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Fiftieth Anniversary of James Bond Film You Only Live Twice

June 15, 2017


There are several interesting aspects regarding this event - the author first visited Japan about fifty years ago, lived there in the early seventies and has developed a new fondness for spending a bit of R&R in Japan. Ian Fleming had a close connection with Japan based on the people, his love for sushi and sake, and spent considerable time with a yakuza gang boss who was subsequently murdered.


The yakuza tie is a coincidental bit as the author also spent some time with a yakuza gang boss at The Siam Hotel in Bangkok. You might not recognize a yakuza if they are fully clothed but otherwise their body ink is pretty revealing.


One morning as I went for my morning swim in the hotel's fabulous three-lane lap pool, there was a gray-haired guy in full decoration, such as the image above, accompanied by a young lady and a very powerful body guard. They were gleefully tossing the lady up into the air in the pool. The Thai pool attendant confirmed my opinion that they were gangsters but neither of us were particularly concerned. Over the course of two days, we spent a fair amount of our mornings together at the pool.

Despite some language impediments, we were comparing body art by the second day and having beers. The senior guy indicated he had killed someone and spent a significant period of time in prison which qualified him for his body art. When he asked about my Sanskrit five line sak yant, I told him it came from a Buddhist boot camp and not prison. Nonetheless, it is amazing the bonds you can develop over sharing a pool and a few beers. Only the pool guy and I had any idea what a distinguished guest the hotel had. It is also helpful to have a diversity of contacts at hand if ever needed.

So, back to You Only Live Twice - ninety percent of the movie was filmed in Japan which is unlike most Bond films that are more of a travelogue of locations. Considerable effort was made to incorporate many Japanese customs and habits like those shown below and illustrated in the movie poster. Kissy Suzuki, a.k.a. Mie Hama in real life, married 007 in the film and they had a son who is rumored to be living in the village of Akime though you might discount the voracity of that anecdote.


Ian Fleming, a former British naval intelligence officer, would have been interested to learn that there are discussions of Japan aligning its intelligence efforts with those of the United Kingdom as was depicted by Tanaka in You Only Live Twice. Perhaps the film was prophetic.


In fact, Prime Minister Abe of Japan has been quite active with his initiatives toward the west. He was the first foreign head of state to meet President Trump. Moreover, as the third longest serving Japanese Prime Minister in post-war Japan, he has the political capital to take such bold actions. It all began in the tiny fishing village of Akime where much of the movie was filmed.



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