Yasunari Kawabata's Thousand Cranes takes place in Japan soon after World War II. The central character is a 25 year old man whose late father was a collector of rare old tea ceremony objects and a practitioner of the traditional tea ceremony. Quite a few of the key scenes take place in the now-mildewing tea-ceremony cottage in the family garden, and the collected objects play a major role in this psychological drama.
The focus of the book is the young man's relationship with his father's two mistresses and the daughter of one of them. An unnamed maid and another young woman are the only other characters in the book: it's almost like a stage play with only a very small cast.
Several times, there is an enactment of the tea ceremony or some part of it, at a critical emotional point. Water boils. A tear falls on the iron kettle. The choice of rare and special water vessels, tea bowls, and decorative objects creates atmosphere and they become symbols to the characters and to the story. Sometimes a meal is served.
Nothing, basically, is ever said about the characters' tasting the tea, eating the food, or even noticing what food is being served. The tea ceremony is all about ritual and proper behavior. The way it affects the characters is important in the drama of their interaction and their individual problems. However, I find it very telling that the actual content of the tea vessels is not part of this drama, as I believe it would be in an actual tea ceremony. Savoring the tea is listed in documentary books as part of the ritual -- personally I find the tea at tea ceremonies unbearably bitter, and couldn't appreciate it.
I'm not able to tell if this lack of sensual participation or tasting the small snacks or the meal of tea time would be a meaningful symbol for a Japanese reader. It may be too late to know this, as the traditions described in the book are much rarer now than they were 50 years ago when the action took place.