Japan may be known as the Land of the Rising Sun for good reason. The Japanese are extremely reverential to the sun and, if you can find a spot somewhere that doesn’t have a skyscraper blocking your view, Japanese sunrises are impressive and breathtaking to behold. They also happen at like 4 a.m., when no one in their right mind is awake – and those that are are likely enormously drunk and just getting ready for bed.

So for a lot of people, you might be better off watching the sun set in Japan. It’s equally gorgeous depending on location, and even in the middle of summer, the sun starts to slip behind the horizon around 6:30 or 7 p.m., so catching that perfect sunset is easy to work into your plans and doesn’t require remaining awake at some ungodly hour.

Of course, some places are better than others for catching a great Japanese sunset. While it’s cool and all to watch the sky turn all kinds of magnificent colors and the neon lights of the city winking on one by one from whatever street you happen to be standing on in the middle of Tokyo, it’s just not the same without a perfect backdrop and that eye-searing, crimson glory of the sun itself visibly sinking behind the landscape.

Here are our top five picks for watching the sunset in Japan (in no particular order):

  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatory (Shinjuku)

If you’re a tourist in Japan, odds are you’re spending your entire stay or a significant portion of it in Tokyo, and with the high cost of bullet train fare, we can understand if you’re not thrilled about trekking out to Kyoto or wherever just to watch the sun set. Luckily, you can get an awesome view from right in the middle of downtown.

from tokyo metropolitan building. shinjuku

From the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, which offers a free observatory, you can look out over the entirety of Tokyo as the sun begins its slow descent behind the far-off mountains. As amazing as it is to be getting a macro view of the world’s largest metropolis, it’s even better when you’re seeing the city itself dynamically changing before your eyes; the sky goes pink, then purple as the sun sets, and you can watch the lights of entire districts click on simultaneously. When the sky goes black and all you can see is an ocean of lights, it’s hard not to stand in awe at the fact that literally everything you are perceiving at that moment is man-made.

  • Jogajima

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My first trip to Jogajima was entirely on a whim. I’d never even heard of the place and a lot of my Japanese friends hadn’t either, but it popped up on a quick Internet search for islands near Tokyo.

Jogajima is a quick day trip from the city proper, and aside from offering a jaw-dropping view of the sun setting behind Mt. Fuji – we’ll get to that in a sec – it’s a charming, lightly trafficked getaway in its own right. The island features a large public park in its center, offering a rare opportunity to enjoy a slow-paced picnic in spitting distance of Tokyo without the blaring car horns or huge crowds.

And, while there is only one small strip of actual sandy beach, the island offers up a unique aquatic playground of rocky shores, extensive shallow areas perfect for snorkeling, half-submerged cave structures, natural rock tunnels and more. Walking from the main port down to the beach, you can grab a pair of marine shoes, a snorkel and a three-pronged spear on the cheap and spear crab and even octopus in the shallows.

For the very adventurous, there is even an abandoned old-fashioned Japanese residence that’s said to be haunted, and a secret path that leads to a secluded beach dotted with bunker-like structures built directly into the rock of the island. After finding the path by chance and walking it to its end on the shore, I found that I was sharing an enormous, gorgeous beach with no one but a single, naked old man who looked like he had been living there for some years anyway. Obviously, I owe it to that weird old hermit to keep the path a secret. Sorry.

As for the view of the setting sun from Jogajima, it’s probably my favorite of this entire list. Given Jogajima is an island, you can look directly out towards Mt. Fuji with no signs of human civilization to block your view. It’s just you, the mountain, the sun and the crashing waves. Even these pictures I took don’t do it justice, but they probably work better than my feeble words ever could:

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  • Mt. Fuji


I’ve already talked about how climbing Mt. Fuji is a cold, boring, painful trudge more akin to waiting in line at a theme park than climbing a mountain, but as a once-in-a-lifetime experience with a once-in-a-lifetime view from the top, it’s well worth suffering through.

You’ve actually got two choices here: You can climb during the day and watch the sun set, or climb overnight and watch it rise. Both views are amazing, but we’re going to go ahead and recommend climbing at night and seeing the sunrise. The top is bone-chillingly cold no matter what time of day, so you might as well go overnight to avoid baking in the sun for the first hours of the climb. Plus, Mt. Fuji being an active volcano and all, the view during the climb is nothing to write home about; Just a barren moonscape of jagged, black volcanic rock as far as the eye can see.

After the 4-to-8-hour trudge to the top, you’ll be greeted with one of the most amazing views you may ever experience. It’s something else to look down on the world from 3,500 meters up, where the clouds are so far below you they resemble some kind of ethereal blanket draped over the fields of Yamanashi.


fuji1Mt. Fuji photos compliments Cal Widdall.

  • Kawaguchi-ko


While a lot of the best views – like that from the top of Mt. Fuji – require some fairly difficult physical labor to reach them, Kawaguchi-ko, the huge lake sitting at the foot of Mt. Fuji, is a comparatively short, relaxed bus ride from downtown Tokyo. This is the luxury option of Japanese sunset viewing.

After arriving at Kawaguchi-ko via bus, you can grab one of any number of traditional Japanese ryokan bed and breakfasts, or one of the cheaper minshuku shared living spaces – with private rooms but shared bathrooms and a communal dinner – then relax in the onsen spring bath with a beer and wait for the show.

Looking across the lake at the mountain, you can see Fuji reflected in the calm waters – a picture-perfect negative of the revered World Heritage site. The already serene landscape becomes even more wondrous as the sun descends behind Mt. Fuji and the world darkens around you. There’s little in the way of civilization between you and the mountain, so it’s almost dream-like to witness the transition from daylight to complete and utter darkness.


  • Oki Islands, Shimane Prefecture

The last location on our list is a bit of a trek from Tokyo, but you’ll be glad you stepped off the beaten path once you see the photos below. Located in the Sea of Japan, the Oki Archipelago is made up of four inhabited islands, and our favorite place to watch the sunset is on the smallest of the group Chiburi. A somewhat secret tourist destination for those who love the sea, mountains, or swimming cows, Chiburi has less than 600 residents and affords some breathtaking views of the setting sun.

Khoa %22K%22 Dinh Sunset photo3Photo: Khoa “K” Dinh/RocketNews24

Khoa %22K%22 Dinh Sunset photo5Photo: Khoa “K” Dinh/RocketNews24

Khoa %22K%22 Dinh Sunset photo4Photo: Khoa “K” Dinh/RocketNews24

▼ Technically this one is after sunset, but still beautiful nonetheless!

Khoa %22K%22 Dinh Sunset photo2Photo: Khoa “K” Dinh/RocketNews24

Khoa %22K%22 Dinh Sunset photoPhoto: Khoa “K” Dinh/RocketNews24

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