Millions of people in Japan wake up early (or stay up all night) on New Year’s Day to witness the first sunrise of the year, called hatsuhinode. The origin of this custom dates back to the Meiji Period (1868 - 1912) when people believed that Toshigami, a god of good luck, appeared with the year’s first sunrise. Just like practicing hatsumode (first temple or shrine visit of the year), hatsuhinode is seen as a way to start the year right.
Speaking of sunrises…
Kochi is home to an extra special one that is named after a traditional Japanese charm, due to its similar round shape. It’s the daruma sunrise! Located under an hour from Kochi City by train, retro Kure Town is one of the many wonderful places along Kochi’s coastline to shoot your shot at witnessing this beautiful mirage (typically between September and March). If luck is on your side, you might get to see the magical daruma sunrise climbing the sky through the torii gate at Kure Hachimangu Shrine.
Regardless of whether you actually get to see the daruma sunrise or not, the local specialty of delicious bonito will sure make your visit worth it. Freshly-caught just that morning, friendly locals at Kure Taishomachi Ichiba Market will skillfully fillet and serve you bonito atop fluffy rice. We also highly recommend katsuo no tataki (seared bonito), which is Kochi’s must-try comfort food.
For dessert, head over to Nishimura Kashiten near the market’s entrance, which has been serving delicious and nostalgic snacks since 1950! My absolute favorite is the adorable bonito-shaped monaka (a Japanese sweet with azuki bean paste sandwiched between crispy wafers).
Thank you to @nakatosa_i (Instagram linked below) for letting us share the beauty shot of the daruma sunrise from Kure Hachimangu Shrine!
Learn more about daruma sunrises (there’s a sunset version too if you’re not an early bird): https://visitkochijapan.com/en/highlights/darumasunset
Nakatosa Town official Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/nakatosa_i/