Jun 28, 2010

The Five Senses and Tea

All five senses are stimulated in the tea room. Please add descriptions in the comment section of how your senses come alive in the tea room during your own practice. Here are some of the ways tea comes alive for me:

Sense #1: Sight

  • Watching the host prepare tea
  • Admiring the appearance of the tea room
  • Reading the scroll and admiring the flowers
Sense #2: Hearing

  • The whistling kettle making the sound of the wind in the pines
  • The cascading water falling into the bowl
  • The rustle of the host's kimono as he / she prepares the tea
Sense #3: Taste

  • The pleasure of eating and tasting the sweet
  • Enjoying that first sip of the tea
  • Eating the kaiseki meal
Sense #4: Smell

  • The aroma of the tea as I lift the bowl to drink
  • The smell of the incense, if using
Sense #5: Touch
  • The feel of the tea bowl in my hands while drinking
  • The feel of the dogu during haiken
  • The difference between hot and cold: the steam from the warm water and the refreshing touch of the wet cloth as you purify the chawan


  1. --To see the guests and welcome them
    --Hear the sound of cold water quieting the kettle as it is poured in
    --Taste the difference in last sip of foam from the teabowl
    --Smell the grass of the tatami upon entering the room
    -feel the silk of your fukusa as you pull it through your fingers

  2. The warm, dusty smell of seasoned tatami and old wooden mizuya shelves.

  3. Tsukimi Warwillow,
    Thank you for your comment. I do love the smell of tatami and old wooden mizuya shelves. What about the smell of the palownia dogu boxes?


  4. Sight:
    -The billowing steam when the futa is taken of the kama.
    -The silky sound of the shuffling of people's feet as they glide across the tatami with tabis on.
    -The beautiful, happy sound of the water boiling in the kama.
    -The fragrant aroma of the matcha when opening the natsume.
    -The smooth, yet textured feeling as your fingers skim the surface of the tatami while bowing.
    -The soft, satiny feel of the yokan on your tongue as you are partaking of it before drinking your tea.

  5. Sight: Really seeing the way in which steam exits the kama the first time the lid is removed when the water is being heated using sumi as opposed to the way it exits when heating with an electrical element. With sumi the steam spirals up; with an electrical element, the steam rises in a straight column.

    Hearing: Listen to the differences in sound between hot water being poured from the hishaku into the chawan and that of cold water being poured.

  6. flightofantasy and Drew, Thank you for your comments. It brings these things into focus when you call them out like that.


  7. I am only a newcomer, but have the chance of having a very strong imagination. I have never attended a tea gathering or any lesson and am mostly doing and learning things on my own.

    It seems the five senses we commonly refer ourselves to are somehow limited when it regards chanoyu which is sensitively very dense.

    I would say feeling temperature (tea, chashitsu or tea room attended) is not touch. I would say feeling space (within the room, between guests/host) and form or texture (ceiling, tokobashira, hanaire) is neither only touch (of the untouched) nor sight. Feeling time and rhythm is also different.

    I think this is quite amazing.

    Philippe (Switzerland)

  8. Phillipe,
    Thank you for your comment. I always like to hear from tea people. I do agree that the entire experience of a tea gathering is very sensory. In addition to the things you mention, there is also the sense of being together with other people. It seems that as you spend time with them in a tea gathering, you sense their moods, thoughts and emotions.

    I do like the idea of feeling time and rhythm, which is so essential to tea.
    Thank you so very much for reading and commenting on the blog.

  9. Dear Sweet Persimmon,

    Thank you for your answer (and your blog, of course!).
    You are perfectly right! And THIS is what makes a tea gathering a success.

    Even if some aspects mentioned in your original article and the comments recieved regarding it (mine included) make the whole difference in terms of beauty and cultural importance, they are in the end quite poor in comparison. A nice tokobashira, a "natural" steam trace out of the kama or a Chojiro chawan are only instruments to reach a goal and this goal is sharing time (and tea) with others, in simplicity. I believe this is the ultimate experience of chanoyu, the capital feeling (all senses included).

    By now, I am too concentrated on side aspects (temae, chadogu, etiquette) to fully experience tea, I guess. I hope it will come. I wish it will sometime.

    I would add it is the reason why most call chanoyu "tea ceremony". I do not know if I am totally right, but I would say a "ceremony" implies important (but in the end futile) aspects while a "gathering" implies this achievement of true tea.

    But written like this, it might seem lacking the respect of some aspects of chanoyu which make it what it also is. So do not get me wrong. Chanoyu is the mixture of all these feelings.

    My point was just that being alert of a detail might easily detract from the whole experience - unless the invitation clearly binds a group of persons with many inner references and an appropriate theme; in that case each detail is paramount and participate to the general mood and connexion.


  10. Phillipe,
    You write so eloquently about tea for a newcomer. Tea takes patience. It is a lifetime of study and experience. Students go through phases of learning just like other endeavors.

    For example, when learning to ski, there is first concentration of just standing up, then focusing on executing turns, posture, and control. When one is fully in control of these things, they begin to notice the terrain, and perhaps the joy of movement or skiing with friends of like ability. So it is with tea.

    Just to know that there are many aspects and many layers to chado at this point in your study is very good indeed. No one can know everything there is to know about chado. Where you are in your tea study is where you need to be. It is not like you can master chado in ten easy lessons.

    Tea ceremony is a somewhat unfortunate translation of Chanoyu. Because there is no equivalent in Western society, the ceremony part is too much emphasized. The whole purpose of study is to be able to participate in tea gatherings.

    Tea has a way of presenting lessons to you when you are ready to learn them. Be open and you will find a treasure trove of experience. Pay attention and you will learn something about yourself and the world every time you enter the tea space.

    Thank you so much for contributing to the conversation.


  11. Dear Margie,

    Many thanks for your message. Thank you for your kind compliments as well.
    I know things take time and I fortunately have some in front of me. I do not think I am impatient, but rather know where I am. By now "I know that I know nothing". If I say otherwise in the future, I believe my knowledge will even be less important.

    Take care,


  12. Phillipe,
    Please continue to write your thoughts and contribute comments to the blog. I always enjoy them.