New year’s first sunrise is a big deal in Japan. The tagline of the nation says it all.
The land of the rising sun.
Residents on Okinawa also embrace the custom of watching the first sunrise of the year. We get up early on New Year’s Day, blaze through the chilling January air to welcome the sun at some of the popular “Power Spots” on the island.
Here is a list of popular sunrise watching/screaming/crying spots. Oh, yeah. You are going to see some people very emotional while the sun is rising. Some believe that the sun god will grant a wish to those who scream the loudest, much like the New York Stock Exchange. Will you give this a try this year?
Cape Chinen is a popular spot because from here you get a direct sign to the Kudaka Island, also known as God’s Island. Okinawans live during the Ryukyu era believe that their god lives on Kudaka Island. They worship the island praying for a good harvest and posterity. Cape Chinen is a popular power spot because of Seifa Utaki, a sanctuary served for the royal family to connect with god. Seifa Utaki is a tiny place and stayed off-limits to ordinary folks until recent years. Cape Chinen is connected to Seifa Utaki, so it remains the most popular power spot among the locals.
Nirai Bridge/ Karan Bridge
A few minutes away from Cape Chinen, you get a spectacular and clear view of the Pacific horizon from the bridge.
Tips: There is a vista point at the top of the bridge.
Nishihara Kira Kira Beach
A 550-meter wide beach with lots of parking spots. A clear view of the Pacific horizon.
Nakagusuku Castle Ruin
This site was the home of Gosamaru, a lord during the Ryukyu Era. This site is at the top of the central Okinawa mountain range. There is no better spot in central Okinawa to get a clear view of the entire east side of the island and the sunrise.
Tip: This site is a park. You may have to buy a ticket to enter the park.
Katsuren Castle Ruin
Similar to Nakagusuku Castle, Katsuren Castle is the home of Amawari, a Ryukyu era lord. Among all the lords during the Ryukyu era, Amawari is the youngest and the most ambitious. He quickly raised to the top in the wealth club thanks to maritime trade. He was later defeated and killed, which led to the unity and the birth of the Ryukyu era. This site becomes a popular spot to watch the sunrise in Okinawa, because, first the view is awesome; second, the dramatic life of Amawari.
A 5km long across road laying on a giant coral reef. The view from any part of the road is just breathtaking.
Happy Cliff / Kafu Banta
Locate in the back of the salt factory Nuchimasu. This spot is ranked No.1 in the top hidden gems on Okinawa across the boards. The color of the ocean under the sunlight is unbelievable. Standing at the top if the cliff, you get a clear view of the Pacific horizon.
Ginoza Roadside Service Station
This spot is at sea level but you do get a clear view of the horizon. It has a kid’s park, restaurant, and street food stands (not sure if they will open early on New Year’s Day).
This spot is a 1 km wide beach in a quiet area. It is the best spot to welcome the first sunrise if you prefer a low-key, quiet environment.
The north end of Okinawa. If you haven’t been to Cape Hedo, this is a good opportunity to check off two items from your Okinawa Bucket List.
- Visiting the north end of Okinawa
- Watching sunrise on New Year’s Day in Japan.
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