Profile of
the Minamitorishima Island
An Island at the Easternmost Edge of Japan

Location and Size

The Minamitorishima Island is the easternmost island in Japan, located at N 24°17 E 153°59. It's part of Ogasawara Village, Tokyo.
The island is about 1,950 km southeast of central Tokyo, and it takes roughly 4 to 5 days by boat—or 4 hours by plane—to get there. It's also about 1,200 km away from the Chichijima Island of the Ogasawara Islands.
Its latitude is about the same as that of Ishigaki and Iriomote Islands, and the longitude is slightly east of Sydney's.
The shape of the island is close to a equilateral triangle. It's formed by a raised coral reef which is about 2 km on each side and 6 km around. The area is about 1.5 km2, which is about the same size as the Imperial Palace.
The island has a runway, wharf, and facilities stationed by the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, where officials maintain port facilities, observe the weather, and perform other duties.
The exclusive economic zone based on the baseline of the Minamitorishima Island is some 430,000 km2, larger than the country's land area.

Chart Source: Ogasawara Village website, "Minamitorishima Island | Current Status"

Topography and Formation

The Minamitorishima Island is the summit of a giant seamount rising from the seafloor. It's located on the Marcus-Necker Ridge, and the only land of it in Japan on the Pacific Plate.
The island is a coral reef formed on a volcanic island, which is sinking as it moves west along with the Pacific Plate. It's thought that it was originally an atoll that sank into the water to form the island as it is today.
The terrain is flat, with a maximum altitude of 9 m, but outside of the reef is a steep cliff that's about 1,000 m deep, and the surrounding waters go down to about 6,000 m at their deepest.


Image Source: Office of Designated Remote Island Ports, Kanto Regional Development Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, "Minamitorishima Island Landscape"

Climate and Ocean Phenomena

Located in the transitional zone between tropical and subtropical climates, the Minamitorishima Island has an oceanic climate with an average annual temperature of around 25.6°C. What's unique about the island's climate is its small annual temperature range. The minimum temperature in January there is about 19°C higher than that in Tokyo.
The average humidity doesn't change much and is higher than that of Tokyo throughout the year. As in Tokyo, the average humidity tends to become lower in winter, but the total annual precipitation is about 70% of that of Tokyo. While Tokyo gets less rain during the cold weather, the Minamitorishima Island experiences little rain from February to June, and a lot of it in July and August because there are more typhoons.
Located at the easternmost edge of Japan, the island is the first in Japan to see the sun rise.

気象庁南鳥島観測所ホームページ「南鳥島の気候」 気象庁南鳥島観測所ホームページ「南鳥島の気候」 気象庁南鳥島観測所ホームページ「南鳥島の気候」

Chart Source: Japan Meteorological Agency Minamitorishima Observing Station website, "Climate of the Minamitorishima Island"


The earliest sunrise in Japan
Credit: 3rd Regional Coast Guard Headquarters

Marine Resources in the Surrounding Waters

Valuable marine mineral resources like rare-earth muds and cobalt-rich crust have been discovered in the waters surrounding the Minamitorishima Island, and various studies and research are being conducted toward developing the resources.
Moreover, since human activity has an extremely small influence, the island is an ideal place to observe atmospheric environment. For that reason, it's been designated as one of the 31 Global stations (as of August 2022) for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)'s Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Program. It's the only one in Japan.

History of the Island

  • 1543

    Discovered by the Spanish explorer de la Torre (there are various theories).

  • Circa 1860

    Named "Marcus Island" by an American missionary.

  • 1896

    Mizutani Shinroku landed, and 23 people moved from Ogasawara.

  • 1898

    Named "Minamitorishima" and incorporated into the jurisdiction of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Ogasawara Branch.

  • 1935

    A naval meteorological observing station opened.

  • 1936

    An airfield was constructed for naval maneuvers.

  • 1952

    Put under the administrative authority of the United States.

  • 1968

    Returned to Japan along with the Ogasawara Islands. An auxiliary air facility was launched. A meteorological observing station was established.

  • 2010

    The Act on the Development of Base Facilities and Preservation of the Low-Tide Line for the Promotion of Use and Conservation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf was brought into force.
    Made a Designated Remote Island.

  • 2011

    The country starts the construction of designated remote islands port facilities.