You Only Live Twice | 1967
In the fifth of the series, James Bond (Sean Connery) gets killed off before the opening credits, but – surprise! – it’s only a ruse. He’s apparently buried at sea in Hong Kong Harbour, but what happens to the buildings and the hills and the teeming boats after the initial establishing shot?
The burial was actually shot aboard HMS Tenby, safely anchored in Gibraltar Harbour, while the undersea rescue was filmed across the Atlantic in the Bahamas.
Bond’s mission (scripted by author Roald Dahl, with little connection to the plot of Ian Fleming’s novel) is to track down the origin of a mysterious rogue spacecraft. He travels to Japan, dispatched to Tokyo to see Mr Henderson – played by Blofeld-in-waiting Charles Gray.
After the assassination of Mr Henderson, Bond finds himself whisked off to the headquarters of of the sinister ‘Osato Chemicals and Engineering Company’. The building, though, with its distinctive rooftop ‘disc’, is the Main Building (it has two other towers) of the Hotel New Otani Tokyo, 4-1 Kioi-cho, Chiyoda-Ku, a vast luxury block built in 1964 in time for the Olympic Games, set in a 10-acre garden which is claimed to date from the 16th century.
Bond tracks the suspicious ‘Ning Po’ ship at the docks of Kobe, an industrial port near to Osaka (and, a few years ago, badly damaged in a disastrous earthquake), where he dodges a horde of SPECTRE agents.
Back in the real Japan, the helicopter flight was filmed above the village of Ebino, where aerial photographer Johnny Jordan lost a leg when the blades of another helicopter came too close. The sequence was later completed in the skies above Torremolinos, Spain.
The fishing village is Akime, on the southern coast of Kyushu, about thirty mile southwest of Kagoshima.
The Ninja training school, in which Bond not only limbers up but turns Japanese, is the 17th century Himeji Castle, known as the White Heron Castle, for its deceptively delicate beauty and the white plaster covering the wooden structure. The castle stands on a bluff overlooking the town of Himeji, 33 miles west of Kobe, and around 50 miles from Osaka. It’s about ten minutes from Himeji Station, from where you can see it clearly.
There were a few problems with the press when it was claimed one of the steel darts used in the film became embedded in the venerable landmark’s wooden wall. You can also see Himeji Castle in Akira Kurosawa’s epics Kagemusha and Ran.
The extinct volcano, beneath which Blofeld (Donald Pleasence) establishes his hideout, is Shinmoe-dake, which can be found in Kirishima National Park near to Kagoshima (from where there’s a frequent train service, though there’s a deal of walking and climbing if you want to explore the fantastic volcanic landscape), at the southern tip of Kyushu, the southern island of Japan.
The spectacular interior, the granddaddy of all evil villain lairs, is a vast $1 million set, designed by Ken Adam, constructed under canvas on an outdoor site at Pinewood Studios.