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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, The rise and fall of Nagaokakyō (784-794), a mokkan-based study of Emperor Kanmu’s capital city, Ghent University

Award Date: Sept 12 2005

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

Award Date: Jul 5 1999

Oriental Languages and Cultures, MA, “Kleibeeldjes van de Jōmon-periode, situering van de dogū in de leef- en denkwereld van de Jōmon-maatschappij” [The significance of clay figurines (dogū) in Jōmon culture and society], Ghent University

Award Date: Jul 7 1998

External positions

Part-time Lecturer, The Open University of Japan

Apr 1 2020Sept 30 2020

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


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