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) 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). It has an exclusive economic zone of 4,470,000 km2 (1,730,000 sq mi).
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. 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. The term is also commonly used today to distinguish the archipelago from Japan's colonies and other territories.
- Japanese archipelago at the Last Glacial Maximum about 20,000 years ago, thin black line indicates present-day shorelinesVegetated landUnvegetated landOcean
The archipelago consists of 6,852 islands (here defined as land more than 100 m in circumference), of which 430 are inhabited. The five main islands, from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa. Honshu is the largest and referred to as the Japanese mainland.
The topography is divided as:
- Hokkaido, Honshu, and Shikoku and its surrounding islands;
- Kyushu and the Ryukyu arc, which is composed of the Ryukyu Islands and other surrounding islands;
- Eastern part of Hokkaido and the Kuril Islands;
- Nanpō Islands and the Izu Peninsula (part of Izu-Bonin-Mariana Arc).
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MILT classification 6,852 islands(main islands: 5 islands, remote islands: 6,847 islands)
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