What a perfect way to start a-fresh in the New Year – by watching the sun rise on the first day of the rest of you life. In Japan, those without a hangover (or who have simply partied into the morning) make special, arrangements to see the sun come up on New Years’. The day is called “Gantan,” and the occasion, “Hatsu-Hinode.”
Hatsu literally means “first,” and hi-no-de means “sunrise.” It’s considered a good omen if the sky is clear enough of clouds to see the sunrise on January 1st, and especially good luck if you see it in person. Even during the Edo Period, people in Tokyo would go to certain locations to watch the sun come up. This hanga woodblock print by Utagawa Hiroshima depicts the Hatsu Hinode taking place in Susaki, in east Edo.
Japanese love “ranking” lists, (Ranking has been a Japanese tradition since the Edo Period) so let’s give you what we consider to be the Top 5 best places to see the Hatsu Hinode near Tokyo, should you wish to try the experience!
5 – Hakone Koma-ga-Take Ropeway
Visit the hot springs in Hakone in the evenings, drink plenty of sake (floating in the wooden oke buckets, of course!), refresh in the sauna and then take the ropeway up to the top of Koma-ga-Take mountain just in time to see the sunrise! Would you believe this place is packed and running to catch the cars at a perfect time? For only 1080 yen, you can float into the year of the bird in style. The sunrise officially happens at 6:45 this year, so it’s a bet to see if you can beat the lines for the perfect New Year selfie shot.
4 – Tokyo Tower
Before Sky Tree, it was the Tokyo Tower we had on keychains and skylines and t-shirts. A romantic relic of the Showa Era, this has been a hotspot for couples looking to bring in the New Year together. It is in fact so popular, that multiple websites recommend buying tickets before the 31st. Expect lines and crowds! But what’s New Year without a crowd? After all, the time spot is in fact limited to only 80 people. Only 80. Only. This includes a special keychain present, too! And see a Chin-don-ya band livening up the day in the most traditionally Japanese New Year way possible!
3 – Chiba Port Tower
If you’re out in the Chiba area for the festivities, you might want to visit the Chiba Port Tower, which is especially good for children. They have an even from 5:45-9:00 on the 1st, with breakfast at the top and a perfect opportunity to see the sunrise for only 420 yen. 420. Heh heh. Er, no. Expect even bigger crowds than Tokyo Tower, though, as 200 people are expected.
2 – Ooarai Kalgan (The Ooarai Beach in Ibaraki)
Sick of crowds and just want to watch the sun roll in with the tide? Then visit Ibaraki and the famous Ooarai Beaches, which is, of course, free. There’s a dramatic-looking torii-gate for the photographers, and nothing like the fresh breeze of the sea to instil you with renewal and wake you from that hangover.
1 – Mount Fuji
Ah, Fuji. While researching this list, every page I visited seemed to have its own ranking for random amazing places from which to view the sunrise, but the one thing they all had in common was Mount Fuji. Since the Edo Period, Mount Fuji has been the ideal spot from which to view the Hatsu Hinode. There are tours that bring people out here every year, and it’s on the bucket list for all old people in the country to do before they kick it. Mount Fuji is in fact so prevalent that, even if you don’t actually get a chance to go there, you’ll be blessed as long as you see it in the first dream of the year.
While it’s not a hard climb, it will be absolutely freezing. So pack on the heat-techs and slap on the kairo, and do something that you can brag about for the rest of the year. You’ll be the envy of the shin-nen-kai crowd, for sure.