Chajin no Monozuki — Curiosity of the Tea Masters 茶人の物好き

Curiosity and the appreciation of all things in all depths is an important part of karatedō and the key to constantly improving ourselves and growing our knowledge of the people and world around us.

Chajin no Monozuki 茶人の物好き[pronounced “chah-jin noh moh-noh-zoo-key”] means “asking curious questions of tea masters” — bringing to mind the importance of curiosity and adopting an ever-seeking attitude of wonder in our lives.

The origin of Chajin no Monozuki arises from the uniquely Japanese institution of the Tea Ceremony. During the practice, one is expected to ask many questions about the process and the components: “What variety of tea is this?” — “How much did the tea cost?” — “Where is this cup from?” etc.

Each element of the tea ceremony is carefully chosen and used with great awareness and deliberation.

This curiosity pays respect to the host and organizer of the tea ceremony, and it also serves to create a sense of wonder and appreciation in the person asking the questions.

The act of constant curiosity also sharpens the awareness of both participants: host and guest each focus on details that may seem small, but their awareness and presence of mine is brought to bear on those details. The tea ceremony becomes a simultaneous exercise in gassho (deep appreciation: read more here) and zanshin (focused awareness: read more here).

Curiosity Nourishes

It is this same sense of wonder and curiosity that is important to cultivate in our daily lives. This need is the true meaning of Chajin no Monozuki.

We spend a great deal of our day going about our activities, immersed in the details of our daily existence. And yet we oftentimes fail to stop to consider all the opportunities that we have to ask questions, seek deeper answers, and appreciate the complexity and beauty of the universe all around us.

Ever look at photos (or an actual one) of a mechanical watch? They are incredibly complex and amazing machines, made even more wondrous by their tiny size. Or perhaps you've seen a documentary about a famous athlete and their training regimen: their dedication and hard work is almost superhuman.

We are literally surrounded by miracles of science, engineering, design, and human focus and achievement. To observe that is to nourish our own drive and desire for constant improvement and encourages us to reach for our goals and fulfill our life purpose.

Curiosity Offers Gratitude to Others

To ask questions in an attitude of curiosity and eagerness to learn, is a wonderful gift that can be given at no cost, but yet is of great value to the receiver of the gift.

We all love the opportunity to answer questions and provide details about the things we are most interested and passionate about. So, when we are in the position of asking questions, inquiring about the behind-the-scenes details, and digging deeper into the nuances of a subject, rest assured that the person answering those questions is feeling fortunate to have that opportunity.

The interaction of questioner and respondent forms its own bridge between them; effectively, the dialog becomes a connection that can defuse fear, build understanding and respect, and ultimately even bring two people closer together.

Curiosity is the Ultimate Enrichment

Adopting an attitude of curiosity is amazingly powerful. It can open doors to opportunities that we thought weren’t available to us, and it can take us down paths we never even knew existed.

It takes effort and focus to be curious: curiosity is a skill, not just a random occurrence or a fleeting thought. Practicing curiosity will improve your ability to be curious and will most definitely improve your awareness and appreciation of everything around you.

See life as a tea ceremony, full of details to observe and attention-to-detail to appreciate, and your life will be immeasurably enriched.

Kanji/Katakana Meaning
tea (cha)
people (jin) [with cha, tea masters]
of (no)
thing (mono)
好き love/like (zuki) with mono, thing-love or curiosity/curious questions

Editor's Note: This lecture was first delivered by Sensei in San Francisco, California on 13 May 2017; this concept was presented again at the Goju Karate NYC Dojo on 19 July 2023.