April 3, 2014


A rare original photograph came into my possession that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of You Only Live Twice. Ian Fleming had been sending his secret agent around the world since Casino Royale in 1953, and when it came time to plan the twelfth book, the author chose Japan as the main setting. Fleming's timing couldn't have been better. The country was booming with economic and technological growth, and a new international fascination would soon blossom with increased tourism around the Tokyo Olympics. Fleming had visited Japan once before, when he was writing Thrilling Cities in 1959, and he returned in late autumn, 1962 to find elements that would suit the next James Bond thriller. Meeting up with journalist Richard Hughes and editor/architect Torao "Tiger" Saito, Fleming hoped to soak in "local color  factual detail, spiritual inspiration and carnal folklore." (Hughes/Foreign Devil). After stopping in Tokyo and Kobe, the two-week journey took them down the inland sea to Kyushu, where they visited Beppu, Mt. Aso, and the Fukuoka area. I have created a map of Fleming's route below.

For those who haven't read the story, Bond's nemesis Blofeld turns up in Japan, where he lords over a castle surrounded by a macabre garden of deathly delights. Fleming needed to find dramatic and deadly elements for the project and his research reportedly contained detailed taxonomy of all manner of poisonous fauna and flora. Kyushu is renown for its hot springs and live volcanoes, and he couldn't have picked a better location. His first stop on the island was the small city of Beppu. If you have ever been to the area, you will know why the author and his friends made such an effort to get there. In the heart of the hot springs of Beppu rests a special attraction. I can imagine Fleming's eyes lighting up upon hearing its name- Mt. Demon Hell! Visitors are greeted by the statues of giant demons, who overlook an assortment of bubbling pools of mud and scalding water. It is a rocky terrain where the air is thick with steam and sulphur. There is even a place where crocodiles are bred! One demon statue in particular rests on a rock and wields a giant ominous club. Ian Fleming is seen below at this site in 1962, posing for a photograph presumedly by one of his two traveling companions. Incidentally, Fleming's guides found their way into the novel as the Dikko Henderson and Tiger Tanaka characters. Fleming returned from the trip to complete the book during the early winter of 1963 in Jamaica. He died five months after its publication in March, 1964. The story was adapted for cinema by Roald Dahl in 1967. 

During my own trip to Kyushu, I had a chance to follow Fleming's path. We sampled the baths in Beppu and Oita, spent two days photographing wild monkeys on Mt. Takasaki in Beppu, and made our way to Mt. Aso, Mt. Unzen in Nagasaki Prefecture, and to Fukuoka. Amazingly, Mt. Unzen erupted unexpectedly a couple of weeks after we left, killing many people- including a few volcano specialists.

Recent Ian Fleming posts on Spy Vibe: 007 Audio Books UpdateFleming Letters MysteryAppropriating BondDouble 007 Book Designs,  Double 007 designs IIrare Ian Fleming editionBook Design DopplegangersTurkish Bond designIan Fleming LettersErno GoldfingerNoel CowardWhispering Jack SmithHawaiian GuitarJoe Fingers Carr, new Ian Fleming CatalogJon Gilbert interview, Double 007 Designs, Bond audio book reissues, discovery of one of Ian Fleming's WWII Commandos, James Bond book covers, Ian Fleming's Playboy interview for Kindle, Spy Vibe's discovery of a rare Ian Fleming serialization, rare View to a Kill, Fleming's Royal gold typewriter, Ian Fleming's memorial address, Spy Vibe's Ian Fleming image archive.

Recent Spy Vibe posts: Spy exhibit at the Pacific Science Center, Sylvia AndersonAppropriating Bond Exhibit, Trina Robbins InterviewCatsuits, Batman '66 Green Hornet Interview: Ralph Garman Ty Templeton,  Solar & Bionic Man ReturnThe Saint Library ReleasedDC Fontana Prisoner VideoJames Bond Comic EventTurkish James Bond DesignEdward Gorey's 1960sIpcress File cinematography007 SOLO cover designsGloria Steinem and Denny O'Neil on MOD Wonder WomanWin Scott Eckert interview, Siegel and Shuster's SPYDavid McCallum: Son of Batman, Wonderwall comes to Blu-ray, Kevin Dart talks Ringo & Powerpuff GirlsSherlock ExhibitFu Manchu history panelStriped Light NudeBuckminster Fuller, Jane and SergeThe Goldfinger VariationsMod Tales InterviewDavid Tennant's Ian Fleming audio books, Atomic ArtShane Glines Batman.

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