If you love the vibe of Kyoto with its artisanal treasures and magnificent gardens and shrines, consider adding the city of Kanazawa to your list of destinations for your next trip to Japan.
Just ask Asako Ueno, the Brooklyn-based lifestyle journalist and tastemaker whose website Anzu features some of her favorite handpicked products from artisans across Japan. She has journeyed to Kanazawa over the years in her constant quest for exquisite products for the home, especially while she worked as the buying consultant for the New York luxury department store Takashimaya years ago. The store was once a mecca for design lovers in search of fashion and design goods, flowers and general mind-blowing Japanese inspiration.
“I go to Kanazawa often to visit artists,” explains Ueno. “The first time I went, locals showed me around and I fell in love with the small scale of the city and the wabi sabi (imperfect beauty) of the place. It really does have a similar look and feel to Kyoto, and in the fall and spring the weather is the ideal time to go. It is just a very special place.” Check out this design expert’s favorite stops in the jewel-like city, easily accessible from Kyoto.
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art — “I really enjoy the exhibitions here and the design store is very good, too! The architecture is beautiful, in a circular form and on a single floor with lots of windows and natural light. The garden is lovely, too.”
Kenroku-en — “I always visit this old private garden — it is one of the most beautiful in Japan. I love the trees, especially the pines, which are trimmed by professional gardeners. Each season has a different look. Just to walk around is so beautiful. There are a few small tea shops on the grounds of the garden where you can stop to have a matcha and enjoy the views.”
Kanazawa Castle — “This is a castle town! It is next to the Kenroku-en garden and an important part of the history of the city.”
Factory Zoomer — “This shop and café showcases the work of artist Kazumi Tsuji, who has become a great friend. Her handblown glass is exquisite, and I used to buy it for Takashimaya in New York years ago. She has exhibits in Taiwan, Paris and New York. Her store is an easy walk from the 21st Century Museum.”
Fukumitsuya — “After you go to Factory Zoomer, you can jump in a cab to see this place, which is one of the oldest sake makers in Japan. If you time it right, you can take a tour of the place and taste very fresh sake. They sell snacks that go well with their various sakes — and in the summer they have sake ice cream.”
Mina Perhonen — “This women’s clothing store is located in an old Japanese house, and it is so beautiful. The interior’s original details are all intact. The fashion designer, Akira Minagawa, also creates the textiles for the clothing, and they are part of the permanent collection at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in New York. Mr. Minagawa’s fashions are very poetic but practical, and he also has stores in Tokyo and Kyoto that are also very special. One is located in an original home and the other in an old office building. The atmosphere at the shop in Kanazawa is so nice, and you can sit outside in the store’s garden on a bench and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.”
Oden Miyuki Honten — “This is a delicious spot to stop for a bit to eat. Oden is a Japanese specialty, a soup in a big bowl with daikon and tofu.”