Tokyo Filming Locations Pt I: You Only Live Twice

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. 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 which is Nakano-Shimbashi on the Marunouchi Line (28 mins). 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 the steps seen below right and on to the platform 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 Yoyogi National Gymnasium (above right) on 42 mins. This escape leads them well away from Tokyo to the docks of Kobe where he tries to dodge SPECTRE agents. The photo below left was taken in Kobe Harbour in May and the red bridge in the background appears briefly before the exciting roof-top scene below right.


The helicoptor flight (54 mins) was filmed above Ebino in Miyazaki prefecture. Himeji castle appears after 69 mins and is under extensive reconstruction at the moment 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 mins) 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 in Kagoshima (on Japan’s southern main island) is the extinct volcano which can be seen briefly on 87 mins with the interior of Bolfeld’s hideout filmed back in the UK at Pinewood studios.

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Himeji Filming Locations: James Bond & Kagemusha

The second full-day of my trip saw me go west to Himeji which is famous for its castle. At the moment its not too much to look at though and nor will it be for for the next five years as its under reconstruction and basically has a huge bag covering up the main part (below left) Luckily I saw the castle five years ago in its full glory (below right) so I wasn’t too gutted to see it in its current state. On that previous visit it was closed but I did see the inside of it this time.


If you’ve ever seen James Bond in ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967) then you may recognise this place as the ninja training school. I had one screenshot with me and was most surprised to see that the stone statue thing behind Sean Connery was still knocking about. It can be found in the West Bailey and needless to say I was the only person in the whole place who took an interest in this piece of concrete!


Despite being made nearly 45 years ago it was still possible to locate some of the shooting scenes which feature below and in the picture above right.


Another film to be shot at Himeji-jo was Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Kagemusha’  (The Shadow Warrior) in 1980 which is set in medieval times. This movie became known to me as it was bankrolled by 20th Century Fox who were convinced by George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola to fund the remainder of the film in exchange for its international distribution rights after Toho Studios couldn’t fulfill the budget demands of the film.


Himeji-jo wasn’t actually my first stop of the day though as I took a 30 minute bus ride to Mount Shosha which needed an additional ropeway to get there. The reason for visiting this mountain was to visit the sacred and peaceful Engyoji temple which is a nice 25 minute walk away. This mountaintop temple complex gets you away from the really big crowds and the wooden auditorium of Daikodo is lovely though not as old as one may think as in true Japanese fashion it was dismantled, repaired and restored in 1959 having originally been constructed at the end of the 15th century.