Culturally speaking, Kanazawa is one of the richest places in Japan but it is short on great hotels. The Beniya Mukayu in historic Yamashiro Onsen is less than an hour away and provides the perfect place to stay. Like our other favourite ryokans the Hoshinoya in Kyoto and Gora Kadan in Hakone, the Beniya combines modern elegance and comforts with the traditional ryokan experience. The 17 tatami-mat rooms all have private open-air baths and views of the magnificent ornamental garden with a teahouse and a modern sculpture set harmoniously together. Nakamichi-san the owner is a tea master and guests can share the experience with him here. The public areas are warm but minimalist, with an art installation by Satoru Matsuzaki, CEO of Muji. Excellent 'kaiseki' seasonal cuisine is served in a western-style restaurant with sun terrace looking down into the garden copse. A private stairway and elevator provide direct access to the iconic bathouse of Yamashiro Onsen, but it's the ryokan itself and the excellent service of several English-speaking staff that is the highlight.