what happened.
It’s worth noting that while Japan had long been one of the most restrictive countries in the world, they have now finally removed its requirements for all travelers in late April (like most countries… but not all)!
Overview of the 7,000 new Japanese islands
Here’s what you need to know:
- At last count in 1987, Japan had 6,852 islands
- New research shows Japan actually has around 14,125
- That now ranks 5th in the world
- The new islands do not change the size of the country’s territory
- Only 400 of Japan’s islands are inhabited
- The new number does not include disputed islands and artificial land
- Japan lays claim to several islands also claimed by China, Russia, and Korea
- This is not a new attempt to claim these islands
Japan’s new island research
The last official count took place over 35 years ago, all the way back in 1987 when Japan’s coast guard surveyed the islands that are part of its territory and concluded the country had just under 7,000 of them.
But new digital mapping technology has allowed Japan to get a better look at their territory to find out exactly how many islands it owns. The Geospatial Information Authority (GIA) in Japan recently did a thorough investigation using these new tools and concluded that the country actually has over 14,000 islands.
Yes, that’s double the number they had expected!
How the number of Japanese islands compares
Japan’s 14,000 islands is the 5th-most in the world!
But keep in mind that every single country may have a different criterion for what they consider to be an island, so it’s not directly comparable. Specifically, the minimum size to be counted as an island varies greatly.
Officially, based on the data each country provides, Finland has the most islands, with 179,000.
For context, Canada is 13th in the world, with 3,256 islands. That seems low given Canada’s size. The minimum size to be counted as an island may be bigger in Canada.
The number of inhabited islands is a way more objective measurement, and the USA is 1st, with 10,000 of those.
Japan does have the 2nd-most populous island in the world though (104 million inhabitants): the island of Honshū, where Tokyo is located — Tokyo is the world’s most populous metropolitan area after all (38 million, which is like the entire population of Canada in one city). If you’re interested, the Indonesian island of Java is the world’s most populous (149 million).
With Japan’s number of islands constantly changing due to volcanic eruptions and sea erosion, there may be even more islands that are discovered!
How are we still finding new islands in 2023?
Japan’s news about finding 7,000 new islands doesn’t actually mean there are 7,000 new bits of land sticking out of the sea. To be considered an island, the land has to have a circumference of at least 328 feet, and at the last count, many of the tiny islands got lumped together.
Officials were able to “find” new islands because new technology was more accurate and could really define and categorize islands individually.
So Japan hasn’t really found any new land, and the country isn’t any bigger than it was before; it’s just gotten better at identifying specific islands.
But last year, Japan did get a new island when a volcanic eruption underwater in Japanese territory created a new island with a diameter of about 3,281 feet. But that is more of the exception obviously.
As technology improves and experts get better at evaluating the land and seeing what’s connected underwater and what counts as an island, chances are other countries might find more islands as well.
Since many of the new islands are either too small or mountainous to build on, they won’t make a big difference; it’s just cool to “discover” new islands in 2023!
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The island nation of Japan just found 7,000 new islands, more than doubling their numbers. This is all thanks to new mapping technology. But they’re all very small uninhabited islands though, so nothing really changes.
What would you like to know about Japan’s new islands? Tell us in the comments below.
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Featured image: Small island in Japan (photo credit: erika m)