TF Top (Double Oh) 7……Hotels Featured In James Bond Movies

Hotels have played a major part in the James Bond series of films over the last 50+ years with the secret agent going around the world on his many missions whilst splurging on many a fine hotel. Now, everyone’s favourite secret agent hasn’t always stayed in the accommodation listed here but they have all featured in the movies at some point. The cost of spending a night in one of these hotels varies quite a bit and one needs to be seriously minted to afford some of these places! With a slight twist on the usual TF Top 5/10…… series’ we bring you the top (double oh) seven (see what we’ve done there!) places to stay for one to follow in the footsteps of James Bond.

1. Hotel New Otani (from $217 per night), 4-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda, Tokyo 102-0094, Tokyo, JAPAN.

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You Only Live Twice (1967) – This hotel in Chiyoda-ku plays the part of Osato Chemicals exterior for a few brief moments on 24, 28, 36 and 41 minutes respectively. The nearest station is Akasaka-Mitsuke. Its small, but peaceful gardens round the back are worth a visit for anyone wishing to take a break from the concrete jungle. More details here

2. Riviera Hotel & Casino (from $21 per night), 2901 Las Vegas Boulevard South, USA.

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Diamonds Are Forever (1971) – Bond may have stayed at the Tropicana but its the Riviera which plays a more important part in the film. This is where he wins $50,000 and the opportunistic Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood) who he takes back to his room where gang members ambush them and throw O’Toole off a high rise balcony into a pool below not that they knew there was a pool there! This has been parodied a couple of times; in ‘The A-Team‘ TV series and more recently in ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013). Martin Scorsese’s ‘Casino‘ (1995) used this place as the fictitious Tangier casino. More details here

3. The Peninsula (from $604 per night), Salisbury Road, HONG KONG.

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The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) – Just a stones throw from the ferry terminal on Kowloon in Tsim Sha Tsui is this hotel (seen on 27 minutes) which is where Bond tracks down Scaramanga’s mistress Miss Andreas Anders’ who had been collecting gold bullets at a Macau casino room. It is room 602 where he puts pressure on her to inform him of Scramanga’s appearance and plans. More details here

4. Hotel Danieli (from $893 per night), Riva degli Schiavoni, 30122 Venezia, ITALY.

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Moonraker (1979) –  Situated round the corner from St Mark’s Square, the Hotel Danieli is where Dr Goodhead (Lois Chiles) stayed in Venice. It could also be seen in ‘The Tourist‘ (2010) which featured Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie as well as former James Bond actor Timothy Dalton. The interior was also the inspiration for the tiny studio-built sinking palazzo used at the end of ‘Casino Royale‘ (2006) which can be seen on the DVD extras. More details here

5. Langham Hilton (from $605 per night), 1C Portland Place, Westminster, London W1B, UK.

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GoldenEye (1995) – As Tokyo Fox reported back in March many Bond locations have been faked with Russia being a prime example in the first outing for Pierce Brosnan as 007. This hotel in London doubled up as the “Grand Hotel Europe.” More details here

6. Mandarin Oriental Hotel (from $39 per night), 48 Oriental Ave Alley, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, THAILAND.

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Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) – Bond (Roger Moore) is reunited with his British assistant Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland) at this place on 65 minutes whereby they share dinner. Inevitably their evening is interrupted! Anders (Maud Adams) tells Bond that she wants him to kill Scaramanga and will pay him at a boxing venue the next day. More details here

7. Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Institute of Culture), Calle 1a Oeste, Caso Viejo, Panama City, PANAMA.

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Quantum Of Solace (2008) – As you may gather from the name of this one, it isn’t actually a hotel but the “Andean Grand Hotel” in Bolivia where Bond (Daniel Craig) takes MI6 officer Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton) to having been unhappy with her original choice as part of their cover. More details here

Gunkanjima (Battleship Island)

Ever since I saw some haikyo websites a fair few years ago giving details about this island I have wanted to go there and see it for myself. That dream finally came true in Nagasakion the first day of this month when I treated my girlfriend to a trip to Gunkanjima a.k.a. Battleship Island as its appearance resembles the warship Tosa due to its surrounding sea walls and multi-storey concrete buildings.

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This place was brought to the mass attention of the public when it featured in the most recent 007 film ‘Skyfall‘ (2012) but as we explained in this article from last year it was sadly all faked on a set back at Pinewood Studios. Other than a few movie posters on the boat there was no other mention of the 23rd James Bond movie being set (kind of) on Gunkanjima which was formerly known as Hashima.

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However, it still whetted my appetite for seeing the real thing so on our first morning in Nagasaki we stumped up a fairly pricey 4000 yen to go on a sightseeing boat that goes to the island. It should be noted that the ticket used to access Gunkanjima (included in the 4000 yen price) only costs 300 yen so I wonder if it’s possible to find a cheaper way of getting to this small island which is located about 20 kilometers from Nagasaki Ferry Terminal.

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Beforehand, my expectations were quite low as I knew it wasn’t a situation where we could wander off and explore the island how we see fit. Of course, there’s the small matter of safety concerns which is why tourist boats are restricted to just three areas on the western side of the island which have had walkways and viewing platforms constructed and that is the only work that has been done on the island in the name of tourism.

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The island is only 480m long and 150m wide but with 5300 residents once living there it had the worlds highest population density which meant that in typical Japanese fashion that every piece of land was built up and so it came to look like a massive battleship.

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Mistubishi company bought the Hashima mine at the end of the 19th century and that was the catalyst for the islands development. The southern half of the island was for the workings of the mine and the northern half  was devoted to residential space, a school, restaurants, shops, a swimming pool, a shrine and a hospital which the workers and their families called home.

