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Sunday, 30th November 2014
In Events In Japan,

Tokyoites prepare to honour New Year custom

January 2015 is fast approaching, and many Tokyoites are making preparations for the commonly observed custom in Japan of watching the very first sunrise of the new year - a tradition known as hatsu hinode.

In a tradition that stretches back to 1995, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building has opened applications for those who wish to celebrate the tradition in one of its two observation rooms at the top of its twin towers.

Situated in the Shinjuku Ward and dominating the skyline at almost 243 metres high, the building is said to offer the best views of the city. Its twin observation decks are understandably popular for the hatsu hinode tradition, which prompted organisers to introduce a special ballot for those who want to witness the first sunrise of the year from a unique location.

In order to apply for a place, people must first send a return postcard (oufuku hagaki) with the word 'observation room' written at the top, along with their name, address, telephone number and the number of people in the group (maximum of four). 

Only 600 places are available, making this one of the hottest New Year's Day tickets in the city. Guests are selected by lottery after December 8th, which is the deadline for entries, and replies are made via the return postcard in late December.

For the lucky people who are selected, the observation decks are accessible between 5:30am and 7:30 am, after which point, the invitation is extended to everyone.

As a general tip, visitors are advised to write their name in both katakana and romaji to avoid confusion. It is also useful to write the words 'observation room' in Japanese as well.