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In which country does the sun rise first?

Kiribati flag

In which country does the sun rise first?

Japan or New Zealand?

In which country does the sun rise first? Is it Japan, which is called “The Land of the Rising Sun,” or is it New Zealand? There is a time difference of three hours between Japan and New Zealand. The sun rises three hours earlier in New Zealand than it does in Japan. Therefore, among the major countries with considerably large populations, New Zealand sees the sun rise first.

That said, there are some small island countries in the Pacific where the sun rises earlier than it does, or at least at the time that it does, in New Zealand

Kiribati- the country where the sun rises first in the world

Kiribati is the very first country that sees the sun in the world because in some areas of Kiribati the sun rises earlier than New Zealand. Kiribati has four time zones. Kilitimati of Line Islands is the part of the Kiribati that sees the sun first in the world while Tiwara, the capital of Kiribati, is in the time zone 3 hours behind Kiritimati. Tiwara’s time zone is the same as New Zealand.

 Millenium Island of Line Islands:  The name of Caroline Island of Line Islands was changed to Millennium Island in anticipation of tourism demand over the New Year and into the new century. It is an uninhibited island.

About Kiribati

Kiribati is a small country surrounded by the blue sea, consisting of 33 islands in the Pacific Ocean. The area of scattered islands is vast, measuring 3,200 km east to west. This is nearly the distance between the U.S. and Spain, and there is a time difference of six hours between Madrid and Boston. Kiribati’s islands are, indeed, scattered over a vast area.

The islands used to “straddle” the date line, which means not only that were they located in a few different time zones but also that there was a time difference of nearly 24 hours between the east and west sides, even though they were all in the same country.

This was so inconvenient that, in 1995, the date line was moved to the eastern end of the country. Thus, Kiribati became the first country in the world to see the sun.

map of Kiribati and NZ

Different time zones in Kiribati

When it is 9:00 am in Japan, 10:00 am Sydney, Australia and 12:00 in New Zealand, the times in Kiribati are:

  • Kiritimati (Population: 7,380 as of 2020)      14:00
  • Rawaki (Uninhabited)    13:00
  • Kanton Island (Population: 20 as of 2015) 13:00
  • Tabiteuea (Population: 5,261 as of 2015)  12:00
  • Tiwara (Capital) (Population 70: 480 as of 2020) 12:00

Other areas for comparison:

  • Samoa 13:00
  • Tonga  13:00

At the end of 2011, Samoa also shifted its date line eastward due to its strong ties to New Zealand.

  • The official name of Kiribati is the Republic of Kiribati.
  • It was named after Thomas Gilbert, a sailor who was among the party that discovered the island in 1788. The country was originally a U.S. territory and became an independent nation in 1979.




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