Sunday, August 12, 2018

Taking The Path Through Japan Once Trodden By Ian Fleming And James Bond


"You only live twice. Once when you are born, and once when you look death in the face," Ian Fleming wrote in his 1963 James Bond thriller, You Only Live Twice.

As a young sailor stationed on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam in 1971, I reread Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice, which takes place in Japan, as well as Fleming’s London Sunday Times piece on Japan in his book Thrilling Cities, in anticipation of our upcoming R&R visit to Sasebo, Japan.

As an Ian Fleming aficionado, I was thrilled to see some of the sights Ian Fleming saw during his visit to Japan a decade earlier.  

Damian Flanagan at the Japan Times follows in the footsteps of Ian Fleming, as the late, great thriller writer traveled through Japan in 1962 while researching his Bond novel, You Only Live Twice.

Tasked to trace the route across Japan that Ian Fleming, the author of James Bond, took in 1962 — and which Bond himself largely follows in Fleming’s penultimate 007 novel “You Only Live Twice” (1964) — it was suggested I could experience the same route but with modern sensibilities.

In truth, if you wish to follow the two-week trip Fleming took across Japan — beginning in Tokyo and winding your way down to Kyushu — you can assuredly do so, either in one go or knocked off in discrete sections. You can visit nearly all of the places that Fleming went to and see the eternal sights that he did: the Mikimoto pearl fisheries and the Grand Shrines of Ise on the Kii Peninsula; the Nijo Jinya and Shimabara brothel district in Kyoto; and take a ferry ride from the city of Kobe along the islands of the Seto Inland Sea to the “hells” of Beppu, to finally arrive at the magnificent caldera of Mount Aso in Kyushu before taking in Fukuoka on a bullet train back to Tokyo.

You can do all of that and take the Bond novel with you — filling your head with Secret Service adventures and 1960s style — and, as a Bond aficionado, I would heartily encourage you to do so. But to what extent can you experience Japan today in the same raw, intense manner that Fleming did back in 1962?
… As in the Bond novels, death and sex were the two main features of Fleming’s Kyoto tour. Besides the singing floors, he took a keen interest in the workings of the Shimabara brothel district and how it catered to visiting dignitaries in the Edo Period (1603-1868).
On his trip, Fleming had two travel companions: Richard Hughes (an internationally renowned journalist, Japan expert and spy) and Torao “Tiger” Saito (an architect, editor and the model for “Tiger Tanaka,” the head of the Japanese Secret Service, in “You Only Live Twice”), who had carefully prepared the itinerary for him.

Hughes referred to the experience as “the most instructive, enjoyable, crowded, leisurely, lively and hilarious trip I ever made in thirteen long and happy years of residence in Japan.” “Sayonara to James Bond,” a chapter in his memoirs, has the air of a travel classic, a kind of “Three Men in Japan” of amiable hijinks and mutual warmth.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: 
Note: The top photo shows Sean Connery as James Bond in the film You Only Live Twice. The above photo show Ian Fleming and Richard Hughes in Japan. 

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