Hoshizuna-no-Hama – Japan’s Beautiful Star Sand Beach

Hoshizuna-no-Hama, which translates to “Sand in the Shape of a Star”, is a small but charming Japanese beach famous for its star-shaped tiny grains of sand.

Located on Irimote, the second-largest island in Okinawa prefecture, Hoshizuna-no-Hama doesn’t look too different than the hundreds of other beaches in the Japanese archipelago, at least at first glance. Closer inspection reveals that many of the sand grains have a very recognizable shape – either a five or six-tipped star. That’s because Hoshizuna-no-Hama beach consists in part of billions of exoskeleton of foraminifers, marine protozoa that thrives on the ocean floor. Their calcium carbonate shells remain behind after their death and are constantly washed ashore by the ocean, creating this stunning natural wonder.

Measuring only a few millimeters in size, the star-shaped grains of sand are really tough to notice at first, but as these tiny stars stick to your fingers and toes, you start to see that they look different than regular specks of sand. Some people come to Hoshizuna-no-Hama specifically to hunt for star-shaped sand, which has prompted local authorities to forbid people from taking the peculiar sand home with them.

The internet, and social media in particular, have really boosted the popularity of Hoshizuna-no-Hama beach, which has proven both a blessing and a curse, as despite the obvious benefits to local businesses, the increase in tourists has accelerated the disappearance of star-shaped sand, as the ocean can’t seem to wash up enough of it fast enough to compete with people taking the grains home with them as souvenirs.

Scientists see the star-shaped sand as merely the exoskeletons of billions of foraminifers, but some locals still believed in the local legend which claims that the sand grains are the tiny offspring of the Southern Cross and the North Star. They were born in the ocean just off Okinawa, but were killed by a giant serpent soon after. Their small skeletons are all that remains.

Hoshizuna-no-Hama is Okinawa’s most famous star sand beach, but it isn’t the only one. Other such beaches can be found on the nearby islands of Taketomi, Tokashiki and Hatoma.

For more incredible beaches around the world, check out the amazing popcorn beach, and Iceland’s stunning diamond beach.