Are you wondering how many islands makeup Japan? Well, Japan is made up of a whopping 6,852 islands but the interesting part is that only 421 of these islands are inhabited in Japan! Let’s find out more about all the islands of Japan – inhabited and abandoned ones and why nobody lives in these abandoned islands in Japan!
Okay, let’s find it out.
How Many Islands Makeup Japan?
Japan is made up of nearly 7000 islands. Out of these 7000 islands in Japan, only 421 islands are inhabited. The 5 main islands of Japan are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and the main island of Okinawa. These larger or main islands are further divided into smaller islands.
Out of this huge number of islands in Japan, only 421 islands are inhabited.
|Japanese Prefectures||No. of Islands|
Listing each of them will cover a whole book.
That’s why I am going to inform you of some of its main islands.
What Are The Main Islands of Japan?
Beautiful Japan has four main islands.
- Main Island of Okinawa
These 5 islands come together to form the mainland of Japan.
Now, I am going to give a brief idea about these four.
Honshu: Land of Mountains, Lakes, Parks & Cultural Heritage
I am starting with Honshu, which is the largest island in Japan. Also, It is the 7th largest in the whole world, with an area of about 227,960 square kilometers.
Over 81.4% of Japan’s total population lives on this island.
Hence, the most populated island in Japan is also this Honshu island.
Honshu is in the middle of Japan’s map.
It even includes the capital city Tokyo and the ancient capital city Kyoto.
So, if you have the question ‘what island is Tokyo on,’ you already know the answer.
Other major cities, including Hiroshima, Niigata, and Nagoya, are also here on this island.
Some of its surrounding islands are Awashima Island, Dream Island, Kansai International Airport, Kutsujima, Nanatsujima Archipelago, Notojima, Odaiba, Oki Islands, Sado, Takashima, Shimane, Tsunoshima, Umashima, Shimane, Yumeshima.
You might think that as it is an island, how is it connected to other islands or other major cities?
Surprisingly, it is very well-connected to the other primary islands, even with some remote islands via tunnels and bridges.
Besides, all major cities within Honshu are connected by rail.
So, it seems the communication here is very convenient and travel-friendly.
Why is Honshu popular?
You will find a lot of things to do on this most bustling and hustling island.
It is the most mountainous area in Japan. It even has the Japanese Alps, the famous Mount Fuji with an active volcano, Mount Kita, Mount Hotaka.
They attract a large number of travelers and climbers from all over the world.
It’s not only the mountain, Japan’s largest lake, Lake Biwa, Lake Kawaguchiko, Inawashiro Lake, and tons of other streams run through this island.
Besides, it is full of national parks such as Nara Park and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, enriched and well-preserved with wildlife.
These will give you the feel of being teleported to a different universe.
And who can forget the beauty of the entertainment parks like Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea. And not to mention Universal Studios Osaka, where there are various themed areas, including the Harry Potter World!
On top of that, some historical sites like Osaka Castle and Imperial Palace are still standing strong on this island to glorify their tradition and culture.
So, this versatile island of Japan definitely won’t disappoint you!
Honshu connects to Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu with tons of bridges and underground tunnels.
Let’s explore Hokkaido now, which is the second-largest island in Japan.
Hokkaido: Land of Natural Beauty & Festivals
When you move up to the north of Honshu, you will find Hokkaido.
Being the second largest in Japan, it is also the 21st largest island in the world, with an area of 83,438 square kilometers!
Sapporo is the largest city on this island and also the capital of Hokkaido.
It has four seasons. Each season is totally distinct from the other.
During spring, cherry blossoms cover the whole area, and a mixture of red and golden leaves take over this landscape in autumn. Summer is relatively cooler than the rest of Japan, but winter is the coldest.
Some surrounding islands include Kamome, Okushiri, Oshima, Rebun, Rishiri, Teuri, Yagishiri.
Now I will discuss what things you can do in Hokkaido or what it is famous for.
Why is Hokkaido famous?
This island effectively combines nature and the city. It is known for its natural landscape, with an abundance of national parks and festivals celebrating its heavenly beauty.
Its land is also mostly mountainous, just like Honshu, with a few volcanoes.
The highest point of this Hokkaido island is Mount Asahi, which is 2,291 m tall.
Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding are famous here due to the combination of hilly aspects and cooler weather.
