On the tracks of 007 in Japan

  • By Martijn Mulder
  • 07 Jul, 2017

Exclusive group celebrates YOLT's 50th anniversary in style

40 lucky Bond fans, at the 007 YOLT Memorial in Akime (photo: Onthetracksof007.com)
40 lucky Bond fans, at the 007 YOLT Memorial in Akime (photo © Onthetracksof007.com)
Immediately after I announced the 2017 Tour of Japan, around the SPECTRE premiere back in 2015, people started sharing their interest in this unique once-in-a-lifetime trip. Japan, one of the most interesting countries to visit, yet also one of the least visited by Bond fans! Confident to reach the minimum required number of participants, I soon reached the maximum - 40 people - within just a few weeks after completing the tour brochure in April 2016.  One year later , friends and fans from 7 different countries (USA, UK, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands and Canada) traveled to Japan in order to participate in a Tour of Japan that would bring us from Tokyo to Kagoshima in just 14 days.
From left to right: Sean Connery posing in the New Otani garden (photo © 007 Magazine & Archive), me recreating it 50 years later and the spot where Bond observed the waiting car after Henderson got killed.
We first met on April 7 in our first hotel, the Tokyo New Otani, which doubled for Osato Chemicals headquarters. The hotel  - which was originally built for the '64 Tokyo Summer Olympics - still looks exactly like it did when cast and crew arrived here in 1966 to shoot various scenes for the Bond film You Only Live Twice (YOLT). Scenes were filmed at the parking lot (Bond visits Osato) and in the hotel's famous landscape garden (fight with Henderson's killer / Ninja training assault). 
Clockwise from top left: Nakano-Shimbashi metro station, The New Otani parking exit, Yoyogi Gymnasium and the group in the train.
Clockwise from top left: Nakano-Shimbashi metro station, The New Otani parking exit, Yoyogi Gymnasium and the group in the train. (Photos © Onthetracksof007.com)
You could spend weeks in Tokyo, but we had to move on and took the Shinkansen bullet train to Wakayama and Kyoto. From Wakayama  we did a bus tour to Nachisan, one of the most remote Bond locations in the world. This temple complex served as the backdrop for Bond's (fake) marriage to island girl Kissy Suzuki. After visiting the annual Ninja Festival in the city of Iga, we got to our third stop, Kyoto. One of the top cities to visit in the Far East, Kyoto offers everything: From untouched temple complexes to a still functioning Geisha district. A must-see, surely..
Clockwise from top left: Me and my bus, Himeji Castle, the group with the Toyota 2000GT and one of the many familiar sites at Himeji Castle
Clockwise from top left: Me and my bus, Himeji Castle, the group with the Toyota 2000GT and one of the many familiar sites at Himeji Castle (Photos © Onthetracksof007.com)
Part of the Kyoto stopover where excursions to the Toyota Automobile Museum (where the Toyota 2000GT from the film was on special display for us) and the beautiful Himeji Castle, where Bond's ninja training had been filmed, 50 years earlier. The beautiful weather and abundance of cherry blossom made this a very special day. After three days it was time to move on again, so it was back on the train and on to Nagasaki.
Clockwise from top left: Gunkanjima or Battleship Island as seen in Skyfall, the group on the abandoned island, Kirishima National Park and the train to Kagoshima
Clockwise from top left: Gunkanjima as seen in Skyfall, the group on the abandoned island, Kirishima National Park and the train to Kagoshima (Photos © Onthetracksof007.com)
Nagasaki has, of course, an interesting history so it was a great city to visit. After an early morning visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum we went to Nagasaki Port to board a ship that would bring us to Hashima, better known as Battleship Island (Gunkanjima). The abandoned island was used for the CGI shots of Silva's hideout in Skyfall. Escorted by our Japanese Bond friends, we came, saw and conquered the island! The next morning we left our hotel to take the train to Kagoshima, our final stop.
Clockwise from top left: Group in the bus, Akime village, Shigetomi-so (or Tanaka's house) and the memorial at Akime (Photos © Onthetracksof007.com)
Clockwise from top left: Group in the bus, Akime village, Shigetomi-so (or Tanaka's house) and the memorial at Akime (Photos © Onthetracksof007.com)
Lots of filming had taken place around Kagoshima in 1966, so we made the Hotel Shiroyama (where cast and crew had stayed) our base for the next three nights. The next morning we made a bus excursion to Kirishima National Park. Here you can find Blofeld's volcano, or at least the exterior. The mountain erupted in 2011, so unfortunately we could no longer hike to the top to see the green crater lake. None the less, the park is wonderful and there are plenty of other volcano tops to hike to, as some did.. When we returned to the city, we made a brief stop at the street used in the scene where Little Nellie takes off the first time. As you can imagine, this urban area changed an awful lot, so it was difficult to recognize anything from the screen shots we brought. Our final day was spent in Akime, the tiny fishing village where Bond lived with Aki. We were greeted by the mayor and the people from the village, who were extremely happy with our visit. We enjoyed an amazing Japanese lunch and explored the area for a while. Time stood still in this remote part of Japan.
After leaving Akime, we made one final stop: Shigetomi-so, the former inn now French restaurant that doubled for Tanaka's house. We spent some time in the beautiful garden and then had coffee and tea with sweets at the restaurant. A wonderful way to end the day, overlooking the mighty Sakurajima volcano in Kagoshima bay.
Wanna come with us and see these amazing sites for yourself?
If you are interested in seeing the Japanese Bond locations with your own eyes, please click here or the above image. From April 6 -19, we will host a second Tour of Japan, following the tracks of 007. Only 40 people can join, so I can only urge you to make up your mind fast!

If you already have plans for next year, or you want to visit Japan on another occasion, all by yourself: Now available, the YOLT50 Guide to Japan !! A 170 page field guide to the Japanese Bond locations. With over 250 stills, location photos and maps, this is the ultimate companion for your trip to Japan. Includes a large chapter on 'The making of You Only Live Twice' and an introduction by Oscar® winning sound editor Norman Wanstall. Click here or the image below to see what this book is all about and how to order your copy!
Now available: You Only Live Twice 50th Anniversary GUIDE to JAPAN, the ultimate travel companion for your trip to Japan!
Now available: You Only Live Twice 50th Anniversary GUIDE to JAPAN, the ultimate travel companion for your trip to Japan!

On the tracks of 007

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