Iriomote Island is a small island in Okinawa , Japan where beach-goers are normally seen crouched over, examining the sand rather than swimming in the waters. This is because most beaches on Iriomote Island–as well as some neighboring islands in southern Japan–contain “hoshizuna” or star-shaped sand.
The local legends states that star sand was made of the tiny skeletons of the offspring of the Southern Cross and the North Star, who were killed by a giant serpent right after being born in the ocean. But according to science, these beautiful particles are the exoskeletons of millions of foraminifera–marine protozoans–that are believed to be fossil evidence dating back 550 million years ago, one of the oldest fossils known to man.
The best time to find some is just after a typhoon, when the sand stars are stirred up beneath the ocean floor and washed up on the shore in enormous numbers. If you look closely enough, you might even find some that are still alive!
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