I can't quite believe we're doing this. It's dark and freezing outside, and we only went to bed three hours ago. Yet here we are, walking streets so quiet you can hear the mice snore. It's New Year's Eve, but there's not a carouser in sight. Here, as in most of Japan, in the darkness beyond the big city glow, tonight is a time for reflection and tradition.

Traditions like hatsuhinode — watching the first sunrise of the new year, preferably from a place of natural beauty. Which is why we're up so early.

The sun won't be up for another hour, ample time to clamber up Mount Futaba, a 140-meter hill overlooking the Hiroshima suburb of Ushita. All over Japan this morning, popular viewing sites will be packed with sunrise-watchers. Modest Futaba, on the other hand, will be deserted, hopefully. Just us two, and that silver Peace Pagoda, visible from all over town, accompanied by sublime views of the Seto Inland Sea. Perfect for some solitary communion with the sunrise.