The Birth of Star Sand

A long time ago, among the twelve signs of the zodiac were the Polar Star and the Southern Cross, who decided to bring life to earth. When Southern Cross was ready to give birth, she asked the almighty God where she could go to have her babies. God looked around the earth and found a small island called Taketomi-jima lying on a beautiful coral sea to the south.

God said to Southern Cross, “Go to the south side of Taketomi-jima, where the current is warm and slow.” Southern Cross came down to the island as instructed and gave birth many times in the ocean.

However, the Seven-Dragon God of the sea got angry because Southern Cross did not ask his permission. The Seven-Dragon God called on one of his servants, a giant serpent. “I can’t allow anyone to bear babies in my ocean without my permission. Go and clean all those babies out right now.”

The giant serpent promptly swallowed all the star babies with its huge mouth, killing them. Then he spit out the bodies. The dead star babies floated on the ocean and soon reached the southern shore of Taketomi-jima, called Higashi-misaki point. The bodies then turned into tiny star-shaped particles of sand.

There was a worship place at the seashore where the star babies bodies were. In that village lived a kind goddess. When she found the dead star babies, she felt very sad and gathered them all up. Poor star babies. I shall put you in my incense burner. Then when the villagers come to worship me in their festival, you can follow the smoke back to your mother star in the sky.”

Just as the goddess planned, when the festival came, the villagers burned incense and the star babies got back to their mother in the sky in the smoke.

This is the origin of Taketomi-jima’s famous star-shaped sand called Hoshi-suna, which can still be seen on the beautiful south beach of this island.

As the years passed, this became a custom for the villagers. When they hold their annual festival at the worship site on Higashi-misaki point, they always put star sand in the incense burner. That is why when we look up at the sky at the Southern Cross, there are so many baby stars circling around their “mother.”

Note: This is said to be the only story about star sand in all of Japan, as told by Mr. Toru Uesedo of Taketomi Island. After he died, there was no one on the island among the old people who could tell it as well as Mr. Uesedo. Besides this story, Mr. Uesedo knew many of the island’s folktales. Unfortunately, when he died, we lost many of them. The islands of Yeyama, where Taketomi Island is located, are rich with star-related stories.

(Folktales of Okinawa, Bank of the Ryukyus International Foundation, 3rd Printing, May 1996, Okinawa, Japan)

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