Adventure enthusiasts from all over the world prefer Hokkaido as there are tons of preserved national parks like Shiretoko National Park.
You can’t think of missing out on the drifting ice from the Okhotsk Sea in Abashiri, one of the most eminent attractions in all of Japan!
Though the winter gets radically cold, the people here know how to make the most out of it very well.
This coldest prefecture is home to the annual Sapporo Snow Festival and Asahikawa Ice Festival.
I must say, the winter festivals and the celebrations cannot get any better anywhere than in Hokkaido.
They attract visitors from worldwide and Japan to this region each year.
I know you are wandering around in your imagination now after going through it.
Then think what would happen if you enjoyed it face to face!
I have just explained two islands. Still, there are more to go.
So, without any further say, let’s know about them.
Kyushu: Land of Fire & History
Kyushu takes the title of the third-largest island in Japan after Honshu and Hokkaido, with an area of about 36,782 square kilometers.
The largest city of Kyushu is Fukuoka, and it is the fourth-largest city in Japan.
Other prominent cities are Nagasaki — the city with the tragic historical incident, which is now a symbol of peace and Arita, the city of potteries.
It also contains Japan’s largest active volcano, Mount Aso.
As it is located further south, it has a warmer subtropical climate. So, if you prefer the warm sun instead of the coldest Hokkaido weather, Kyushu is just for you.
Amakusa, Nagashima, Kagoshima, Goto Islands, Hashima, Hirado, Iki, Koshikijima, Tsushima are some surrounding islands of Kyushu.
What is Kyushu Is Well-Known for?
The main charm of this island is its subtropical climate, but that’s not the only thing that will attract you.
This mountainous island is full of many active volcanoes — Mount Kuju, Mount Sakurajima, Mount Aso, and wonderful hot springs.
Hence, if you are a volcano adventurer, this is the island for you.
However, in case you prefer peace and relaxation, there are hot springs for you!
Don’t think that it’s anything that you can possibly imagine!
These hot springs are some of the best-colored waters in the whole country.
You will go crazy seeing the sparkling blue water of Yufuin Onsen and Takinoyu Onsen.
If you want redwater, Yumigahama Onsen and Ondake Onsen can be your best options.
And Kojigoku Onsen and Myoban Onsen are popular for their white water.
By the way, have you ever seen yellow water?
Ukenokuchi Onsen has it the best!
The Beaches here are also wonderful. Some notable names are Aoshima, Cape Hado, and Keya.
Nagasaki is smaller, but it is full of trolleys, old stone streets, and museums. Some of the island’s biggest events take place here in Nagasaki.
One of the fascinating ones is the Lantern Festival to celebrate the Lunar year.
I can say with full confidence that you cannot ever forget the beauty and charms of this lantern festival throughout your lifetime.
The Tall Ships festival also takes place in late April to commemorate the beginning of their trade with the Dutch, when visitors can tour and ride on ships.
There is also Kumamoto on this island, which is two hours south of Fukuoka.
It is an old fortress city with one of Japan’s oldest and best-maintained feudal castles and walls.
Don’t you feel like traveling to this place right now?
It’s time to enjoy the beauty of the smallest island in Japan among the four major islands.
Shikoku: Land of Temples & Culture
This island is located to the south of Honshu and northeast of Kyushu Island.
The island has an area of 18,801 square kilometers, with the highest point, Mount Ishizuchi, which is 1,982 m tall.
Matsuyama is the biggest city on Shikoku island, and other prominent cities include Kochi, Naturo, and Takamatsu.
Neither it has mountains as big as those in northern Honshu or Hokkaido, nor the same near-tropical climate as southern Kyushu.
So, this island is modest, offering tourists a soft and gentle version of the busier tourist regions of Japan.
It is not that well-connected like some other islands, but some bridges connect it to Honshu to make it easy access to the majority of locals.
Two of its surrounding islands are Kuro-Shima (Ehime) and Nii Oshima.
This small island has got many things to offer you. Let’s see what they are.
What is Shikoku famous for?
Here is all the nature you can ever ask for.
However, on top of its scenic beauty, this island is overflowing with culture.
You will find an abundance of Buddhist temples and tons of legendary haiku poets here (a type of poetry that originated from Japan). These poets proudly mention this area as their home.
