Student Voice

2019.09.16Student Voice

Flower arrangements and sparkling temples: Nana Marie Anderson, Aarhus University

Nana, in the woods near campus


One of the things that made me choose to study abroad at AIU was an interesting selection of courses. As soon as I saw the Ikebana class, I was sold! And I was equally delighted to discover the Japanese Art History class after I had arrived here. These two have come to be my favorite classes at AIU, especially because of the memories they have created, and the unexpected topics we have covered.

Ikebana class and wabi-sabi

Ikebana arranged by Nana


When I signed up for the Ikebana class, I didn’t know what to expect.  The subject matter itself was so different from anything I study at my home university, even though I am a Japan Studies major. And it was true. It almost didn’t feel like a class at all. Relaxed atmosphere and the sweet aroma of the bucketful of flowers at the entrance of the tatami room was extraordinary. Nevertheless, it proved to be a rich learning experience that, flower by flower, deepened my understanding of Japanese culture.

I did see a gradual improvement in my ability to apply the knowledge I’ve gained about Japanese aesthetics. At first, I admit my flower arrangements were very Western; it was difficult for me to look at them from a Japanese point of view. But with each ikebana practice, I came to appreciate the aesthetic of wabi-sabi. The beauty of the asymmetrical form and the flowerless branch shows the philosophy that is unique to Japanese. It is no doubt a practice I hope to continue when I go back to Denmark.

Chuson-Ji in rainy weather

Road to Chuson-Ji


I like both visual arts and history, so the Japanese Art History class seemed like an obvious choice for me, and I was not disappointed. Our study of Buddhist sculptures automatically came with a (much appreciated) better understanding of Buddhism.

The most memorable class has to be our field trip to visit the Golden Hall of Chuson-Ji in Hiraizumi. It was raining heavily on that day. And we all walked around under our umbrellas, barely able to hear what each other was saying, but it added a pleasant meditative atmosphere to the trip. I had purchased a temple stamp book at the Motsu-Ji Pure Land Garden and made sure to stop at every temple along the way to have it signed. When we finally arrived at the Golden Hall at the top of the mountain, it felt like entering an essential part of history. Although much smaller than I had thought, this gilded and mother of a pearl-inlaid sparkling jewel box of a hall was worth the minor pilgrimage. I only wish I could have taken a photo of it, but it has undoubtedly been imprinted on my memory!