First sunrise of the year hatsuhinode

Information for the first sunrise, Hatsuhinode, in Saitama in 2021.

If you’ve read any other of my blog posts about January in Japan, you’ve probably already got the message that it is my favorite month in Japan. One of the main reasons for that is all the New Year events, such as Hatsumode (first shrine visit) , Dezome Shiki (fire fighting acrobats!), Daruma Market, Shishimai (Lion Dance), New Year races… etc. And one of my favorites: Hatsuhinode…

First sunrise Saitama 2021

Hatsuhinode is the first sunrise of the year. It is an important aspect of New Year’s celebrations in Japan. Not least of all because Japan was created by the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. Once upon a time it was believed that a God bringing good luck appeared with the first sunrise. So people endeavored to witness the first sunrise of the year. To this day, many people still get up after just a couple of hours of sleep for Hatsuhinode. For Saitama, Tokyo and mainland Kanto, the first sunrise of 2021 is generally expected to be visible at about 6.50 am, weather permitting of course. 

Unlike in Tokyo where there are so many skyscrapers, in Saitama it is possible to see the sun rising in most cities and towns. You can most likely watch it from your own living room or the upper floor of your house or the roof of your apartment block. The God of fortune will smile on you from wherever you watch the sunrise. However, you can also opt for viewing events or travel to a location renowned for an unmitigated view, such as;

  • Mt Kurotori
  • Mitsune Shrine, Chichibu
  • Mt Tenran, Hanno
  • Kodai Hasu No Sato, Gyoda
  • The Peace Museum, Higashimatsuyama
  • Sakitama, Gyoda
  • Ohashi bridge, Kazo
  • Dodaira, Tokigawa
  • Urawa Royal Pines Hotel, Saitama City

Two thousand meter high Mount Kumotori is in the Okuchichibu mountain range. It is on the border of Tokyo and Yamanashi prefectures. It is one of a few spots in Saitama where (weather permitting) you can witness both the first sunrise and the all important first glimpse of Mt Fuji in the New Year. Mitsune Shrine is at the foot of the mountain on the Saitama side.

Mount Tenran in Hanno is another location in Saitama where you can combine the first view of Mt Fuji with the first sunrise. And you can also see Mt Fuji from the observation tower in Kodai Hasu no Sato on a very clear day. The latter has been hosting a Hatsunohide event for several years.

Kodai Hasu no Sato is the park famed for its rice art in Autumn and its ancient lotus that bloom in the summer. It is in Gyoda city. More information about that event here:

The peace museum also has a long running sunrise event on New Year’s morning. In the last couple of years Sakitama ancient burial park has also started hosting a hatsuhinode event. The Tonegawa (river), Ohashi bridge in Kazo, has long been a famous place for an uninhibited sunrise view.

Urawa Royal Pines Hotel requires advance booking. So does the event at the peace museum in Higashimatsuyama. Booking for the peace museum generally opens around the 2nd of December and always books up quickly.

Tokyo Hatsuhinode

It is quite difficult to see the rising sun in many parts of Tokyo, but there are some places that enjoy a view.  How about from 150 metres up? Tokyo Tower opens it doors at 6 am on New Year’s day. They do charge for the pleasure and have a restriction on the number of people they are letting up the tower, so do arrive early if you want to be one of them.  

Rainbow promenade also has a limit on numbers, but it is free in. The Telecom Centre, one of Tokyo’s lesser known observation areas, also has a view for 500 yen per person.  If you happen to be in Haneda airport at 6.50 in the morning, you can see the sunrise from the domestic terminal 2 observation decks.

Takao-san is always my recommendation though. Although crowded, it is one of the best places to ring in the New Year in Tokyo. The sunrise can be witnessed from Mt Takao, and Mt Mitake too, at about 6.48 am on New Year’s Day 2021. Find out more about Mt Takao on New Year’s here.

Chiba Hatsuhinode

However, that is not the earliest you can see the sun rise for the very first time in the Kanto plain in 2021.  Choshi in Chiba owns that honor. You can see the sunrise at the Eastern most point of the Kanto area at about 6.46 am. The Choshi tourist association recommends Inubosaki, along the coast, as a viewing point. It is a free public area and there is free parking. You can also access this area from public transport as it is only a 7 minute walk from Inubosaki train station. Wrap up well though, it will be cold.

Apart from countdown events in my home country, we don’t really mark the significance of the New Year. But in Japan, with all the New Year events, customs, practices and festivals, it is one of the best times of the year to be in Japan. It is cold, but the days are sunny and dry. Almost everyone is in festive spirits and there is an atmosphere much like the Christmas period in many Western countries.

Watching the First Sunrise

The first sunrise though is something quite different though. I think it is more about personal reflection while connecting with Mother Nature. It is more of a private moment than many other of the New Year celebrations, even when you attend a Hatsuhinode viewing event with others. Ironically, the hatsuhinode events are, in my humble opinion, more mute and spiritual than the hatsumode (first shrine visit) ones. It is a beautiful tradition, well worth getting out of bed for!

Have you ever watched the first sunrise of the New Year? Where? And would you recommend it?

Based loosely on an article I wrote for City-cost six years ago:

When and where can I see the first sunrise of 2016? | Living | Choshi-shi, Chiba – Hachioji-shi, Tokyo | City-Cost

2 Comments

    1. Thank you so much Helen. It was a beautiful sunny day, but I stayed up much later than expected in the early hours and got up long past the sunrise. ;-( I’ll go watch it tomorrow instead. I hope you had a lovely Christmas and New Year and I hope all your dreams for 2016 come true. x

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