The shores of the remote Japanese island of Taketomi in Okinawa feature a remarkable natural wonder – tiny star-shaped grains of sand. This extraordinary beach, known as Hoshizuna-no-hama or “Star Sand Beach”, has become a hugely popular tourist attraction.
The stars are actually the microscopic skeletons of ancient sea creatures called Foraminifera. These single-celled organisms lived on the ocean floor before their husks were carried ashore by currents. Each delicate star has five or six delicate points.
Local legend claims the stars are the offspring of celestial beings such as the Southern Cross and North Star. While that myth has captivated visitors for centuries, scientists revealed the true origins of the stars in the 1960s.
The star sand only appears on a few Japanese islands. Hoshizuna-no-hama and two other Taketomi beaches – Kaijihama and Aiyaruhama – feature the tiny stars. Some neighboring islands like Iriomote and Hatoma also have star sand beaches thanks to specific tidal conditions.
Taketomi island has long been prized for its beauty and isolation. But the star sands have made it an instant social media sensation.
“We’ve seen a huge influx of visitors thanks to photos spreading on travel sites and apps,” said Akira Matsumoto, a local inn owner. “It’s boosting our economy, while introducing the world to this hidden wonder.”
For now, Taketomi remains a tranquil island paradise far from city life. But the secret of its magical star sand is out, drawing eager visitors from around the globe.