Hoshizuna no Hama, located on the northern tip of the remote Iriomote Island in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, is a small beach that boasts a unique feature – star-shaped sand. The beach is known as the “star sand beach” due to the grains of sand found here being shaped like tiny stars. However, these are not really sand grains, but the exoskeletons of a tiny one-celled organism called Baclogypsina sphaerulata that live among the sea grass.
Baclogypsina sphaerulata belongs to the family Calcalinidae and is a type of protozoa. Their exoskeleton or shell is star-shaped with five or six pointed spines or arms that help them move from place to place and store some of the diatoms that they feed upon. The outer shell is made of calcium carbonate, and when they die, they leave their star-shaped exoskeleton behind to be washed up on the beaches in enormous numbers.
The best time to find these star-shaped shells is after a typhoon, when the raging ocean loosens them up from the sea bed and washes them onto the beach along with fresh sand. In Iriomote Island, they can be found at every beach, but they are abundant at Hoshizuna no Hama. One reason they are so plentiful on beaches in the Indo Pacific Ocean is that they prefer shallow waters and often use sea algae to anchor themselves.
According to locals, there is another story behind the origin of the star sand. They believe that the star shells are the tiny offspring of the Southern Cross and the North Star, born in the ocean just off Okinawa, but killed by a giant serpent. Their tiny skeletons are all that remain and have washed up on the beaches of Iriomote Island.
Hoshizuna no Hama is a beautiful and unique beach that attracts tourists from around the world. The crystal-clear waters, white sandy beaches, and star-shaped sand are a rare and enchanting combination. However, due to its remote location, the beach is not easily accessible and requires a bit of effort to reach. Visitors need to take a boat ride and then hike through the dense jungle to reach the beach.
Despite the effort, the journey to Hoshizuna no Hama is well worth it for those looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure. The star-shaped sand is a magical sight that should not be missed, and the beach’s pristine beauty and serene atmosphere make it an ideal destination for those seeking peace and tranquillity in a natural setting.
In conclusion, Hoshizuna no Hama, the star sand beach of Iriomote Island, is a unique and captivating destination that offers a rare opportunity to witness the beauty of nature’s creations. The story behind the origin of the star sand adds to the mystery and enchantment of the beach, making it a must-visit for anyone exploring the beauty of Okinawa.