© 1967 Eon Productions

You Only Live Twice (1967)

Last year I had the bright idea of watching all the James Bond films in chronological order, from start to finish, or at least until I had had enough. It turns out that I had enough after just the first film, Dr. No. But I have always harbored a little curiosity about You Only Live Twice, with its setting in Japan, where I live. I was interested in seeing how outrageously exaggerated the Japanese stereotypes are, but just never got around to seeing the film. When I found out that the tiny little subway station that is near my apartment and which I use nearly every day was used as a location in the film, that cinched it, and I got my hands on a copy as soon as I could.

It turns out the stereotypes are just as outrageous as I expected. The reason for Bond going to Japan hardly matters, but is part of some ridiculous plot about a Japanese manufacturer collaborating with a criminal mastermind who is kidnapping astronauts in space for some reason or another. Sean Connery as James Bond is shot into Tokyo Bay from the torpedo chamber of a submarine. 20 seconds after walking ashore, he is chatting with sumo wrestlers. His contact in Japan informs him about gender relations in Japan as a group of pretty girls undress the men to bathe them. “Rule number one is never do anything for yourself that can be done for you,” say the agent with the silly name of Tiger Tanaka. “Rule number two: men always come first, women come second.” In order to build a cover, Bond marries a pearl diving girl with the even sillier name of “Kissy Suzuki” and the only thing more ridiculous that the goofy “Japanese disguise” he is given, is the notion that anyone would mistake the burly Scotsman for a Japanese villager.

Nakano-Shinbashi subway station, which was just 6 years old at the time, doubles for the underground lair and private transportation hub of Tiger Tanaka. I did an angle-by-angle comparison and found that the station has changed remarkably little from 1967 to 2011, except for a few new safety features. I guess at the time of filming, it looked pretty modern.

Bond's initial contact in Japan, Aki, pulls over her sports car and tries to escape.

Nakano-Shinbashi station today. The station building is more or less unchanged, but the street around it is quite different.

Aki makes a run for it, and Bond follows, falling into her trap.

The station today is basically the same, and the post box is in the same position. The yellow tiles with bumps are there to assist the sight-impaired.

Connery runs past the ticket gate, which in those days had a staff member who would collect each ticket and check it.

Today there are automatic ticket machines and ticket gates.

Bond running down the stairs. I know the feeling, as I often run down these step when I am late for work.

The staircase is practically identical today.

Running down the platform. The sign on the post reads: "Danger: Don't try to cross the tracks"

The warning sign is still there, but it is pretty much redundant as many Tokyo subway stations have installed safety gates to prevent people from falling from the platform.

The drinking fountain Connery runs past is still there. I have never drunk from it, and never will.

Bond-san boards Tiger Tanaka's very plush private train.

A more modern and less interesting train today.