The first sunrise of the new year represents a chance for a new beginning and so it's hardly surprising that some once viewed the first rays of the sun on Jan. 1 with special reverence. It was believed to be the moment that Toshigami, god of the new year, descends from heaven and bestows happiness on all the common folk below for the year ahead.

It's unlikely that those who get up before dawn on Jan. 1 these days are going to be thinking much of gods descending from above. However, the first sunrise of the year (called hatsuhinode in Japanese) is still viewed as a special occasion and families throughout the country will be planning on traveling somewhere special to watch as day breaks.

There are hundreds of locations nationwide that claim to offer jaw-dropping views of hatsuhinode each year. Many temples and shrines prefer to take a religious approach, welcoming the new year with special events and rituals. People also visit more remote places such as mountaintops or coastlines across Japan in a bid to draw inspiration from the majesty of nature, while others still travel to more developed surroundings such as amusement parks or buildings.