Chashitsu as a hideout

Chashitsu as a hideout Design

Traditional Japanese architecture is characterised by its open structure, but chashitsu has very few windows and is a very small space. Taian, the chashitsu built by Sen no Rikyu, has  2 tatami-mats and a ceiling height of approximately 180 cm. Therefore, it’s roughly the size of a cube of 2 metres or less.


Why does being in a chashitsu make you feel at peace? This is probably because it’s a small, closed and dimly lit space.

Chashitsu has many features of hideouts where animals instinctively feel calm.

Nests of mammals

Humans are mammals, and let’s take examples of where other mammals live.

Among familiar animals, we often see dogs resting in small sheds. During the breeding season, female wolves, the ancestors of dogs, dig burrows on soil slopes and give birth there.

Bears spend long periods of time hibernating in caves, and give birth in their nests as well.

Chipmunks mainly dig deep holes in the ground and live in them. Japanese squirrels build nests made of twigs in a spherical shape on trees. Alternatively, if there is a suitable cavity in a tree, they may build a nest inside it.

Rabbits mainly live in burrows, and when they go out they block the entrance to hide their kids. European rabbits dig intricate burrows called warrens with multiple entrances. Multiple individuals live and reproduce there. Large-scale ones may have a total length of approximately 50 metres with more than 50 entrances. They emerge from their burrows early in the morning and evening to graze nearby, then quickly return to their burrows for protection.

If you suddenly take your pet rabbit out into the open wilderness during the day and release it, it will run around anxiously looking for a place to hide. This is because they feel in danger because they are in full view of birds of prey and carnivores. It may be a remnant of this that humans also have agoraphobia.

Otters have multiple sleeping quarters over a vast territory. The sleeping quarter is a bed made of gathered grass under something like a rock near the water. A female digs a burrow near the water and gives birth inside.

Platypuses dig caves on the banks of rivers and lakes to make their nests. The entrance to the nest may be obscured by vegetation or may be underwater.

Beavers nest near water as well. They may dig burrows on the shore or build huts out of twigs. Its location is surprising, as it is right in the middle of water that has been dammed up by a dam that they built themselves. The entrance is covered with water, so you can’t reach the inner cave unless you go underwater. This mechanism is exquisite and prevents the invasion of many carnivorous animals, which are natural enemies to them.

Nests of various animals

Let’s take a look at the nests of animals other than mammals as well.

It is well known that woodpeckers make holes in trees. The great spotted woodpecker, a type of woodpecker, makes holes with its long and hard beak to raise its young and rest.

Kingfishers dig small holes in earthen walls near rivers and hide in them. Because it is a cliff, many carnivores cannot get close to it.

The hermit crab, a type of decapod crustacean, has a soft body part that twists to the right, making it easier to fit inside the snail shell. Hermit crabs protect themselves by encasing themselves in shells that fit snugly around their bodies. This is like wearing armour. Or like a mobile home. They change their shells as their bodies grow. Try it on by repeatedly entering and exiting the countless seashells on the ocean floor. It’s easy to move because it just goes inside what is already available.

Bagworms (larvae of bagworm moth) use the silk they spit out to skillfully connect surrounding leaves, branches, etc. to create movable nests and live there. The larvae of the giant bagworm overwinter in their nests to protect themselves from the cold, and in the spring they transform into pupae, which then become adults about a month later. The male then flies off in search of a female. What is surprising is that the adult female’s wings and legs have degenerated and she has almost no means of locomotion although it is a moth. The female releases pheromones and waits for the male inside the bag, and then lays eggs inside the bag. In other words, she spends most of her life in the bag.

It is surprising that there are species of protozoa that build nests, even though they are invisible to the human eye. Some amoebas build nests by collecting extracellular substances around themselves.

Radiolaria, a marine zooplankton that appeared about 500 million years ago, has a glass-hard outer shell made of silica (silicon dioxide). The shape of its outer shell resembles a futuristic armour or citadel. Radiolarians sway in the water with pseudopods radiating out from gaps in their shells.

There is a theory that living things were born in the sea. Not only multicellular organisms but also unicellular organisms that have been around since time immemorial build nests.

Many animals, including mammals, make their home in small enclosed spaces. This makes sense as a means of self-defence in a natural world full of dangers. It would be unnatural to think that humans do not have any traces of this instinct.

Human who lived in chashitsu

We have given examples of nests of various animals, and if you look at chashitsu again with this background in mind, you will automatically see it as a nest.

Chashitsu is not a residence for daily life, but an architecture designed as a special place. Even if it is attached to a residence, it should be placed as isolated as possible.

However, there are historical figures as well who actually lived in this extraordinary place, chashitsu.

Oda Nagamasu (commonly known as Oda Uraku and Oda Urakusai), a daimyou (feudal lord) who spent a busy life during his active period and was also a tea master who learned the tea ceremony from Sen no Rikyu, lived his retired life in the chashitsu “Joan.”

Author: Takuya Nagata. Amazon Profile

A novel writer and creator. Graduated from UCA, the UK’s university. Discussed Japanese minimalism in the senior thesis. Founder of “MINIЯISM” (minirism), the art movement that contributes to the development of societies, such as ecology and lifestyle. Later opened the knowledge hub “The Minimalist.”

Once travelled to Brazil and trained football at CFZ do Rio (Centro de Futebol Zico Sociedade Esportiva) in Rio de Janeiro. Played soccer for the Urawa Reds (Urawa Red Diamonds), one of the biggest football clubs in Japan, and toured Europe. Retired at a young age and voyaged alone to England. Established careers as a journalist, football coach, consultant, etc. across Europe such as Spain. The founder of “Propulsive Football” (PROBALL), the world’s first-ever competitive mixed football, facilitating diversity and spirit for equal participation in society.

Knowledgeable in creative and technology fields as well. Launched the SPACE Culture & Entertainment hub “The Space-Timer 0.”

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