The number of islands in Japan is expected to increase by 7,273 after a new government recount.
Geographers have said current official statistics of 6,852 islands are off the mark.
With the recent geographical study of the archipelago, the figure is expected to rise to 14,125 islands, which is more than double the current figure, a source familiar with the matter told Kyodo News.
The previous estimate dates back to a 1987 study conducted by the Japan Coast Guard and only included islands with a circumference of at least 100 meters, or 328 feet.
The 1987 count relied on human beings pouring over paper maps and groups of small islands were often misidentified as one island.
Sandbanks were also excluded, which the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea recognizes as islands, The Telegraph reported.
Additionally, volcanic activity has led to the formation of more islands in the following 35 years.
The new count used the same criterion but with digital mapping technology to automatically count islands and cross-referenced the information with past aerial photos and other data. Islands in lakes or river were excluded from the total.
The number of islands is not yet official as the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) is making final adjustments. GSI is expected to release a report on its updated map of the nation in March, Kyodo News reported.
The modified island numbers does not mean Japan is expanding its territory, as the islands were all counted within the country’s current 370,000 square kilometers of sovereign waters.
The new study was conducted following a December 2021 parliamentary session when a member of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party criticized that the data was old and the true figure could be significantly higher.
“An accurate understanding of the number of islands is an important administrative matter that is related to the national interest,” the legislator said, according to Kyodo News.
Japan lies along the western edge of the Ring of Fire, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Sea of Japan, and the East China Sea.
The island nation has been in dispute with China over the sovereignty of a group of uninhabited islands in East China Sea called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
The islands are administered by Japan but Beijing has in recent years claimed the islands as part of China’s territory.