Sunday, January 1, 2023

Hatsuhinode: The First Sunrise of the Year

 -- Susan, every other Sunday


It's rare that January 1 and my week here at MIE converge, so it seemed like the perfect time to share one of Japan's most important New Year traditions: hatsuhinode (初日の出)  the first sunrise of the year.

The first sunrise I ever saw from the top of Mt. Fuji

Seeing the sun rise can be a powerful experience at any time. The rising sun is a symbol of strength and power, but also hope and a new beginning.

Dawn from the summit of Mt. Fuji

The very name of Japan - 日本  - means "origin of the sun" - a fact reflected in the country's long standing nickname: land of the rising sun. That nickname dates to at least the seventh century, when the Emperor of Japan sent emissaries to China bearing a message from "the emperor of the land where the sun rises to the emperor of the land where the sun sets."

At that time, Japan was known as Wa or Yamato. The country's name was changed to Nihon (later romanized "Nippon" or "Japan") in the 8th century--a reflection of the Imperial nickname (and the fact that from the perspective of the Chinese empire--in the 7th century, one of the greatest powers in the world--the sun rose in the direction of Japan).

The moment the rising sun crests the crater rim of Fuji

The tradition of hatsuhinode goes back many centuries, too. In Japan, it's traditional--and considered very good luck--to rise before dawn on New Year's Day and watch the sun rise over the horizon.

Dawn in Kii-Katsuura, on the Kii Peninsula

The custom has its origins in Japan's indigenous Shintō faith, in which Toshigami (a New Year deity known for bringing good fortune) must be greeted, and honored, precisely at dawn on New Year's Day to ensure good fortune and blessings in the year to come.

Another Kii-Katsuura Dawn 

Many people in Japan try to combine hatsuhinode with another New Year tradition: hatsumode, the first Shintō shrine visit of the year. Visiting a shrine on New Year's Day is also deemed to bring good luck, good health, and happiness in the year to come - and many people also bring home a hamaya--a traditional wooden arrow that's supposed to protect the family from all kinds of harm and illness throughout the year.

Dawn on the Nakasendo

As you're reading this after dawn on New Year's Day--or possibly later--you've technically "missed" the first sunrise of 2023. No worries...I've got you covered...  

Sunrise on Japan's inland sea

As a hiker, I'm used to getting up before dawn to head to the trail. The pictures in this blog are some of my favorite Japanese sunrises, seen throughout the years.

Sunrise near Tokushima on the island of Shikoku

Although they're not the first sunrises of the year, it's the first time you've seen them--and for many of you, they also may be the first sunrises you've seen in 2023.

Which, technically speaking, makes them your first sunrise of the year.

Sunrise At Lake Shikotsu, Hokkaido

See what we did there?

In Japan, the most coveted hatsuhinode is one that involves Mt. Fuji--so I've saved the best for last. I took the photo below in late November, at Lake Kawaguchi (Kawaguchiko), precisely at dawn.

It may not be the first, but it's absolutely the most beautiful sunrise I saw all year. 

And now you've seen it too.

Mt. Fuji at Dawn, November 2022

Wishing each and every one of you a happy, healthy, prosperous, and blessed 2023.


  1. Thanks, Susan, for the good wishes and the good luck! May you enjoy the same.

  2. Dearest, thank you for this gorgeous post—the first MIE blog of 2023. You’ve set us off to such a wonderful start! 👏👏👏👏👏. From AA

  3. Absolutely gorgeous, Susan. Thanks for sharing those (especially the last one!) and for starting us off on the right foot. (I always hate it when I start off on the left foot...) Best wishes to everyone here.

  4. This is so lovely Susan, thank you for this inspiring start to the year!