The sun is a beacon that signals the beginning and end of the day, and many people are struck by its majestic appearance as it rises and sets on the horizon. Depending on the spots, there are many different sunrises and sunsets that you can see, all of which are very mysterious and photogenic. In Japan, legend has it the sun goddess Amaterasu created the country and many people enjoy watching the early sunrise. Especially on January 1st, it is a common tradition to watch the first sunrise of the year, it is also believed that Toshigami, a Shinto god bringing good luck, appears with the first sunrise of the New Year! Japan has many spots where you can watch a beautiful sunrise but also sunset, for example with Mount Fuji in the background, or with an island or torii gate up-close. This article introduces some of the most beautiful, more secluded sunrise and sunset spots in Japan, away from the busy cities.
As mentioned above, watching the first sunrise of the year is an important tradition and many people will set out to watch the first rays of sunshine of the newly arrived year. But throughout the year watching the sunrise is generally a recommended thing to do so, just remember; the sun rises early in “the land of the rising sun”.
1. Oouo Shrine (Saga)
Oouo shrine is located in Tara Town in Saga Prefecture, Kyushu, and is famous for its torii gate soaked in the sea, which has been cherished by the locals as a guardian deity of the sea for a long time. There is a custom of rebuilding the shrine every 30 years, which is still practiced today. At high tide, half of the gate is submerged in seawater, but at low tide, you can directly walk to the gate. The sunrise here is spectacular and creates a mystical atmosphere of Japanese Shintoism.
2. Mt. Fuji (Shizuoka)
Mt. Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan and is probably the most famous mountain in Japan. It is an active volcano with a height of 3,776 meters, and in winter, its peak is covered with snow. If you want to see the sunrise at the top, it is recommended to stay overnight at one of the mountain lodges along the route before the sunrise. Alternatively you can start your hike at the fifth station after dinner and climb through the night. Watching the sunrise on the summit is called “御来光 (Goraikou)” and considered to be a precious thing in Japan. The sunrise on the highest mountain in Japan is so beautiful that it truly blows away your hardships of the climb. It is a view that every person who climbs Mt. Fuji should see at least once.
3. Matsushima (Miyagi)
Matsushima is located in Miyagi Prefecture and is known as one of “The Three Great Views of Japan”, along with Miyajima and Amanohashidate, and has been loved by many of Japan’s great writers and poets. Surrounded by various large and small islands, with many pine trees planted around them, you can enjoy the beautiful sea while feeling the historic Japanese atmosphere. The sunset there is exceptional and looks like a piece of ukiyo-e. There are also some places nearby that offer cruise courses for sightseers, so it is recommended to watch the spectacular view of Matsushima while floating on a cruise.
4. Mt. Kita-dake (Yamanashi)
Mt. Kita-dake is a mountain with an altitude of 3,193 meters, located in Minami-Alps City, Yamanashi Prefecture. It is the second highest mountain in Japan, and many people climb it every year and it is home to endemic plants, flowers, and creatures. The sunrise at Mt. Kita-dake is amazing, and at the top of the mountain you can see the sunrise rising in a sea of clouds (called unkai in Japanese) and Mt. Fuji at the same time. It is truly a photogenic moment, perfect for poster cards and calendars. Why don’t you go on a multi-day hike and reward yourself with the fantastic view at the top of Mt. Kita-dake?
It is globally thought that watching a sunrise or sunset gives people a better sense of gratitude for the earth. Caught up in the beauty the mesmerizing sun is a great way to end a day for of exploring the best things of Japan. Here you should remember too, that the sun sets generally early all year round. Japan has no daylight saving and over 70 percent of Japan’s area is mountainous. In the mountains, you should consider that the sun sets much earlier than cities. Be sure to keep this mind when you are on a (hiking) trip, especially in autumn!
1. GODZILLA Rock (Akita)
One of the most famous monster movies in Japan is probably Godzilla. According to the official website, Godzilla appeared on the movie screen for the first time in 1954, and is said to be a legendary monster created by influence of a hydrogen explosion. Surprisingly, this fire-breathing monster that runs rampant in Tokyo can be seen in Akita Prefecture. In Oga City, there is a rare rock called “Godzilla Rock” and it’s said that the rock gets its name from the fact that its shadow looks like Godzilla at sunset. The setting sun shining next to Godzilla Rock looks like a fireball spewed by Godzilla. If you’re a Godzilla fan, this may be a view you’ll want to see.
2. Umi Hotaru (Chiba)
One of the best places to watch the sunset surrounded fully by the ocean is Umihotaru in Tokyo Bay. Umi Hotaru is a parking area on the Tokyo Wan Aqua-Line Expressway, which connects Kawasaki City to Kisarazu City across Tokyo Bay. As such, this area is completely surrounded by the sea. The name Umihotaru means sea firefly in Japanese, a fitting name as you can see the twinkling lights of Tokyo at night from here. Despite the fact that it is a parking area on the sea, the only in the whole world!, it is full of entertainment such as an amusement arcade, restaurant area, and souvenir corner, and many people take a break here. The sunset that can be seen at Umihotaru is very romantic despite its location near the expressway. With the ocean view in front of you, you can watch the sun set into the horizon while feeling the pleasant sea breeze and watch the city light appear. The view from the restaurant area is, of course, all ocean view. It is recommended to watch the sunset while eating excellent dishes made with seafood from Tokyo Bay.
3. Yūhi Misaki, Kasado Island (Yamaguchi)
Kasado Island is located in Kudamatsu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, and is a crescent-shaped island. It is connected to the mainland by the Kasado Ōhashi Bridge, which is an important means of transportation for the locals. “Yūhi Misaki (夕日岬)” on Kasado Island means “cape of the setting sun” in Japanese, and as the name suggests, it is famous for its superb sunsets. The sunset seen from this cape paints the Seto Inland Sea red, creating a beautiful contrast with the golden glow of the setting sun. Photographers from all over Japan visit this place every year to capture this exceptional scenery. Kasado Island is also rich in seafood, and its flounder is particularly famous. The tight flesh gives the fish a chewy texture, and it is excellent when you eat it as sashimi. After watching the sunset, how about a dinner of delicious flounder dish?
4. Chichibugahama Beach (Kagawa)
Chichibugahama beach in Kagawa Prefecture in Shikoku region is famous for its photogenic sandy beach, which is unique and different from other superb beaches. This beach is famous for reflecting the shape of people on the surface of water. This is why it is sometimes called “the Uyuni Salt Lake in Japan” and a lot of people come to this beach to take pictures of such mirror-like reflections. It is highly recommended at sunset, and if you pose for a picture with the orange sunset in the background, and will definitely be your photogenic scene. Chichibugahama beach has been described by many different parties as ‘the most beautiful sunset in Japan’ and it is easy to see why.
Eight different spots are introduced above, but from the northeastern part of Japan to Kyushu, or from the beautiful Seto Inland Sea to the remote islands of Okinawa, there are many spots where you can see fantastic and fascinating sunrises and sunsets. The views from the top of the mountains and from the sea have different tastes and splendor, and are truly spectacular views brought by the blessings of nature. Hope you’ll find your favorite sunrise & sunset spots in Japan!
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Mao Goto is a Japanese freelancer who was born in Hayama, Kanagawa prefecture, and raised in Tokyo. Since 2016 she lives in the Taito Ward, home to a lot of Japanese culture hotspots such as Asakusa, Akihabara, and Ueno. She has been interested in the field of English education of Japan and got her Master’s degree in March, 2020. A lover of photography, travel, sweets, and cross-stitch. Contact her via Facebook.
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