Here comes the sun: Your guide to Japan’s best (secret) sunrise spots

written by Jo Stewart July 16, 2018
Two travellers at the Meiji Shrine

Sunrises can provoke many things: tears, cheers, sighs, marriage proposals and an avalanche of Instagram likes if captured at just the right moment.

A favourite way for travellers to reset their jetlagged body clocks or farewell a favourite city in style, getting up early to see a sunrise isn’t the type of travel choice you ever regret.

Unsurprisingly, Japan (AKA the Land of the Rising Sun) is a top destination to catch an unforgettable sunrise. Here are some great ways to see Japan in a brand new light:

1. Sipping a brew at one of Tokyo’s 24-hour coffee spots

Pedestrians crossing the road in Tokyo

Photo by Cory Schadt on Unsplash.

Getting up in time to see the sunrise can be a painful experience if you’re not a morning person, so caffeine is an essential accompaniment for many of us. Located in the buzzing Shinjuku district and open 24 hours a day, Coffee Aristocrat Edinburgh is a great spot to see the sunrise, no matter whether you’re on your way home from a bar or on your way out to start the day. Grab a window seat, order a siphon coffee and see another day dawn in Tokyo.


2. Among the neon lights of Osaka’s Dotonbori area

Dotonbori canal at night

Image by Ben McNamara

A hyperactive, amped-up, neon wonderland filled with a ridiculous amount of places to eat, drink and play, it’s all too easy to pull an all-nighter in Osaka’s popular Dotonbori area. Stay up all night at rooftop bars, karaoke joints, retro video game arcades, craft beer taprooms, whiskey dens and late-night ramen haunts, then head to the Ebisubashi Bridge to see the sun rise over the Dotonbori Canal before heading back to your hotel to sleep it off.


3. In thoughtful reflection at Nagasaki Peace Park

Nagasaki Peace Park, Japan

Image by Panwasin seemala

A place that deserves a long moment of quiet contemplation, the Nagasaki Peace Park is open 24 hours. While you can visit any time of the day, there’s something special about visiting this memorial at dawn when fewer people are about. Commemorating the lives of the people lost to the atomic bomb that devastated the city more than 70 years ago, starting the day at Nagasaki Peace Park will give you a renewed appreciation for the life you’ve been given and a deeper understanding of the impact this event had on the people of Nagasaki.

4. Witnessing the action at the Tsukiji Fish Market tuna auctions

Workers at the fish market

Image by Gumpanat

In what could just be the hottest ticket in town, getting in to see the tuna auctions at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market can be an extremely difficult achievement to unlock, but it’s not entirely impossible. Super keen travellers will think nothing of queueing from 2 am to gain entry to see this centuries-old auction practice unfold in real time. If you’re one of the lucky few to see the seafood-related business deals go down before dawn, congratulate yourself on pulling off the ultimate Tokyo sunrise experience by indulging in a post-auction early morning sashimi feast from one of the many food stalls and restaurants in the market. Yes, you can have seafood for breakfast – you’re in Japan!


5. Beat the crowds at Fushimi Inari Shrine

Two geishas walk through the Fushimi Shrine

Image by Stephen Parry

Kyoto’s highly Instagrammable shrine attracts huge crowds all year round, so why not get a head start on the masses and head up to the shrine while most of the city is still in bed? Walking through the iconic torii [italic] gates just as the sun breaks through the darkness is one of those poignant moments worth dragging yourself out of bed for. The climb to the very top of the hill is a 3-4 hour return trip, so power on up there for sunrise and by the time you get to the bottom you’ll be well and truly ready for breakfast.


6. Rise with the monks at koya-san

A shrine at Koya-San, Japan

Photo by Sabino Parente

An overnight temple stay at koya-san (Mount Koya) is a true once-in-a-lifetime experience not to be missed. Apart from learning about the history of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed area, one thing that you’ll learn about temple life is that monks are early birds. Forget about a lazy sleep-in followed by a greasy, caffeinated breakfast; at koya-san you’ll rise early with the monks to witness their simple yet profound pre-dawn rituals. As a part of an ancient pilgrimage route, seeing the sunrise here is guaranteed to be a moving experience.

Need to see a Japan sunrise for yourself? Get all your trip inspiration here.

Feature image by Mirae Campbell. 

Feeling inspired?

You might also like

Back To Top