Shikoku is home to a Buddhist pilgrimage. Each year the pilgrims, mostly from Japan, come to travel around the island.
Though it’s for religious purposes, now it has become one of the highly-rated tourist attractions.
Japan’s largest dance festival, Awa Odori, is also held here in mid-August.
Groups of musicians and dancers dance and chant through the street in traditional costumes to the drums and shamisen lute sounds.
The cultural trip doesn’t end here.
The castles of this island are also worth visiting.
The well-preserved Kochi Castle and one of the three water castles in Japan called the Takamatsu Castle are there to attract a large number of visitors.
One of the natural highlights of Shikoku is the Rivers.
The Omogo Gorge is a popular national scenic site near Mount Ishizuchi, at the Omogo River.
Not to mention the blue water of Niyodo River, the aqua reflects so beautifully that you can’t even believe it is real.
I have already finished talking about the main four islands of Japan.
But as you see that Japan has a huge number of islands, I would like to describe some other important islands in short.
Main Island of Okinawa
This fifth largest island has an area of 1,206.98 square kilometers with a humid subtropical climate.
The capital city of Okinawa is Naha, the southernmost prefecture of Japan.
This island has one of the largest tracts of subtropical rainforests in Asia called the Yanbaru.
There are a lot of endemic species of plants and animals.
You will find a small number of endemic Yanbaru kuina, a small flightless bird that is close to extinction. The critically endangered Okinawa woodpecker also lives here on this island.
Speaking of the tourist attractions, the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium obviously comes first. Once, it was the world’s largest aquarium.
Except for this, Pineapple Park, Century Beach, and Hiji Falls are the center of tourist attractions.
One of the noteworthy features of this island is multiple festivals that take place throughout the year.
Some of them are Shurijo Castle Park New Year’s Celebration, Naha Hari Festival, Eisa Dancers Parade, Shuri Castle Festival, The Ryukyu Dynasty Festival Shuri, etc.
Some surrounding islands of Okinawa are Aguni Jima, Daitō Islands, Iejima, Iheya Jima, Iwo Tori Shima, Izena Jima, Kerama Islands, Kumejima.
Some Other Smaller Islands in Japan
There are also Okunoshima, Nokonoshima, Ikishima, Naoshima, Ryukyu, Awaji, Shimoshima, Amakusa, Amami Oshima, Miyako-jima islands, that are mentionable.
Some of these islands are huge, some comprise a few towns, and some are smaller, which you can barely notice on Google Maps.
Surprisingly, there are also a number of islands that are man-made! Kansai International Airport and Dream Island are two such kinds of islands.
Right now, I am going to give a brief summary on the fifth largest island in Japan, which is Okinawa Island.
Okunoshima Or Rabbit Island
I guess you already have guessed something from the name, right?
Yes! You are exactly on point!
Okunoshima is home to nearly thousands of rabbits. That’s the reason behind its nickname.
Apart from all these cute rabbits, you can enjoy the panoramic view of the beautiful scenic ocean and land from the crest of the island.
However, this island has quite a dark past.
Are you curious to know that?
Okay, I am revealing it right away.
During World War II, this island was the main area of chemical weapons research and production. And the pathetic matter is the rabbits were used as guinea pigs to try out the various new chemical weapons like poison gas.
Don’t worry. Any rabbit you will see on Okunoshima now is healthy and normal.
Other than the rabbits, there are various sites to visit like The Poison Gas Museum and the Lighthouse.
Now I will take you to such a splendid island, that’s beauty is not something to forget in a lifetime.
This island is located in Hakata Bay and is one of the most tourist attractive islands in Japan. It offers peace, quiet, and a nice day out from the city.
It has fantastic views of Fukuoka city’s waterline and delicious local produce.
The main attraction of this island is Nokonoshima Island park.
Actually, it is a beautifully nurtured flower garden on the northern side of the island with magnificent seasonal displays.
Different seasonal flowers bloom all year-round, blanketing the island in technicolor.
In autumn, the park’s cosmos display on a field with around 300,000 blooming flowers slopes gently down to the sea.
In a word, the view is just incredibly beautiful.
Japanese daffodils bloom in early spring, while the whole park turns yellow with scarlet sage and sunflowers later in the year.
