Our Honeymoon: Kanazawa
On our fifth day in Japan, we headed from Tokyo to Kanazawa - a city on the west coast of Japan's main island. After exploring the busy streets of Tokyo, the relative quietness of Kanazawa was a nice breath of fresh air, as we explored the famous garden Kenroku-en, and visited the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. Kanazawa Castle was the only castle we visited on our trip (having been to Japan 10+ times, I really wasn't into the tourist-y stuff), but it was beautiful in dusky light. Being by the coast, Kanazawa is known for its seafood, and the raw scallops we had at Omicho Market were some of the best we've ever eaten. My recommended one-day route would be to start at Kanazawa Castle, make your way down through Kenroku-en, stop by Le Musee de H Kanazawa for cakes, then spend some time at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art before heading to Omicho Market to fill up on seafood.
After spending a day and a half in Kanazawa, we took a train outside the city to Kagaonsen, where we stayed at the most beautiful, modern ryokan: Beniya Mukayu. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn, where guests can experience sleeping in a traditional Japanese room on tamami mats and dine on a multi-course meal known as kaiseki. I chose Beniya Mukayu for how they so beautifully blend modern architecture with Japanese tradition, a modern meets traditional aesthetic that I've built my design portfolio on as well. Our ryokan also had an outdoor bath, with a cherry blossom tree perfectly in view. This was hands down the highlight of our trip, and although it is a splurge, I would highly recommend staying in a ryokan to anyone visiting Japan! Fun fact: Beniya Mukayu's logo was designed by Kenya Hara, the art director of MUJI. I've included more pictures of our ryokan below, and you can find pictures of the courses from our kaiseki dinner (and breakfast!) here.
Le Musee de H Kanazawa
What to get: The Kanazawa, and the "Wa-cha"
Japanese people for some reason are obsessed with making the most beautiful, delicate little cakes and pastries. This gem is located inside Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art, and is a great place to take a break after walking through the grounds of Kanazawa Castle and Kenroku-en. (pics)
Higashi Chaya District
The old tea district area of Kanazawa is lined with traditional buildings, many of them housing tea houses where you can sample tea and a selection of wagashi, Japanese confectionery. There's also many people who rent a kimono here, which you can wear for a day to take pictures in!
One of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Kenroku-en is an expansive garden set in the heart of Kanazawa and located conveniently across the street from Kanazawa Castle. It's a very clean and well-maintained park, and beautiful all seasons of the year.
What to get: fresh seafood
Omicho Market is filled with small storefronts selling all sorts of seafood: fresh scallops, sweet shrimp, uni, grilled eel - and a variety of other delicious foods. There's also many sushi restaurants in the market, although many may be crowded. Omicho Market is like a smaller, MUCH less crowded version of Tsukiji Market in Tokyo or Nishiki Market in Kyoto. Our favorite was the fresh scallops - they were SO large, and SO fresh. We topped them with just a little bit of soy sauce (they have bottles of lemon juice, ponzu, and soy sauce available), and they were perfectly plump and sweet. (pics)
The most recognizable exhibit at the museum is probably the "Swimming Pool" - a faux pool with an underground chamber that gives the illusion that the viewers in the chamber are in the pool, while the viewers on the floor above look down upon those other people. It's free to view the pool from above, but a venture into the underground chamber will cost you a ticket. I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the museum as well, but then again I love (almost) all contemporary art museums.
How to get around:
Kanazawa's buses are all run by JR, so if you have a JR pass, your bus fare is covered if you show your pass! If you don't have one, you can also purchase a 1-day bus pass at Kanazawa Station. Because everything in Kanazawa is so close together, it's most convenient to just bus or walk from location to location.