In the waters surrounding Japan, there are about 158 uninhabited islands, but it appears that one of those islands has vanished.
The missing islet was named Esanbe Hanakita Kojima in 2014 and it is supposed to be located near Sarufutsu, a village on Hokkaido island, The Washington Post reported.
The discovery of the missing island was made by author Hiroshi Shimizu who worked on a book about the islands of Japan.
Well, that seems careless… Japanese island disappears, without anyone noticing https://t.co/J2sw6bVpHv
— Guardian Weekly (@guardianweekly) November 2, 2018
To continue his work on a sequel, Shimizu planned a visit to Esanbe Hanakita Kojima, but was unable to locate the island.
He turned to a village fishery in Sarufutsu for help.
Shimizu was informed that in 1987, the last time the islet was surveyed by the Japanese Coast Guard, it was only around four-and-a-half feet above sea level and now it has vanished.
Elder fishermen reported they saw the island decades ago, but never went near it since it was recorded as an undersea reef by GPS navigation.
The Japanese Coast Guard has been investigating the area to determine what happened to the island, but their efforts have not been successful thus far, according to Business Insider.
If they conclude that the island has indeed vanished, Japan’s EEZ will dwindle by half a kilometer.
Senior coast guard official Tomoo Fujii said, “There is a possibility that the islet has been eroded by wind and snow and, as a result, disappeared.”
As it turns out, disappearances like this one are not that uncommon.
In 2016, a study found that in the Pacific Ocean’s Solomon Islands, five islands had vanished from 1947-2014.
The study concluded that “extreme events, sea walls and inappropriate development” were the likely cause of the coastline changes in that area.
Japan said in 2016 that they would spend $107 million to reconstruct the observatory tower on the Pacific island, Okinotorishima, located 1,000 miles south of Tokyo. This move would safeguard Japan’s claim to specific islands and sidestep further provincial clashes with neighboring countries.
There have been disputes with Japan and China over what constitutes an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), according to The Guardian.
China argues that islands that are made of rock only do not meet the requirements and a U.N. convention was in agreeance, stating “rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own,” don’t qualify.
Japan and Russia have also had territorial disputes over the islands and who they belong to.
Esanbe Hanakita Kojima was located west of the Northern Territories, known as the Kurils, which were taken from Japan by Soviet forces immediately following the Pacific War.