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Japan recounted its islands. Now geographers say there may be 7,000 more of them

Japan conducted a recount of its number of islands amid criticism that the figures weren't correct. Geographers are expected to add more than 7,000 islands to the count.
Eugene Hoshiko
/
AP
Japan conducted a recount of its number of islands amid criticism that the figures weren't correct. Geographers are expected to add more than 7,000 islands to the count.

The number of islands in Japan is expected to more than double after 7,000 new islands it didn't know existed were discovered.

Well, kind of.

The nation currently comprises 6,852 islands, but that figure dates back to a 1987 study conducted by the Japan Coast Guard. During a December 2021 parliamentary session, a lawmaker argued the data was old and the true figure could be vastly different.

"An accurate understanding of the number of islands is an important administrative matter that is related to the national interest," the legislator said, according to Kyodo News.

During the 1987 study, officials listed — by hand — islands with a circumference of at least 100 meters. They used basic technology that often misidentified groups of small islands as one island.

They also left out thousands of islands, many of which were within lakes or rivers. They didn't include river sandbanks either, which the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea now recognizes as islands. Plus, volcanic activity has led to the creation of more islands since the study over 35 years ago.

Now, with the recount, that figure is expected to rise to 14,125 islands, a source familiar with the matter told Kyodo News.

The news is part of a report that the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan is expected to release next month.

For the recount, geographers used advanced mapping technology and cross-referenced with past aerial photos. Like the original study, they didn't include anything with a circumference of less than 100 meters.

The final figure could still change slightly because geographers are still making final adjustments.

Despite the huge increase, the discovery is unlikely to change the size of Japan's territory or its waters, Kyodo News reported.

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Roshan Fernandez