One of the rarest forms of sand, star sand, is both a beautiful sight and a scientific marvel. Found on the Taketomi, Hatoma, and Iriomote islands of Japan, star sand is exactly what the name implies — small, millimeter-sized pieces of sand in the shape of stars. Let’s uncover the truth behind each Okinawa star sand beach.
At first glance, the beaches look like any other. Only when visitors take a closer look at the beach they stand on does it become clear that this is no ordinary sand. Despite the small size of the sand particles, beach-goers have no problem seeing this incredible five-pointed star shape with the naked eye.
Unlike most beaches, the sand on Hoshizuna Beach and other surrounding Japanese beaches is made up not of rocks and minerals, but rather of the remnants of previous organisms. Each little star is the exoskeleton of small, single-celled organisms known as Foraminifera. This means that, though the sand is no longer alive, it once was part of a living organism in the Pacific Ocean.
The Folklore Behind Japanese Star-Shaped Sand
Star-shaped sands, or “hoshizuna,” are a natural wonder found on select beaches in Okinawa, Japan. These tiny star-shaped grains are actually the exoskeletons of microscopic Foraminifera marine organisms. Over time, these organisms accumulate and mix with coral fragments, forming the distinctive star-shaped sand found on Okinawan beaches.
To the locals, star-shaped sand bears cultural significance. On Taketomi Island, they have a folktale about the origins of this peculiar Japanese sand. If you go by this legend, the star-shaped sands are the descendants of the North Star and the Southern Cross.
They fell off from the sky and landed in the sea of Okinawa. The god of the sea wasn’t pleased, so he instructed a sea serpent to kill them. As a result, only their skeletons remained, scattered in Japan and other places. They washed up to the shore to form what we now know as a star sand beach.
Japanese call this type of sand “hoshizuna’’ and this legend is a part of the hidden wonders of these Okinawa beaches. Whether the legend is true remains a mystery but there’s no denying that these sand beaches make a perfect getaway. Exploring these islands is a great way to delve into the vibrant culture of Japan.
So start planning your trip to one of the most fascinating getaways in the world. You’ll get to know more about these tiny Japanese star-shaped wonders while appreciating the beliefs behind them and the natural beauty of these sandy coastlines.
As the waves roll in on the beach, the water carries with it the shells and exoskeletons of these tiny organisms, constructing the unique shoreline. This particular, star-shaped species of Foraminifera, known as Baculogypsina sphaerulata, is found only in the coral reefs of East Asia, making this special sand shape one of the rarest in the world.
The Taketomi, Hatoma, and Iriomote islands, home to the stars, are all part of the Yaeyama Islands located off the mainland of Japan. They are both the southernmost and westernmost inhabited islands in the country. Unlike the many popular metropolis tourist destinations on the country’s mainland, visitors to these islands experience a tropical retreat. Tourists should come ready both to relax and to discover incredible little stars on the ground.
When we think of beaches, we tend to imagine only one type of sand, but there are interesting types of sand around the world, in addition to Japan’s star sand. On Hawaii’s Papakolea Beach, its olivine sand is made up of crystallized magma, and the whole beach is green. California’s Pfeiffer Beach has one of the only locations dominated by garnet sand, meaning entire sections of its beach are purple. New Zealand’s Muriwai Black Sand Beach is made of darkly colored volcanic glass.
Here is our full list of colorful sand beaches you must see to believe.
What Star Sand Beach Is the Most Famous?
Hoshizuna no Hama Beach, or Star Sand Beach, located on Taketomi Island in Okinawa, Japan, is the most popular star sand beach. It’s filled with microscopic star-shaped sand – the remnants of pointy shells of microscopic beings called Foraminifera.
Where Is the Star-Shaped Sand Also Found?
The star-shaped sands can only be found on a few beaches in Okinawa. The most famous destinations are Kaiji Beach on Taketomi Island, Hoshizuna Beach on Iriomote Island, and the entirety of Hatoma Island.
Why Visit Japanese Star-Shaped Sands?
Tourists love taking a stroll on white star-shaped sands and watching their feet get encrusted by the starry remnants. Stargazing, scuba diving, and trying Okinawan cuisine are activities that make star-shaped sands worth visiting. The star-shaped sand is also a valuable resource for scholars and scientists.
Can I Take Star-Shaped Sand Home?
Scouping the star-shaped sand It’s not allowed in some places anymore. Travelers are advised to be considerate of future generations before grabbing a handful to take home. The local authorities find it hard to enforce this because it’s so small, but they’re doing their best to conserve the beaches.
When Is the Best Time to Visit the Star Sand Beaches?
The best time to visit Star Sand Beaches is during low tide when the star-shaped sand particles are most visible. There are several guided tours available that will take you there and to other nearby attractions.