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. 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.
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.