The island is small enough, and you can roam around on foot or by bike easily, and its beaches are perfect for summer BBQs.
So, altogether, this is the kind of place you dream of visiting on a warm, sunny day.
If beaches are the only thing you crave for, the next island is for you!
Ikishima Island in the Tsushima Strait is a must-visit place for beach lovers.
Like the rest of Nagasaki and its beautiful islands, Ikishima offers endless enjoyment, starting from white sand beaches to breathtaking viewpoints.
This island has stunningly beautiful turquoise water! And the white sand beaches of this island are some of the best in Japan.
You can go to Kiyoshima or Ohama beaches to surf, and Tsutsuki Hama Beach to swim.
The thrill you will feel is something unforgettable!
Besides, you shouldn’t miss the Devil’s Footprint at Makizaki Park, hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil monkeys at Ondake Shrine, and the exciting water sports at Nishikihama Beach.
While exploring Iki Island, you should also check out the fun and interactive dolphin park.
The park has a mini-museum, and you will have the chance to pet and feed the dolphins in a natural, spacious environment.
On top of that, If relaxation is your game, you can cap off the day with a soak in the famous mud-colored water of the Yunomoto Hot Spring village resort.
Sado Island is a perfect and worthy place for a weekend visit. It is two hours from the nearest city if you go there by boat.
Here you will get to see onsens ( hot springs), award-winning shakes served directly from the brewhouse, rice paddies, and winding mountain roads.
The best thing to do on this island is riding in a bathtub boat, though.
The locals get dressed in authentic period costumes and steer you through the crystal-clear waters in a traditional wooden tub-turned-boat.
Sounds so fascinating! Then imagine enjoying it in real life!
Naoshima Island is commonly known as Japan’s Art Island.
It is becoming one of the nation’s most popular must-visit places due to its unique collection of art exhibits.
This Naoshima Island is home to a collection of galleries, installations, and public attractions that are visited by almost 8,00000 of visitors from around the globe.
There is something for art, culture, and design lovers, from architecture designed by Japanese iconic Tadao Ando to public outdoor sculptures by Yayoi Kusama and immersive installations by James Turrell.
Most of the exhibits here are disallowed from being shared outside the gallery walls.
So, you have to go and see it for yourself.
Now that you have had an idea about some beautiful islands in Japan, let’s conclude it here.
The Nanpō Islands are a beautiful archipelago found scattered off the southeast coast of Japan. Home to numerous picturesque white sandy beaches, lush rolling hills and rugged mountainous terrain, these secluded islands have something to offer for any type of traveler.
While many of the Nanpō Islands may appear remote, these islands are steeped in history and culture.
From the sublime Iriomote Island, to the volcanic Aogashima and the wild Chichijima, each island in the Nanpō Islands chain has its own distinct identity.
Each offers you a glimpse into the mysterious and fascinating cultures and customs of days long gone.
Take a peek at the natural beauty of Iriomote Island. Explore the lush forests and vibrant wildlife, or visit their unique sea-view villages and secluded beaches.
Here on Iriomote, visitors can experience a tranquil paradise and be delighted by pristine waterfalls, remote lagoons and seagrass beds.
Next on the tour of the Nanpō Islands is the enchanting Aogashima Island. A volcanic landscape bursting with lava cliffs, steamy hot springs and steaming lakes, Aogashima is an adventurer’s paradise. And, don’t forget to make time to visit the historical village at the peak of the island, surrounded by a wild sea of clouds.
Lastly, dive into the rugged outdoors at the wild and isolated Chichijima. Here, explore hidden coves teeming with aquatic life, wind-swept bluffs topped with monuments, and traditional fishing villages full of charm.
Whether it’s the captivating beauty of Iriomote Island, the adventurous landscape of Aogashima, or the natural escape of Chichijima, the Nanpō Islands are an oasis of paradise beyond the bustling cities and metropolitan areas of mainland Japan. A journey to these untouched and secluded islands of Japan will be the journey of a lifetime.
Each and every island is unique and colorful in its own natural scenic beauty.
When Japan has thousands and thousands of islands, a lifetime wouldn’t be enough to explore every single one of them.
However, you can try starting with the four mainland islands.
Once you have gotten these down, then you can think of visiting the remote islands full of undiscovered jewels and treasures.
Make your life a journey, not a destination!