Why is there no online list of the biggest islands in Japan?

I was recently looking for a top ten list, but instead got hundreds of sites telling me the rather obvious fact that the big four islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku and nothing more. There is a top ten list on Japanese language Wikipedia, but a bit of digging revealed that things are much more complicated than that list would suggest, perhaps also explaining why there is no English language equivalent. That list is:

  1. Honshu
  2. Hokkaido
  3. Kyushu
  4. Shikoku
  5. Etorofu-to
  6. Kunashiri-to
  7. Okinawa Honto
  8. Sadogashima
  9. Amami Oshima
  10. Tsushima

The fact completely hidden in that list is that numbers 5 and 6 are claimed by and administered Russia, the latter being a factor that Japan is only too keen to stress the importance of when it comes to island disputes with China. If we exclude those two, that brings Awaji and Amakusa Shimoshima into the list. We could also argue that Tsushima shouldn’t be there as it has been split into two by canals, in which case Yakushima would make into the top ten. Most likely top ten with area in km2 and other versions of their names plus alternatives for the list below:

  1. Honshu – 225,800 km2
  2. Hokkaido- 78,719 km2
  3. Kyushu – 37,437 km2
  4. Shikoku – 18,545 km2
  5. Okinawa Honto (Okinawa Shima, Okinawa Island) – 1,206 km2
  6. Sadogashima (Sado Island) – 855 km2
  7. Amami Oshima – 712 km2
  8. Tsushima (Tsushima Island) – 709 km2
  9. Awaji-shima (Awaji Island) – 593 km2
  10. Shimoshima (Amakusa Shimoshima, Shimo Island) 574 km2

Other possible entries

Etorofu-to (Iturup) – 3,139 km2 – administered and claimed by Russia

Kunashiri-to (Kunashir Island) – 1490 km2 – administered and claimed by Russia

Yakushima – 524 km2

The top four are the 7th, 21st, 37th and 50th biggest islands in the world, according to Wikipedia.


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