Japan is Sinking! Or is It?

Many people believe that there is a distinct possibility that Japan will one day sink into the ocean. Japan is an island nation, and there is scientific proof that continents much larger than Japan have indeed sunk into the deep blue sea. Does such a fate lie in Japan’s future? There have been books written and movies produced on the subject, but here I shall be ending the confusion once and for all.

Yes, Japan is Sinking

Sinking_Of_JapanBut only a little bit. Mostly, no, it’s not. There is a lot of seismic activity going on in Japan. It’s the most seismically active country in the world, but that should come as no surprise to anyone given the terrible earthquake tragedies that have happened in Japan over the years. Japan sits atop an intersection of several tectonic plates and the shape of the country has been gradually transformed by these plate movements.

But while Japan’s shape is changing, it is, on the whole, not sinking. Some parts of Japan (the mountains mostly) are actually getting higher as the plates collide. However, earthquakes such as the Tohoku one in 2011 do cause some parts of Japan to sink. A 250 mile stretch of land along the Tohoku coastline dropped by about 2 feet as a result of the quake. On the other hand, other parts of Japan got wider and the seabed off the coast of Tohoku raised by about 10 feet.

isekikunThis picture is from Yonaguni, not actually a sunken continent.

As mentioned above, continents have sunk before. Take Zealandia, Mauritia, and the Kerguelen Plateau. While they did find themselves submerged a long, long time ago (think 23 million years), it still makes you pause to think what might happen to Japan eventually if everything goes right. Or wrong, depending how you look at it.

I actually didn’t know that these “sunken continents” existed until not too long ago, but I find the idea of them fascinating. I guess it makes sense once you think about it though. Once continents break up into microcontinents it’s only a matter of time before some of them start going under. But like I said, Japan is not one of these places. Not yet, anyway.

Propagated Sinking Myths

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjTw9qaiE5w']

Despite the evidence, there are still a decent amount of Japanese people who believe that their country is indeed sinking. In 1973, Sakyo Komatsu wrote the best-selling earthquake novel Japan Sinks. The novel led to a film that same year, a television show in 1975, and a film remake and a sequel to the novel in 2006. A parody movie by the title Everything Other than Japan Sinks was released in 2006 as well. This movie sounds hilarious and I kind of want to see it.

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCbPbV_W0hg']

In the movie Japan Sinks (the real one, not the parody), Japan sinks in just a few days. Realistically, this would never happen, but if it did, it would release a tremendous tsunami upon most all the coastal cities of the world. So even if you’re not living in Japan, you really wouldn’t want it to sink. Not that you would anyway though, that’s just mean.

Should Japan be Worried?

sad-asianJapan’s going to be fine. At one point in time, all the continents were joined as one and Japan used to be attached to the main Asian continent. Since then, Japan has slowly drifted further and further east. While this trend is likely to continue, it is no means for concern. Japan is moving east, not down.

And Japan is no stranger to man-made land, so while earthquakes will do their best to tear Japan down in an attempt to sink it into the ocean, Japan will always be ready to turn around and rebuild and recover. In Tokyo alone, hundreds of square kilometers have been added over the past 60 years. Since pieces and parts of Japan sink so slowly, this gives the Japanese people plenty of time to fill everything back in.


So tell me, what do you think about the whole Japan is going to sink idea? Are any of the ideas posited here flawed? Have any theories of your own? Let us know in the comments!

  • Mariana

    You used a picture of Youko from Seigi no Mikata! I love this website ^_^

  • DAVIDPD

    If Japan keeps sliding East, then it will eventually be part of the United States. Waiting…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500065617 Meredith Peruzzi

    I admit it makes me wonder when I see the notations on Tokyo Metro stations like “This station is 1.3m above sea level,” because then I realize just how low we already are. But I’m not worried about sinking; this stuff happens on the order of millennia, not hundreds of years. I figure the metro warnings are for tsunami purposes, and I go on with my life.

  • x_stei

    Shida Mirai is awesome.

  • http://collegeinfogeek.com/ Thomas Frank

    The one thing I wondered about reading about Japan drifting east was whether the people who laid all the submarine communications cable took that into account and built some slack into them. If a drifting continent causes those fiber-optic cables to snap, we’re going to have some problems.

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    They’ll attach themselves to California and become California 2: Surf Harder.

  • Jon

    Continental drift is incredibly slow, along the lines of a few centimeters per year. Those cables should have plenty of time to simply stretch and become obsolete before they snap.

  • http://mistersanity.blogspot.com Jonadab

    Japan is much too _vertical_ to sink easily. All those mountains. It would take one heck of a serious earthquake to sink all that. On the moment magnitude scale (what we used to call the “richter” scale) that would be… completely totally off the scale, to the point where it would make anything the scale can actually measure look like small children playing.

  • http://twitter.com/Kamijou_Toumad Tony

    This was a really interesting read. I’ve heard a few people say that Japan is going to indeed sink and I always brushed it off as some uninformed theory. Now the next time someone says that Japan is sinking I can tell them exactly why it’s not!

  • John T

    Its gonna sink..

  • Stardust

    Here is a video about how our planet will look like in 100 million years, according to scientific research.
    Japan will not sink.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGcDed4xVD4

  • Lector Paulus Petrus Kim

    Damned NAZI Abe Shinzo is their leader and God. These japanese never repent what thy committed in the past. They deserve to be exterminated. Japan is a cockroach of East Asia.