Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Today was a scorcher, but I finally accomplished something I've been planning to undertake for way too long - yet always for some odd reason placed on the back-burner.

It was at the tail-end of primary school that I discovered that Sean Connery was a far better Bond than Roger Moore, and not via Dr. No (that joy came later).

The revelation came instead in the 1967 production of You Only Live Twice, and it wasn’t just the title-sequence that snagged me.

I know, I know—everyone says Goldfinger is better, and You Only Live Twice tends to be mauled by disgruntled critics trying to build on their largesse, but I love the film.

Catching sights of Tokyo 43 years ago are a hoot, plus there’re the clumsy ninja at the training school near Himeji Castle, and Bond’s sham Shinto wedding and equally counterfeit Oriental makeover.

Ernst Blofeld’s hideaway volcano set (erected not in Japan, but at Pinewood Studios back in the UK) and the Tinkertoy rockets are downright superb, especially for someone who grew up on Godzilla and Thunderbirds - which also happened to be a hit in Japan.

So what if I later learned that James fired blanks in his declaration that the correct temperature for sake is 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit (it's only one of many temperatures), or that his casual mid-afternoon drive to Kobe, with ill-fated flame Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), is actually a five hour ride?

I had a minor crush on the other Bond girl in the picture, Mie Hama (as Kissy Suzuki), Bond's ring-in bride later on in the yarn, and remain mesmerized by the vocal cords of Tetsuro Tamba (Tiger Tanaka) - though I've since heard that most of Tiger’s lines in English were dubbed by another actor.

Over on IMDB they say this was the handiwork of Robert Rietty.

Oh yeah, and this nifty flick has the “Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond” line itself that I’ve appropriated and delivered (with far less panache than Charles Gray or Tamba/Rietty) at Narita Airport on countless occasions.

And You Only Live Twice is also the reason that the month I arrived in Japan I promptly purchased the 48th printing of Instant Japanese: A Pocketful of Useful Phrases, first published in 1964, by Masahiro Watanabe and Kei Nagashima. It’s collected dust since but looks cool on the shelf, even if I’m the only one who makes the silly connection to that Moneypenny moment early on in the film.

Anyway, I digress. As usual.

So where exactly was I? Oh yeah - today's little escapade.

I had a day off and decided to walk somewhere in the vicinity of the footsteps of Connery, Tamba, Wakabayashi, and Lewis Gilbert and Cubby Broccoli's film crew - to visit the places where they shot the fifth Bond film back in 1967.

First up? The Hotel New Otani, a 10 acre oasis in Chiyoda that used to be the private garden of a 17th century daimyo but was reinvented as a hotel in 1964 to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics.

The exterior of the building was sequestered by the Bond film crew to play Osato Chemicals, a cover organization for Blofeld's SPECTRE.

Straight after visiting Mr Osato's office, Bond exits via the main entrance, and is almost murdered by a carload of hired gunsels before Aki rescues him and they dash off together in her sleek Toyota 2000GT convertible.

The hotel's extensive, gorgeous gardens were also used in some of the ninja training scenes in the film.

Other parts of You Only Live Twice were filmed outside Tokyo - in or near places like Himeji Castle, Kyushu and Miyazaki - as well as Spain, the Bahamas, and back in England.

But here in Tokyo Bond took in a dose of sumo, an onsen, a massage by scantily-clad young women, chased skirt, then was escorted down to Tiger Tanaka's private transportation hub (cue personal train) - in actual fact Nakano-Shimbashi Station, not far from Shinjuku on the Marunouchi Line.

So I trained it over there after the Hotel New Otani. It's an old station that's pretty much unremarkable; somewhat unexcited by the place, I exited and wandered the surrounding streets a bit, futilely searching for more evidence of a shoot that probably never left the station.

There wasn't much of note to be found anyway - aside from a couple of interesting old houses that were no doubt in much better shape 43 years ago... oh, and the other highlight of the day: the bizarrely sculpted and twisted Chinese Night Pub.


llewellyn said...

Thanks, had a crappy day, this put a smile on my face and am still laughing.Saw the movie first time when I was 16 and it was a new release.


Ha Ha Ha - you're so welcome, mate - glad it cheered you up! ;)