Oct 27, 2008

Intimate Silence

In the previous post, The host revealed, and by questions at tea demonstrations, I have been asked again and again about how much talking is allowed at a tea ceremony. While talking is not forbidden, there are appropriate subjects and times that guests and host can communicate.

In America, we are not usually comfortable with silence and talk to fill it or cover the perceived awkwardness. It seems more friendly and attentive to comment and chat about what is going on in the tea room.

If there is conversation in the tea room, most of it will take place between the shokyaku or main guest, and the host. It is the responsibility of the shokyaku to speak for the guests and to anticipate the questions the guests may have and to time the conversations so that the harmony and flow of the ceremony is enhanced and not disrupted. Other guests may address the shokyaku to ask the host questions and the shokyaku will find an appropriate time to ask the host.

It is in fact, more respectful at a tea ceremony to be silent and pay careful attention as the host goes through the procedures for making tea. Conversation, questions and chat during this time takes attention away from what the host is doing. For the host, his full attention should be on serving the guests. And for the guests, their full attention should be on receiving what the host has prepared and appreciation for everything the host has done in preparation/

Communications are subtle and nuanced in the silence and unspoken feelings can be intensified by a mere glance or gesture. In many ways, this careful attention on both sides creates an intimacy that cannot be achieved through conversation and talking.


  1. I find that kind of non-verbal communications very, very thrilling :))

  2. temae,
    Thank you for the comment. Indeed this kind of communication makes me feel like I have some sort of very special bridge with other people. It is intimate and special and in the tea room it is one of the things that keeps me coming back.

    Take care,