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However, in April 1974 the mine was closed and these residents had to leave Gunkanjima, abandoning the island with all its buildings. Today, the only people you might see (other than tour group-related people)  are a few fishermen dipping their tackle in to see what bites!

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Following the exodus, severe weather conditions such as typhoons caused the buildings to deteriorate and as these structures started to erode away and collapse, Gunkanjimawas closed to the public, and for many years could only be seen from sightseeing cruises that circled the island.

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In the last few years though the place has been open to the public and now there are two boats a day (9am and 1pm) which transport tourists to and from the island.

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There are tour guides at each of the three observation areas who give short presentations about the history and background of the place. They’re only conducted in Japanese but having done my research on this place in the past I wasn’t too fussed about that. Besides, I was given a very nice and informative English guide pamphlet (when I purchased our tickets) which was more than satisfactory for me.

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We were probably on the island for around an hour which I thought was long enough. There were always a couple of guards at the back of the group but they never hurried you along or anything and even took photos for those who wanted them. On leaving the island we then circled the island which I was very happy about as I wanted to see it from as many angles as possible, particularly the backside which is rarely shown in any pictures of the place.

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The boat left Nagasaki Ferry Terminal (which is a 10-15 minute walk from Nagasaki Ekimae station) at exactly 9am and arrived back at about 11.30am where on disembarkation we were even presented with a stamped and dated certificate. I was and still am utterly fascinated by Gunkanjima and was more than pleased with the relatively high cost of the tour. It offered a thoroughly interesting insight into the island life and a sense of how isolated the islanders must have been.

Review: Films Set In Japan – Godzilla (1954)

With the latest incarnation of Godzilla getting nearer it seems a fitting time to go back 60 years and take a closer look at the original Japanese movie which launched the iconic monster onto our screens. Released nine years after the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki the opportunity was seized to use this radioactive lizard from beneath Tokyo Bay to serve as a symbol for the horrors of nuclear holocaust.

Godzilla has come and gone in many guises but nothing can get close to beating this original black and white Toho Studios version which, as an English speaker, needs to be watched with subtitles for maximum impact of the Japanese perspective. There’s no messing about from the offset and it’s straight into the action with fear and panic hitting Japan as an “underwater volcanic eruption” happens in the sea causing some fishing boats to capsize near Odo Island.

A research team led by Dr Yamane head to this pacific island off the Izu Peninsula; a fictitious isle with the scenes actually filmed around Toba city at the entrance to Ise-Shima National Park on the Shima peninsula. On discovering huge radiation emitting reptilian footprints in the sand, rumours abound that it must be Godzilla to which a woman replies saying its just a legend. Little did she know how true her words would become as Godzilla morphed into a worldwide cultural icon.

The gigantic amphibious bipedal dinosaur lives in caverns under the sea and comes ashore to prey on humans when it can’t find fish in the sea and many young virgin girls were sacrificed to appease his hunger and keep him from coming ashore. However, hydrogen bomb tests disturbed its peace and so it looked for a safer place which happened to be Shinagawa and Ginza!!

Affected by the radiation, it managed to gain an unbelievable destructive power and strength as well as white-hot atomic breath; an archetype which followed in the form of many on-screen monsters both good and bad with perhaps the worst featuring in  Monster‘ (2008). Two Zillo Beast episodes in ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars‘ (S02E18/19) played homage to what the Japanese call ‘Gojira‘.

Dr Yamane senses that atomic testing is behind Godzilla’s emergence and he (and he only!) thinks that it should be isolated and studied. The eye-patch wearing Dr Serizawa and his oxygen destroyer are key to sending Godzilla back to the depths of the ocean. He  is arranged to be married to Emiko, but she is in love with some naval officer and it’s this love triangle which is pivotal in the monster plot.

I think I’ve been quite critical in the past about this film but on watching it again for this feature I have actually grown much fonder of it. It’s duration is an ideal length (90 minutes) and it’s quite a dramatic film with all the monster movie elements we now take for granted; a fire-breathing creature, stormy oceans, tanks and officers, mad scientists, frantic decision making, government officials, flames, fleeing citizens running for their lives and buildings being toppled. Of course, it was just three metre high miniature set pieces that were used to replicate the capital city whilst a man wearing a heavy rubber suit stomped all over them. Having most of Godzilla’s scenes at night probably helped make it a bit more convincing. I think, given the age of the film and its budget, the effects are pretty good and the sequence where Godzilla goes on the rampage in Tokyo is still superb both technically and artistically,with a genuine sense of dread. The residents run for their life, as they do throughout, which has parallels to the real life horror and devastation in Japan by way of atomic bombings, tsunami and earthquakes.

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‘Godzilla’ rightfully deserves to be called a classic despite the ending which is perhaps one of the most blatant examples of not-quite finishing a movie and leaving it open to a sequel as Dr Yamane stands aboard a ship and says “I don’t think that was the only Godzilla. If they keep experimenting with deadly weapons….another Godzilla may appear…somewhere in the world!” The perfect way to set up the potential of another movie and what do you know but only half a year later there was another one by the name of ‘Godzilla Raids Again‘ (1955) and the series limped on for an incredible 26 more Toho-made films as well as four American productions including the forthcoming one directed by British filmmaker Gareth Edwards.

If you thought we were running out of films ‘set’ in Japan to review then using the original Godzilla film (a Japanese production of course but included in this series due to its huge impact on the Western world) opens up the possibility of extending it for another few years with reviews of the never-ending dross churned out in this franchise.

Beyond The Movies Rating 7/10