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Japan’s islands double in number to over 14,000 after recount

Digital mapping of Japan
via Hans

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    The number of islands in Japan has doubled since 1987, a new survey of the country has found. 

    With the help of digital mapping technology, Japan’s Geospatial Information Authority has determined that the number of islands in the country is actually more than twice the previous estimates, Kyodo News reported citing a source privy to the survey. 

    Based on the authority’s first survey in 35 years, Japan actually has 14,125 islands, a staggering 7,273 more than the 6,852 islands counted in 1987. The updated count also highlighted that Hokkaido, one of Japan’s four main island groups, now comprises 1,473 islands, while the southwestern prefectures of Nagasaki and Kagoshima have 1,479 and 1,256 islands, respectively. 

    While over 100,000 islands were detected, only those with circumferences of 100 meters (approximately 328 feet) or greater were included in the list

    The survey came over a year after a Liberal Democratic MP urged for the recount in 2021, arguing that “an accurate understanding of the number of islands…was in the national interest.” 

    Local geographers have previously pointed out that the official number of around 6,000 islands had become outdated, having counted islands with a coastline of 100 meters (approximately 109 yards) or longer on paper maps.

    With the new counting process developed by GSI involving a computer with digitized maps, the inaccuracies of the previous study, such as omitting smaller islands or recording a group of islands as one, have been corrected.

    The digital mapping technology enabled officials to exclude artificially reclaimed land and cross-reference past aerial photographs and other data, ensuring the most precise count of islands.

    The agency pointed out that while the updated number accurately depicts Japan’s geography, it does not influence its territory or territorial waters despite the discovery of new landmasses. The official report about the new findings is expected to be released in the next few weeks.

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