One of the first major international films to use Japan’s capital as a backdrop was the 1967 James Bond film ‘You Only Live Twice’ starring Sean Connery. Despite being killed off before Nancy Sinatra’s beautiful 007 theme kicks in, its just a crafy strategy.
Bond goes on a mission to Japan 16 minutes into the film starting at the sumo arena (more commonly known as Kokugikan) in Ryogoku. He enters the changing rooms where yokozuna (‘grand champion’) Sadanoyama Shinmatsu gives him his ticket and the match is between Kotozakura Masakatsu and Fujinishiki Takemitsu which he seemingly only watches for a few moments before leaving with Aki. The address is 1-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida-ku.
The New Otani Hotel at 4-1 Kioi-cho, Chiyoda-ku near Akasaka-Mitsuke station plays the part of Osato Chemicals exterior for a few brief moments after 24, 28, 36 and 41 minutes. There is a restaurant in the circular revolving part at the top of the hotel complex and I took my parents for lunch there which you can read about here. Its small, but peaceful gardens round the back are worth a visit for anyone wishing to take a break from the concrete jungle.
Bond escapes Osata Chemicals in a car with the help of Aki who avoids his questions which makes him suspicious and she flees to a secluded subway station (below) which is Nakano-Shimbashi on the Marunouchi Line (28 minutes). As one can imagine, the south-west corner where filming took place place, looks very different over four decades later.
This is the private transportation hub of Japanese secret service leader “Tiger” Tanaka who many years later appeared in Raymond Benson’s The Man With The Red Tattoo‘ book.
Bond is hot on her trail and follows her down some steps and on to the platform (below) which is obviously a bit different these days. Believe it or not taking such simple photos wasn’t quite so straightforward as when I was down the far end of the platform a member of staff came down to tell me not to take photos. I asked him why not a few times before giving up as people just don’t question rules in this country. He must have seen me on the CCTV cameras but thankfully I’d got my shot just before he intervened.
On yet another escape from Osata Chemicals, Bond and Aki drive by Komazawa Olympic Park on 42 minutes. The shots seen below were shot under the bridge with the athletics stadium on the right and the gymnasium on the left.
Within a couple of seconds the car is speeding by Yoyogi National Gymnasium (below) as the two locations, which are actually about 8km apart, are blended together to make it all look seamless.
This escape leads them well away from Tokyo to the docks of Kobe where he tries to dodge SPECTRE agents. My photo below was taken in Kobe Harbour in May and the red bridge in the background appears briefly before the exciting roof-top scene.
The helicoptor flight (below) on 54 minutes was filmed above Ebino in Miyazaki prefecture.
Bonus: Himeji castle appears after 69 minutes and is under extensive reconstruction at the time of writing but luckily I captured it back in 2005. This white castle is the Ninja training school where Bond turns Japanese and the shots below all get a second or two of screen time!
After Aki meets her inevitable demise, Bond limbers up (76 minutes) in the West Bailey. When I was in Himeji back in May I had only one screenshot with me and was most surprised to see that the stone statue thing behind Sean Connery was still knocking about. Needless to say I was the only person in the whole place who took an interest in this piece of concrete!
Kirishima National Park (below) in Kagoshima (on Japan’s southern main island) is the extinct volcano which can be seen briefly on 87 minutes with the interior of Blofeld’s hideout filmed back in the UK at Pinewood studios.
(Many thanks to John P. who e-mailed me with important information on some of these locations)
See other James Bond filming locations by clicking on the links below:
London Prague Venice Como Istanbul Las Vegas Phuket Vienna Hong Kong New York Panama Skyfall
For other Japan filming locations click on the links below:
Lost In Translation Kill Bill Babel Godzilla Walk Don’t Run Into The Sun Monster Wasabi The Grudge Ju:On The Grudge The Ramen Girl The Toxic Avenger Pt II The Wolverine Memoirs Of A Geisha The Last Samurai
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Awesome, I live in Tokyo myself. by any chance, do you know where the scene at Mr Henderson;s house/garden was filmed? Great blog you have, you seem to make the most out of your stay in Japan/Asia
thanks for your kind words and all your other comments men no. much appreciated. sadly I got no idea about Henderson’s location but I’ll keep on looking! for such an old film the chances are fairly slim i guess!!
I guess so too. You were my last hope, since I asked elsewhere also 🙂 Keep the reviews and locations hunt coming, very interesting for another (temporarily) Tokyo resident. Cheers
I think the scene where Bond chases Henderson’s assassin was shot in the rear gardens of the New Otani. There is a traditional Japanese house back there that – I THINK – was used and also Bond runs past two large Deer sculptures – which are still in the gardens as of my last visit to Tokyo! (Although they’ve been moved to a different area.) Hope this helps!
Ok nice one Mark. Thanks very much. I will look at that scene again soon and check out the hotel gardens again next time I’m near that area.
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I watched you only live twice today because of all references to the Okura hotel which is now demolished. Many refer to the Okura for the 007 filming, but I cannot see it at all in the movie. Is it that most people confuse it with the new otani? Maybe they stayed there while filming?
Hi there Martin. Hotel Okura definitely not in ‘You Only Live Twice’ so I can only assume (like you say) that people just confuse their hotels starting with the letter ‘O’!! You’d think that they stayed at Otani too whilst filming but who knows?! For the record, Okura appeared in ‘Walk Don’t Run’ which came out the year before the Bond movie!
Could it be that he stays there in the book, but not in the movie? The Internet is full of sources citing his stay there. I got curious as I stayed there in August, just before he close. What a beautiful place!
Yeah I’d guess that it may have been there in the novel then
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Kokugikan in the film was in Kuramae not across the river in Ryogoku. It was knocked down when the current Ryogoku Kokugikan was built in 1984.
Great knowledge. Thank you! Apologies for the very slow reply but haven’t checked the comments for a while it seems