Japanese archipelago

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Japanese archipelago
Satellite View of Japan 1999.jpg
A satellite image of the main archipelago (Sakhalin and Ryukyu Islands not pictured)
Coordinates 37°30′52″N137°42′44″E / 37.514444°N 137.712222°E / 37.514444; 137.712222 Coordinates: 37°30′52″N137°42′44″E / 37.514444°N 137.712222°E / 37.514444; 137.712222

The Japanese archipelago (Japanese: 日本列島, Nihon rettō) is a group of 6,852 islands that form the country of Japan. It extends over 3,000 km (1,900 mi) [1] from the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest to the East China and Philippine Seas in the southwest along the Pacific Ocean coast of the Eurasian continent, and consists of three island arcs from north to south: the Northeastern and Southwestern Japan Arcs, and the Ryukyu Island Arc. The Kuril Island Arc, the Daitō Islands, and the Nanpō Islands are not parts of the archipelago.


Japan is the largest island country in East Asia and the fourth-largest island country in the world with 377,975.24 km2 (145,937.06 sq mi). [2] [3] It has an exclusive economic zone of 4,470,000 km2 (1,730,000 sq mi). [4]


The term mainland Japan is used to distinguish the mainland from the remote islands. It is used when referring to the main islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku and Okinawa. [5] It included Karafuto Prefecture (Sakhalin) until the end of World War II.

The term Home Islands was used at the end of World War II to define the area of Japan to which its sovereignty and the constitutional rule of the emperor would be restricted.[ citation needed ] The term is also commonly used today to distinguish the archipelago from Japan's colonies and other territories. [6]



A topographic map of Japan Japan topo en.jpg
A topographic map of Japan

The archipelago consists of 6,852 islands [7] (here defined as land more than 100 m in circumference), of which 430 are inhabited. [8] The six main islands, from north to south, are Sakhalin (a part of the Russian Federation), Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa. [5] Honshu is the largest and referred to as the Japanese mainland. [9]

The topography is divided as:

See also

Related Research Articles

Geography of Japan Geographical features of Japan

Japan is an island country comprising a stratovolcanic archipelago over 3,000 km (1,900 mi) along East Asia's Pacific coast. It consists of 6,852 islands. The five main islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku and Okinawa. There are 6,847 remote islands. The Ryukyu Islands and Nanpō Islands are south and east of the main islands.

Kyushu Island and region of Japan

Kyushu is the third largest island of Japan's five main islands and the most southerly of the four largest islands. In the past, it has been known as Kyūkoku, Chinzei and Tsukushi-no-shima. The historical regional name Saikaidō referred to Kyushu and its surrounding islands.

Hokkaido Island, region, and prefecture of Japan

Hokkaido is the second largest island of Japan and comprises the largest and northernmost prefecture. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu; the two islands are connected by the undersea railway Seikan Tunnel.

Honshu Largest island of Japan

Honshu, historically called Hondo, is the largest and most populous main island of Japan. It is located south of Hokkaidō across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyūshū across the Kanmon Straits. The island separates the Sea of Japan, which lies to its north and west, from the North Pacific Ocean to the south and east. It is the 7th largest island in the world, and the 2nd most populous after the Indonesian island of Java.

Shikoku Island and region of Japan

Shikoku is one of the five main islands of Japan. Shikoku is the second-smallest main island after Okinawa. It is 225 km or 139.8 mi long and between 50 and 150 km or 31.1 and 93.2 mi wide. It has a population of 3.8 million. It is south of Honshu and northeast of Kyushu. Shikoku's ancient names include Iyo-no-futana-shima (伊予之二名島), Iyo-shima (伊予島), and Futana-shima (二名島), and its current name refers to the four former provinces that made up the island: Awa, Tosa, Sanuki, and Iyo.

Mainland Japan Political term in Imperial Japan

Mainland Japan is a term to distinguish the area of Japan from its outlying territories. It was an official term in the pre-war period, distinguishing Japan and the colonies in the Far East. After the end of World War II, the term became uncommon, but still is used as an unofficial term to distinguish the area of Japan from the Ryukyu Islands or Hokkaidō.

