Japan gets bigger as new coastline emerges on Hokkaido

TOKYO (AFP) - Crowded Japan has got a little bit roomier after a 300m strip of land emerged from the sea and attached itself to the coast, experts said on Monday.

The extra stretch of coastline at the town of Rausu on Hokkaido island has risen as high as 10m from the sea surface in some places, exposing what used to be the ocean floor to the elements.

Initially the phenomenon, in a remote part of the island, prompted speculation among residents of mysterious seismic activities, fuelling fears of another big quake in a nation scarred by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.

But geologists believe the emergence was probably a result of a landslide nearby, when melting ice and snow caused a section of land to drop, pivoting the underwater area into the air.

"An aerial survey indicates that the land swell happened as a result of a landslide", local researcher Yoshinori Yajima told the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper after he flew over the area Monday.

Authorities have not been able to determine exactly when the landslide hit the snow-covered coastline, but they do not expect it to expand further, said an official at the central government's Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau.

"Our understanding is that this is different from earthquakes," he told AFP.

Rausu is not the only place where Japan is expanding: a new island emerged from the sea 1,000km south of Tokyo and continues to grow as the volcano at its centre spews magma.

In February it was reported to be a respectable 2.46 sq km - roughly the size of 345 football pitches.