September 14, 2016
Japanese Keyhole Shaped Ancient Tombs
Japan has some of the biggest tombs in the ancient world to rival and in area surpass the pyramids of Gaza and the mausoleum of the first Qin emperor of China, the largest being about 500 meters long 300 meters wide (see photos).
But what of the shape of these ancient Japanese tombs and which way up should they go? They are usually shown the opposite way up.
The burial chamber was in the round part with the entrance being in the triangular part so in Japanese they are termed "straight fronted round backed tombs" from the point of view of entering them. "Keyhole shaped" would appear to be a subsequent English language interpretation which again may lead to tombs being represented with the circular part positioned at the top.
Surprisingly, however, the first of these tombs is associated with the first historical Japanese emperor, Emperor Sujin, in whose record in the book of ancient mythology (The Kojiki) a "keyhole of a door" plays an important part.
A protagonist in the record of Emperor Sujin (part historical part mythical) is deemed to be of holy descent due to the following narrative.
A woman reported to her parents that she had become pregnant to a man that visited her only at night*. In order to find out the identity of this gentleman (?) the lady's parents instructed her to sprinkle red powder at the entrance to her bedroom and to attach a red thread to the clothing of her lover. This she did, and the next day the thread was found to leave three loops** before coming out through her "door's keyhole" ("to no kagi ana") and lead to the shrine of Oomononushi (an@important Japanese god) in Mount Miwa (Three loop Mountain).
A very similar myth is found elsewhere in the Kojiki, where the deity is observed transformed into a snake.
The problem with this straightforward reading is that keys and keyholes probably did not exist in Japan at the time of Emperor Sujin, in the first century BC or even at the time that myth was written. The first keys in Japan were in the eighth century, contemporaneous with writing of the myth but these were padlock type mechanisms attached to the exterior of doors. The first keys that required holes were centuries later.
So what could this "door's hole" be?
Bearing in mind
1) The shape
2) That the deity penetrated the woman in order to have impregnated her
3) That the ancient word for the female sex organ was "hoto" possibly originating in "fire door"
4) That female sex organs and the entrance to tombs are elsewhere related or convoluted
5) That Joumon burial pots are thought to have represented wombs
6) That Japanese tombs were, like the myth mentioned above, sprinkled with red powder
7) That key and keyhole (kagi and kagi ana) are symbolic of sex organs in Japan to this day
7) That fear of death may encourage anyone to wish that death is a rebirth
8) The way in which an Other woman may be created of 'a side' of ourselves.
leads to the possibility that the shape of these massive tombs, of which there are thousands in Japan, represented female sex organs. This is why I have drawn the keyhole in the above orientation, and perhaps why Japanese tombs, despite being the largest in the world, are so un-publicised.
* That the god visited the woman only at night is less strange than it may otherwise seem since there is a tradition of "night crawling" (yobai) or night time visitation in Japan, and Wales in the UK.
** This reminds me of Lacan's borromean knot