Insider’s Guide to Kyoto

The Tig Archives May 30, 2014

Meet Vicky Tsai. Owner of TATCHA skincare (my go-to for glowing skin), and a woman with such insider knowledge of Kyoto, that it’s geisha approved. No, but really. It’s actually geisha approved.

After traveling throughout Asia, Vicky had the serendipitous fortune of meeting a geisha in Kyoto, Japan. As though that’s not cool enough, this modern geisha then shared with Vicky the 200 year old beauty manual passed down from generations of these historically stunning women – a rare gem in the world of all things geisha, where beauty secrets are all heavily guarded, and when shared, done so with great secrecy. But Vicky was now in the know, and with her newfound understanding of the ingredients and rituals that lead to skin worth fawning over (think red algae, green tea, silk and pearl), she created TATCHA. Vicky now visits Kyoto several times a year, working with her scientists to modernize these tricks of the trade, and harvesting her ingredients from local communities that are treated with care and respect. Her knowledge and reverence not just for the land, but for the culture of this magical city of 2000 temples, (which is also included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites), is incomparable. This is The TIG Insider’s Guide to Kyoto, by the savviest host one could ever dream of, Ms. Vicky Tsai.

A note from Vicky:

“Traveling to Kyoto is a bit like stepping back in time. I love exploring the cobblestone streets and the stores along the canals — every wooden doorframe contains another treasure, transporting me back three hundred years to the Edo Period, the time of geisha and samurai. Although I discover something new with every visit, there are a few that I find myself visiting over and over again; I am delighted to share these with you.”


Nishiki Market – My first meal is at the Nishiki Market, called “the stomach of Kyoto.” Full of colorful sights and fascinating people, the market supplies food to all the restaurants of Kyoto. It is known for its sophisticated cuisine and fresh ingredients.

**TIG tip**
Ankyu – A six seat omakase restaurant. The chef has a beautifully illustrated encyclopedia of food that he uses to translate his dishes to foreign diners. It’s Michelin starred, and absolutely divine. You may even sit next to a geisha on a date as my friend Benita & her husband, Darren, did.


Miyawaki Baisen-an – One of my first stops is always Miyawaki Baisen-an, home to stunning fans and run by a dear friend. The simple lantern hanging outside the wooden entrance is humble and unassuming, but the store provides fans for geisha, sumo wrestlers and the Imperial Family.

Nijūsan-ya – A beautiful little slip of a shop, frequented by many modern-day geisha. They carry beautiful hairpins and accessories, delicately handcrafted and tailored perfectly to fit the season. To be honest, my favorite part of visiting is watching the kimono-clad geisha flitting around the store as they make their purchases.


– For Instagram-worthy images, I always visit Kasagen. The store is steps away from the Yasaka Shrine and contains a range of umbrellas, from traditional lacquer-and-paper parasols to sleek designer versions made for travel. The geisha are never without parasols to protect themselves from the sun, a habit I have learned from them.


Kinkaku-ji – In the evening, my steps take me to the lake of Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. It is a popular destination and perhaps not quite a hidden gem, but I still consider this an unmissable part of the city. Whether the golden leafing gleams in a warm sunset or glistens in newly-fallen snow, it is a tranquil and inspiring sight. I am always calmed and energized by my visits here.

Hoshinoya Kyoto – It transports you into a tranquil world, untouched by time. Staying along the river is meditative and inspiring, and the service is always first-class.

Here are some of my absolute favorite TATCHA products (that I personally use and swear by). I never go to a red carpet event without the blotting papers, and I happen to be head over heels for the hand cream. It’s the best I’ve ever used. And if you can splurge for the skincare products, I highly suggest you do. (Or just start with the rice enzyme powder… my fav). Enjoy!

Photos Via: Nishiki Market, Miyawaki Baisen-an, Nijūsan-ya, Kasagen, Kinkaku-ji, Hoshinoya Kyoto