Yaeyama Islands Island group within the Ryukyu Islands, Japan

The Yaeyama Islands are an archipelago in the southwest of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, and cover 591.46 square kilometres (228.36 sq mi). The islands are located southwest of the Miyako Islands, part of the Ryukyu Islands archipelago. The Yaeyama Islands are the remotest part of Japan from the main islands and contain Japan's most southern (Hateruma) and most western (Yonaguni) inhabited islands. The city of Ishigaki serves as the political, cultural, and economic center of the Yaeyama Islands.

Ryukyu Islands Chain of Japanese islands that stretch southwest from Kyushu to Taiwan

The Ryukyu Islands, also known as the Nansei Islands or the Ryukyu Arc, are a chain of Japanese islands that stretch southwest from Kyushu to Taiwan: the Ōsumi, Tokara, Amami, Okinawa, and Sakishima Islands, with Yonaguni the westernmost. The larger are mostly high islands and the smaller mostly coral. The largest is Okinawa Island.

Tokara Islands Island group within Ryukyu Islands

The Tokara Islands is an archipelago in the Nansei Islands, and are part of the Satsunan Islands, which is in turn part of the Ryukyu Archipelago. The 150 kilometres (81 nmi) chain consists of twelve small islands located between Yakushima and Amami-Oshima. The islands have a total area of 101.35 square kilometres (39.13 sq mi). Administratively, the whole group belongs to Toshima Village, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. Only seven of the islands are permanently inhabited. The islands, especially Takarajima, are home to the Tokara Pony.

The wildlife of Japan includes its flora, fauna, and natural habitats. The islands of Japan stretch a long distance from north to south and cover a wide range of climatic zones. This results in a high diversity of wildlife despite Japan's isolation from the mainland of Asia. In the north of the country, north of Blakiston's Line, there are many subarctic species which have colonized Japan from the north. In the south there are south-east Asian species, typical of tropical regions. Between these areas lies the temperate zone which shares many species with China and Korea. Japan also has many endemic species that are found nowhere else in the world, making it home to many endangered/rare species.

Northeastern Japan Arc Island arc on the Pacific Ring of Fire

The Northeastern Japan Arc, also Northeastern Honshū Arc, is an island arc on the Pacific Ring of Fire. The arc runs north to south along the Tōhoku region of Honshū, Japan. It is the result of the subduction of the Pacific Plate underneath the Okhotsk Plate at the Japan Trench. The southern end of the arc converges with the Southwestern Japan Arc and the Izu–Bonin–Mariana Arc at the Fossa Magna (ja) at the east end of the Itoigawa-Shizuoka Tectonic Line (ITIL). This is the geologic border between eastern and western Honshū. Mount Fuji is at the point where these three arcs meet. To the north, the Northeastern Japan arc extends through the Oshima Peninsula of Hokkaidō. The arc converges in a collision zone with the Sakhalin Island Arc and the Kuril Island Arc in the volcanic Ishikari Mountains of central Hokkaidō. This collision formed the Teshio and Yūbari Mountains.

Ezo red fox Subspecies of carnivore

The Ezo red fox is a subspecies of red fox widely distributed in Hokkaido, Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands and the surrounding islands of Japan. The Ezo red fox's formal name, Kitakitsune (北狐), was given to the subspecies by Kyukichi Kishida when he studied them in Sakhalin in 1924.


  1. "Water Supply in Japan". Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Archived from the original (website) on January 26, 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  2. "Island Countries Of The World". WorldAtlas.com. Archived from the original on 2017-12-07. Retrieved 2019-08-10.
  3. "令和元年全国都道府県市区町村別面積調(10月1日時点), Reiwa 1st year National area of each prefecture municipality (as of October 1)" (in Japanese). Geospatial Information Authority of Japan. 26 December 2019. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  4. "日本の領海等概念図". 海上保安庁海洋情報部. Archived from the original on August 12, 2018. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  5. 1 2 離島とは(島の基礎知識) [what is a remote island?]. MLIT (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism) (in Japanese). Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. 22 August 2015. Archived from the original (website) on 2007-11-13. Retrieved 9 August 2019. MILT classification 6,852 islands(main islands: 5 islands, remote islands: 6,847 islands)
  6. Milton W. Meyer, Japan: A Concise History, 4th ed. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012, ISBN   9780742541184, p. 2.
  7. "離島とは(島の基礎知識)". Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. Archived from the original (website) on November 13, 2007. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  8. "Islands in Abundance". Look Japan. Vol. 43 no. 493–504. Limited. p. 35.
  9. "Japanese Archipelago", TheFreeDictionary.com, retrieved 24 June 2013.