Japan is Sinking! Or is It? Is Tokyo the next Atlantis?

    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

    Landmarks in Japan crashing into the sea

    But 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.

    Man scuba diving in Yonaguni

    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

    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.

    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?

    Japanese woman worried and with her hands on her head

    Japan'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 on Twitter!