Japanese archipelago

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Japanese archipelago
Satellite View of Japan 1999.jpg
A satellite image of the main archipelago (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 as well as the Russian island of Sakhalin. 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.[ clarification needed ]


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 large islands of the Japanese archipelago from the remote, smaller islands; it refers to the main islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku. [5] From 1943 until the end of the Pacific War, Karafuto Prefecture was designated part of the mainland.

The term "home islands" was used at the end of World War II to define the area where Japanese sovereignty and constitutional rule of its 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]



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 five main islands, from north to south, are 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

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geography of Japan</span> Geographical features of Japan

Japan is an archipelagic country comprising a stratovolcanic archipelago over 3,000 km (1,900 mi) along the Pacific coast of East Asia. 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kyushu</span> 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. Kyushu has a land area of 36,782 square kilometres (14,202 sq mi) and a population of 14,311,224 in 2018.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hokkaido</span> Island, region, and prefecture of Japan

Hokkaidō is Japan's second largest island and comprises the largest and northernmost prefecture, making up its own region. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaidō from Honshu; the two islands are connected by the undersea railway Seikan Tunnel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Honshu</span> Largest island of Japan

Honshu, historically called Hondo (本土) 'mainland', is the largest and most populous 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 seventh-largest island in the world, and the second-most populous after the Indonesian island of Java.

Shikoku Island and region of Japan

Shikoku is the smallest of the four main islands of Japan. 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 its 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.

Izu Islands Island group in southeastern Japan

The Izu Islands are a group of volcanic islands stretching south and east from the Izu Peninsula of Honshū, Japan. Administratively, they form two towns and six villages; all part of Tokyo Prefecture. The largest is Izu Ōshima, usually called simply Ōshima.

Nanpō Islands Island group in Japan

The Nanpō Islands is a collective term for the groups of islands that are located to the south of the Japanese archipelago in Micronesia. They extend from the Izu Peninsula west of Tokyo Bay southward for about 1,200 km (750 mi), to within 500 km (310 mi) of the Mariana Islands. The Nanpō Islands are all administered by Tokyo Metropolis.

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.

Kikaijima Island within Ryukyu Islands

Kikaijima is one of the Satsunan Islands, classed with the Amami archipelago between Kyūshū and Okinawa.

Names of Okinawa

Okinawa (沖縄) is a name with multiple referents. The endonym prototypically refers to Okinawa Island in southwestern Japan. Today it can cover some surrounding islands and, more importantly, can refer to Okinawa Prefecture, a much larger administrative division of Japan, although the people from the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands still feel a strong sense of otherness to Okinawa.

Due to changes in sea level, Japan has at various times been connected to the continent by land bridges, with continental Russia to the north via the Sōya Strait, Sakhalin, and the Mamiya Strait, and with the Korean Peninsula to the southwest, via the Tsushima Strait and Korea Strait. Land bridges also connected the Japanese Islands with each other. These land bridges enabled the migration of terrestrial fauna from the continent and their dispersal within Japan.


  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.