With 2014 winding down, it’s time to make plans for the new year holidays. For many people in Japan this means finding a place to watch the first sunrise of the year, or hatsu hinode; a common custom of the season.

However, many Tokyoites may be unaware that the perfect spot to view the sunrise is standing in plain view: The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. This 243-meter (797 ft) building has a pair of observation rooms which offer the greatest views in the city and is a spot popular amongst tourists, though few ever think of when it comes to New Year’s Day, assuming that because it’s a government building it would shut down for the holidays.

But ever since 1995 the building has been opening its doors to a handful of visitors, giving them the chance to take in the first sunset of the year from high above the city. Here’s how to apply for a spot on the observation deck.

For a chance to be one of the 600 people chosen to watch the sun rise over Tokyo on 1 January, 2015, you’ll first have to send an oufuku hagaki (return postcard). This is basically a postcard with another post card attached to it. Both cards are postage-paid which means recipients can send a reply without having to pay for themselves.

On one postcard you should write “Observation Room” at the top, it would be wise to do so in Japanese as well (展望室 or てんぼうしつ). In the rest of the space write down your name, address, telephone number, and the number of people in your group (max. 4). Even if you intend to go alone you should specify one person.

Again it’s also advisable to write you name in both katakana and rōmaji unless your name uses Chinese characters in which case kanji and hiragana are best. You don’t need to write the full address. This should do fine:


Also, don’t forget to write your own name, address, and postal code on the other post card so they know where to send it in the event you’re chosen. Guests will be selected by lottery after 8 December which is the deadline for entries.

If your name is chosen you should expect a reply in late December. With your invitation sent you will be granted access to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building’s southern observation room between 5:30 am and 7:30 am. However, even if you’re not selected and happen to be in the area on New Year’s Day, both observation rooms will be open from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm to everyone.

Although sending the post card will run you about 104 yen (US$0.88), admission to the observation rooms is free. So. if you’re looking for a unique way to ring in 2015, watching the sun rise from 200 meters above the heart of Tokyo or even spending an afternoon there is certainly an idea. Good luck!

Source: Tokyo Government (Japanese)
Information Provided by Yuzu
Original article by Yuichiro Wasai
Top Image: Wikipedia – Morio

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