Japanese archipelago


  • The Japanese archipelago, one of the world’s prominent island groups that lies just off the coast of Eurasia, now has 14,125 islands, according to the Japanese government.

Key Details

  • This is double the 6,852 islands that was the official figure way back in 1987.

  • The survey used the definition of ‘island’ as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It states that an island is a “naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide.”

About Japan

  • Japan is primarily made up of four islands known as the ‘Home Islands’ — Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. In the north, Hokkaido is bounded by the Russian-administered Kuril islands while Kyushu is bordered by the Ryukyu group (Okinawa and other islands) that reach up to Taiwan.
  • According to the Japanese creation myth, the Shinto gods Izanagi and Izanami dipped a coral blade into the sea. When it came up, a few drops fell back and formed the Japanese archipelago.
  • While the country’s population is concentrated in the four ‘Home islands’, the sheer number of islands makes Japan the fourth-largest island nation globally.
Japanese archipelago
Photo Courtesy: iStock

Tectonic plates

  • Globally, there are about seven major tectonic plates, which keep on moving.
  • They move away from each other, collide or slide past each other.
  • The consequence of these movements can be the appearance or disappearance of islands.
  • When the 2004 Sumatra Earthquake took place, the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago got almost a metre closer to India. The islands then drifted back but not to the same position.

Source: DTE

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