Japan

Japan location map

Japan

Of all the locations in the Bond films, Japan still stands firmly as the most exotic ever used. In my opinion at least. Back in 1966, it was considered exotic, unspoiled and unknown enough to send Bond there on his latest mission. Today, some 50 years later, these things can still be said of this beautiful country. Its cultural heritage, being so different, not only from the West, but different from the rest of the East as well, and a very turbulent history filled with samurai, kamikaze pilots and two devastating atomic bombs, make Japan one of the most interesting countries to visit.

Below is a summary of the story Welcome to Japan, Mr Bond, as featured in the travel guide On the tracks of 007.
About 700 islands, of which only some 40 are inhabited, form the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. They stretch over a range of 650 miles (1200 km) from the east coast of Florida in a south-easterly direction right up to the Caribbean. Though one of the smallest islands, New Providence, with the capital Nassau, is the political, economic and touristy centre of the country. 65 per cent of the Bahamian population (268,000 in 1993) lives here. Because of the pleasant subtropical climate and the excellent beaches the Bahamas became a popular full-year vacation destination. Tourism produces more than 50 per cent of the national income. The second reason why the Bahamians enjoy the highest standard of living of the entire Caribbean is because of banking. The political and economic stability and very liberal tax laws attract investors from all over the world to this tax haven.

On 12th October 1492 Christopher Columbus set foot upon the soil of the New World in the Bahamas. He claimed the island for the Spanish king and called it San Salvador. Some historians nowadays believe that the location of the recovery of America was the Bahama-island of Samana Cay. The first British settlers arrived in 1648 in Eleuthera and New Providence. For the next 300 years the Bahamas remained a British colony. In the 17th century the islands were the hunting grounds of pirates and buccaneers. Blackbeard was the most notorious one of them. The novels of Daniel Defoe made the myth of the pirates of the Caribbean immortal. On 10th July 1973 the Bahamas gained independence. Officially, however, the Queen of England is still head of state. She is represented by a Governor General in Nassau.
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When Ian Fleming travelled the world writing his travel stories, he also visited Japan. Very impressed by the Japanese culture he decided to bring 007 to this far away world. The novel he wrote was "You Only Live Twice" and it picked up where the previous adventure, “On Her Majesty's Secret Service”, had left us. After having just lost his wife, Bond is in desperate search of Blofeld but cannot seem to find him. To get his mind off things, he's sent on a mission to Japan where, in an unusual twist of faith, he finds his wife's killer, walking around in a medieval harness in his castle's garden surrounded by toxic plants. While this plot sounds extremely absurd, the novel is actually a very fine one and over the years has become one of my personal favourites. Truth is that it would have made a lousy film script, since it lacked the action the cinema audience had gotten used to.

When Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had finished the hugely successful Thunderball their initiate decision was to have OHMSS as the follow up. In the early video releases, one could read "The end of Thunderball, but James Bond will return in On her Majesty's Secret Service", unfortunately removed from later versions. But, since both stories heavily relied on large action scenes (compare TB's underwater action with OHMSS's snow action) the idea was dropped and the decision was made to start working on YOLT instead, thus reversing the original order of the continuing revenge story.
Editor Peter Hunt, who was promised the directing job on OHMSS, was extremely disappointed when Broccoli and Saltzman confronted him with their decision and wanted to step away from the series. When the producers offered him a paid vacation around the world, second unit direction on YOLT AND the promise that 'his' film OHMSS would be the one after YOLT, Hunt fortunately agreed to return. Lewis Gilbert was offered the director's chair and together with the producers and production designer Ken Adam, the search for suitable locations was on and the team went to Japan, where they coincidentally bumped into Peter Hunt who was enjoying his paid vacation there. They rented a helicopter and flew around Japan for two weeks, covering every square inch of coast, searching for the medieval castle Fleming had described in his book. Unable to find any castles in the coastal area (it later turned out the Japanese never built castles along the coast) the group went looking for other storyline options. . It wasn't until they flew over the Kirishima National Park and saw the green crater lake of Mount Shinmu (Shinmu-dake in Japanese) that the idea of the volcano base began to emerge.
The rest is history. Ken Adam made some drawings of the volcano set, Cubby Broccoli asked what it would cost to build it, Adam roughly estimated "One million dollars" and Broccoli, without blinking his eyes, replied "If you can do it for a million dollars you can start building it", giving the very talented Ken Adam the opportunity to create one of the most memorable sets ever designed.

When visiting Japan, you should really prepare your trip well. Some of the locations are very remote and very difficult to get to and only with a decent preparation you will be able to get the most out of your location trip. You will need at least one week to see them all, but I strongly recommend an extra week. In 14 days you can at least 'enjoy' your adventure and avoid having to rush from city to city without really grasping the atmosphere around you.

The New Otani served as Osato Chemicals in You Only Live Twice (1967)
The little fishing town of Akime is way off the beaten track but featured prminently in You Only Live Twice (1967)
Bond's first wedding, at Nachi-no-taki, happened in You Only Live Twice (1967)
Martijn Mulder on top of Shinmoe-dake, before it erupted in 2008, 2009 and 2011
Our trip took months of careful planning. Since I do not rely on travel agents and always attempt to find my own hotels in the best locations, I spent many evenings searching the Internet for good hotels or ryokans in the areas where I wanted to be. And for this trip, this is very important. To give you a little hand I will explain our trip in detail, bringing you to all the locations from YOLT in a two week holiday, hoping to make it easier for you to travel not just in our tracks, but more importantly in 007's tracks.


Tokyo: Entering a new world

During the Muromachi-period (1336-1598), Japan had politically fallen apart in many small regions, where local warlords or daimyo ruled. Based in Kyoto, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, both followers of the important shogun Oda Nobunaga, planned and executed the unification of Japan. They decided the new capital of the country would be the city of Edo. At the end of the 19th century, Edo was renamed Tokyo. By that time the city was already by far the largest in the world. Comprised from various smaller villages, the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area now houses about one fourth of the Japanese population. In an area of about 600 square kilometres, almost 32 million people live and work. This automatically means it can get pretty crowded during rush hours..

On September 1st 1923, Tokyo was struck by a massive earthquake, causing a great loss of lives. Since most of the buildings were made of wood, almost the entire city burned down when large fires broke out. After the city had been rebuilt, the recession and political climate caused Japanese Emperor Hirohito to choose the side of fascist Germany in WWII. Japan started its own war in the Far East and even attacked the U.S. at Pearl Harbour. The U.S. immediately retaliated and Japan was extremely heavily bombed. Most major cities were completely devastated, Tokyo included (only the city of Kyoto and its many important temples and shrines was spared), and this should explain the total lack of truly old, historical buildings in Japan. When two U.S. atomic bombs forced Emperor Hirohito to capitulate, the Japanese population was left astonished and it took them many years to accept this defeat.

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This and much more can be found in the chapter 'Welcome to Japan Mr Bond' in ON THE TRACKS OF 007

Connected hotels:

New Otani

Tokyo, Japan

Shigetomi-so

Shigetomi-so is the building and garden used as Tiger Tanaka's home. The house is just outside Kagoshima and used to by a ryokan, a Japanese style guest house. Nowadays, it is a restaurant and you are no longer able to spend the night there.
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