Information for the first sunrise, Hatsuhinode, in Saitama in 2021. However, some of the locations in this post are suited to watching a sunrise anytime of the year. Unfortunately, there are also some that do not open for sunrise except for the very first sunrise of the year on January 1st.
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;
10 places to watch the sunrise in Saitama
- Mt Kumotori
- Kodai Hasu No Sato, Gyoda
- Mt Tenran, Hanno
- The Peace Museum, Higashimatsuyama
- Sakitama, Gyoda
- Ohashi bridge, Kazo
- Urawa Royal Pines Hotel, Saitama City
- Katsuraki (Katsuragi) Temple
- Mitsune Shrine, Chichibu
- Dodaira, Tokigawa
1. Mt Kumotori
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.
2. Kodai Hasu no Sato
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. Due to the Coronavirus this year, you need to book in advance for the pleasure of watching the sunrise from the park’s observation tower. (Update: booking closed for the first sunrise 2021 on December 15th 2020).
3. Mt Tenran
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.
4 – 7.
The peace museum also has a long running sunrise event on New Year’s morning. It requires booking as does Urawa Royal Pines Hotel. 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.
8. Katsuraki (Katsuragi) Temple
Katsuraki (or Katsuragi) Temple is located in the Takinoiri area of Moroyama town in Iruma County. The area around the temple is famed for both its Yuzu and its roses. On the grounds of the temple there is a viewing platform, set 300 meters above sea level. On a clear day you can see Tokyo Sky Tree. Apart from being a popular spot for “Hatsuhinode”, it is also known for its night view.
9. and 10.
Mitsumine Shrine and Dodaira need little introduction to anyone living in Saitama Prefecture. However, the latter in particular, may not be that well known outside the area. Mitsumine Shrine is in Chichibu near to the famous Otaki Ice Festival. Dodaira is in Tokigawa Town. There is a campsite and observatory on top of the mountain. It is 876 meters above sea level.
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. However, on December 8th 2020, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced that Mount Takao will be partially ‘closed’ from 5 pm on December 31st to 7 am January 1st. The sunrise can normally be witnessed from Mt Takao, and Mt Mitake too, at about 6.48 am on New Year’s Day. Find out more about Mt Takao on New Year’s here.
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. 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: