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Personal profile

Research interests

I specialize in the history and archaeology of the Asuka, Nara, and early Heian periods. My primary focus is on Kanmu Tennō (r. 781–806), on the layout of Japan’s ancient capital cities (kyūto), and on inscribed wooden tablets (mokkan). I have also published on site divination (geomancy, fengshui, shijin sōō) in premodern East Asia and on the influence of fengshui thought on contemporary Japanese architecture. My current research, an institutional and social history of Heian Jingū, builds upon earlier work. In this project, I investigate issues related to the reconstruction of long-lost buildings, the deification of emperors, the presence of Chinese cosmological symbolism in Shinto shrines, and changes in perceptions of Heian Jingū since its founding in the late nineteenth century.


teach courses in premodern Japanese history, material culture, and thought; research methods and digital humanities; and East-West encounters.

Professional Information

Ellen Van Goethem is Associate Professor of Japanese History and History of Ideas. She holds a Ph.D. in Oriental Languages and Cultures from Ghent University. After having taught at Ghent University (1999–2006) and Hosei University (2008–2011), she joined Kyushu University in 2011 to establish the IMAP in Japanese Humanities together with historian Jeff Kurashige and linguist Carey Benom and served as the program’s co-chair until her sabbatical in 2018–2019. In 2015, she co-founded the Journal of Asian Humanities at Kyushu University (JAH-Q).



Education/Academic qualification

Oriental Languages and Cultures, PhD, Ghent University

Award Date: Dec 9 2005

Academic Teacher Training Program, Qualified Teacher’s Degree for Secondary Education – Section 2 in Oriental Languages and Cultures, Ghent University

Award Date: May 7 1999

Oriental Languages and Cultures, MA, Ghent University

Award Date: May 7 1998

External positions

Part-time Lecturer, The Open University of Japan

Apr 1 2020Sep 30 2020

Board of Directors, Flander's Center/Arts Flanders Japan

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Ellen Van Goethem is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

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Reiterations of the Past: Reconstructions, Practices, and Places

Van Goethem, E., Carter, C., Smits, I., Mueller, D., van Ewijk, A., Tseng, A., Roberts, L. & Kam, L. W. M.


Project: Research project

State Formation in Ancient Japan

Van Goethem, E. & Barnes, G.

9/1/15 → …

Project: Research project

Heian Jingū

Van Goethem, E., Kato, Y. & Tseng, A.

4/1/15 → …

Project: Research project

Research Output

Animated City: Life Force, Guardians, and Contemporary Architecture in Kyoto

Van Goethem, E., 2019, Invisible Empire: Spirits and Animism in Contemporary Japan . Rambelli, F. (ed.). Bloomsbury Publishing, p. 81–94

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

  • Heian Jingū: Monument or Shinto Shrine?

    Van Goethem, E., Nov 2018, In : Journal of Religion in Japan. 7, 1, p. 1-26

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • エレン・ヴァン=フーテム Ellen Van Goethem

    Van Goethem, E., Mar 2018, Fukuoka: Kyushu University.

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

    Ellen Van Goethem

    Van Goethem, E., Mar 2017, Fukuoka: Kyushu University. 2 p. (Brillante; no. 2)

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

    Asuka-Fujiwara through Foreign Eyes – Research from Abroad

    Van Goethem, E. E. M. A., 2016, 世界に伝えたい「飛鳥・藤原の魅力」記念講演資料集. Research Institute for Ancient Japanese Studies, Meiji University, p. 17–27

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


    Ivo Smits

    Ellen Van Goethem (Host)

    Jan 8 2020Jan 22 2020

    Activity: Hosting a visitor typesHosting an academic visitor

    Ivo Smits

    Ellen Van Goethem (Host)

    Oct 21 2019Oct 27 2019

    Activity: Hosting a visitor typesHosting an academic visitor

    Emperor and Shrine: Commemoration, Ideology, and Identity

    Ellen Van Goethem (Organiser), , Liza Wing Man Kam (Organiser), , Caleb Carter (Member of programme committee), , Karli Shimizu (Participant), & Michael Wachutka (Participant)

    Oct 28 2019

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

    Commemoration and Deification: The Creation of Heian Jingū

    Ellen Van Goethem (Speaker)

    Feb 11 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

    Imitation, Deification, and Identity: Heian Jingū’s Many Facades

    Ellen Van Goethem (Speaker)

    Dec 13 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk