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Japan is a crowded place. There’s just no way to get around it. The vast majority of good jobs and schools are found in the major urban centers, which are themselves located on the scarce patches of usable land available in this tremendously mountainous country.

Although few people particularly enjoy living in such dense population centers where you find yourself surprised when you’re not pressed against your fellow commuters on the train in the morning, what can you do about it? It’s not like Japan itself is suddenly going to start getting any bigger, is it?

Actually, it that’s exactly what’s going on, as newly released images show that a new island has recently formed in Japan’s waters.

The Ogasawara Islands, also known as the Boshin Islands, lie roughly 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) south of Tokyo. The island chain is technically part of the capital, due to having so few residents as to make setting up its own administrative jurisdiction impractical and inefficient. Some of the Ogasawara Islands, such as Nishinoshima Island, are completely uninhabited.

▼ Nishinoshima Island

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Japan’s Coast Guard and Maritime Self-Defense Force regularly patrol the chain, however, and on a recent sweep of the area spotted something unusual…

Nishinoshima has a new neighbor!

Oh, hi there!

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At 10:20 on the morning of November 20, Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels sailing around the Ogasawara Islands spotted volcanic activity taking place, with thick black smoke rising from the sea roughly 500 meters south by southeast from Nishinoshima. Japan’s Meteorological Agency was informed, and in turn the Coast Guard was dispatched to look into the situation and bring back footage of what exactly was going on.

Aside from the smoke reported by the Maritime Self-Defense Force, the Coast Guard ships arriving in the area that afternoon also observed chunks of rock being spewed intermittently in all directions, along with steam and volcanic ash.

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Nishinoshima Island itself was formed under similar circumstances, during a string of eruptions stretching from 1973 to 1974. This month’s eruptions are the first in the area since that time, and closer inspection by the Coast Guard confirmed their suspicions: a new island, measuring some 200 meters in diameter, has formed.

The Coast Guard’s Hiroshi Ito, a volcanic investigator (and now the man with the job title we want most in the world), explained that islands being formed in this manner is not uncommon. For the time being, though, Ito is keeping his excitement over Japan’s sudden expansion in check.

“In the island’s current state, the possibility exists that it will be worn down by the waves washing over it, and eventually recede back below the surface of the water. However, should the lava flow in such a way that it covers the surface with a hard coating, the island may become permanent.”

So even if you’re emotionally committed to visiting the newest part of Japan, don’t pack your bags just yet. There’s also the fact that the eruptions are still ongoing, with enough danger present that both the Coast Guard and Meteorological Agency have issued warning to ships passing through the area.

Still, we now have a new vacation daydream for the next time the crowds in downtown Tokyo start to get to us.

▼ Volcanoes can’t be much less pleasant than this.

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Sources: Yahoo! Japan News, Jin
Top image: Read 2 Ch
Insert images: Wikipedia, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, 47 News, Yahoo! Japan