In an age of high-tech, AI, and satellites, it often feels like there is nothing left for us to discover. The days when a sailor could voyage across the seas and bump into a whole new continent they’d never seen before might be long gone, but Japan’s recent discovery shows that there’s actually more out there to discover than we thought.
The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan recently revealed an updated map of the nation, which showed 7,000 new islands added to the region. That increases the number of islands Japan has from 6,852 to 14,125!
So how exactly do you not notice thousands and thousands of islands? Well, it’s easier to do than you think.
The last mapping of the country was conducted by the Japan Coast Guard back in 1987. At the time, they decided to leave out any islands that didn't have a circumference of over 100 metres. Plus, the technology they used wasn't great at distinguishing between groups of small islands and large stand-alone islands, which led to thousands of islands not being formally recorded. In addition to those, many more islands have popped up over the years following volcanic activity in the region.
The revised map uses the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea's definition of what counts as an island. The Convention outlines that an island is ‘a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide’. This means that the previously dismissed large sandbanks are also considered to be islands now. Whether you’ll actually be able to visit the recently discovered islands remains to be seen.
The news about the islands comes as the tensions between Japan and China continue to rise over the sovereignty of a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.