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Recounting the archipelago: Japan's isles doubled

thomas

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14 Mar 2002
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After a thorough digital recount of Japan's islands, their number doubled from 6,852 to 14,125. In 1987, the Japan Coast Guard manually counted and listed islands with a circumference of 100 meters or greater on a map of Japan. Islands in lakes or river sandbanks were not included in the total.

The huge increase resulting from improved accuracy with the digitalization of maps is unlikely to change the size of Japanese territory or territorial waters, the source told Kyodo News on Monday. [...] Moves to reassess the number of listed islands came amid criticism that data was old and the true figure could be vastly different. The new figure could affect entries in educational and other materials. [...] In the latest survey, the government counted islands automatically using a computer based on GSI's electronic land map in 2022 and cross-referenced the map with past aerial photographs and other data in order to exclude artificially reclaimed land. While the computer detected over 100,000 islands, only those with circumferences of 100 meters or greater were selected for the official list.


What's an island officially? According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, any naturally formed area of land surrounded by water, above water at high tide.
 
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