star-shaped sands unique to some Japanese beaches and not found anywhere else in the world

Comparing the stars in the sky to grains of sand is a common way to visualize the enormity of the universe. But on some unique beaches in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture, grains of sand really are stars.


Stroll around Hoshizuna no Hama (Star Sand Beach), located on Iriomote Island, enjoying your feet immersed in the sand. Look closely and you will see that the sand on this beach is very special. Special.

The tiny star-shaped grains of sand you’ll see on your feet are actually the spiky shells of millions of tiny foraminifera, which are part of the same protist as the amoeba. When foraminifera die, the tide carries them ashore from coral reefs in the western Pacific Ocean.

""image"" Starry sand of a beach on the island of Hatoma.

Photo: Psammophile

The phylum Foraminifera includes about 10,000 species that create shells of various designs. Star-shaped shells, such as those created by the species Baculogypsina sphaerulata shown here, are very rare.

In fact, only a few islands in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture are known to have them.

""image"" Photo: labormikro

However, not all sandy beaches in Okinawa have star sand. The most famous locations include Kaiji Beach on Taketomi Island and Star Sand Beach on Iriomote Island, as well as Aharen Beach on Tokashiki Island.

Star sand can also be found throughout Hatoma Island, and the more isolated islands are also good places to find it.


Photo: Travel to Okinawa

With its cute shape, star sand can bring joy to all who encounter it, but in recent years it has declined and some beaches have even banned visitors from taking it home.

""image"" Star sand beach. Photo: adrienneleighm


Therefore, before taking any home, confirm whether or not it is allowed on the beach in question, to help protect the star sand for future generations to enjoy.

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