With the help of cutting-edge survey mapping technology, Japan discovered that it actually has 7,000 more islands than previously thought. CNN reported that during its surveillance, the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) discovered 14,125 islands, a significant increase from the 6,852 islands it recorded in 1987.
However, how does a nation simply lose islands? The answer is fairly straightforward: thousands of these islands were counted as one when the Japanese Coast Guard counted them 35 years ago because technology was unable to distinguish between smaller clusters of islands and larger individual islands.
New islands have also been created as a result of volcanic eruptions since then, nearly tripling the island landmass Japan was previously thought to possess.
The GSI used the same method to count the islands, marking only those that were natural formations and had a circumference of at least 100 meters (330 feet). The GSI used the same calculations to confirm Japan’s territory, but it also used aerial photos and checked the results against previous maps to make sure they didn’t include land that was artificially reclaimed.
The researchers had tediously written a list of every island they found by hand, leaving out not only the smaller ones but also sandbanks and islands in lakes and rivers. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea now recognizes those landmasses, which were not considered islands at the time.
The law determines where each nation’s coastal and maritime borders are, prohibits countries from exploring seabeds within their borders, and distributes the revenue from regulated exploration fairly.
Because it accurately depicts Japan’s rights and the rights of other nations in the region’s waters, Japan’s island count is important to the world.
During a parliamentary session in 2021, a Japanese legislator reportedly argued that a recount was necessary. According to Kyodo News, the legislator stated that “an accurate understanding of the number of islands is an important administrative matter that is related to the national interest.”
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