There are gasps as the sand starts to move and a tiny black form breaks the surface.

We've been hunkered down on the dark beach — completely still in the muggy heat for what seems like hours — and the reaction is equal part relief and amazement: Our wait to see loggerhead turtles hatching on Yakushima is over.

The hatchling, alternating between thrashing violently and resting, eerily still, takes an agonizing length of time before it frees itself from the sand. Having escaped its bonds, it is soon followed by a sibling. More and more arrive in quick succession, piling on top of each other and exploring their new surroundings.