You Only Live Twice

In the suicide guardens of Kissy Suzuki

By William Wetherall

First posted 5 October 2006
Last updated 15 October 2006

Caption 1
Caption 2

Ian Fleming
You Only Live Twice

Hardcover editions

London: Jonathan Cape, 1964
256 pages, hardcover
Jacket by Richard Chopping

Book club editions

London: Jonathan Cape, 1964
184 pages, hardcover (BCE)

New York: Jonathan Cape, 1964
240 pages, hardcover (BCE, BOMC) Jacket by Paul Bacon

Paperback editions

London: Pan Books, 1965
190 pages, paperback (X434)

London: Pan Books, 1967
190 pages, paperback (X434, movie tie-in)

New York: Signet Books, 1965
160 pages, paperback (P2712)

London: Panther, 1978
160 pages, paperback

London: Granada, 1982
160 pages, paperback

New York: Penguin Putnam, 2003
224 pages, paperback
Cover by Roseanne Serra and Richie Fahey

London: Penguin, 2004
224 pages, paperback (Modern Classics)

Japanese editions

Ian Furemingu <Ian Fleming>
Translated by Inoue Kazuo
007 go wa nido shinu
<You Only Live Twice>

Erarii Kuiinzu Misuterii Magajin
<Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine>
Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobo
Part 1: Vol. 9, No. 7 (July 1964)
Part 2: Vol. 9, No. 8 (Auguest 1964)
Part 3: Vol. 9, No. 9 (September 1964)

Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobo, 1964
215 pages, paperback (Hayakawa Mystery 855, boxed)

Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobo, 1975
215 pages, paperback (Hayakawa Mystery 855)

You Only Live Twice (1964) is the 12th of thirteen James Bond novels written by Ian Fleming (1908-1964). It was the last to be published while he was alive. The Man With The Golden Gun (1965), published posthumously, is an object of controversy -- as to whether a complete manuscript was edited and polished only by William Plomer (1903-1973), Fleming's editor for Jonathan Cape, or if Kingsley Amis (1922-1995) also had a hand in creating the final version.

The Geisha called "Trembling Leaf"

The story gets off to a suitably steamy start (pages 1-2).


"It is better
to travel hopefully . . .


Scissors Cut Paper

THE GEISHA CALLED "Trembling Leaf," on her knees beside James Bond, leant forward from the waist and kissed him chastely on the right cheek.

"That's a cheat," said Bond severely. "You agreed that if I won it would be a real kiss on the mouth. At the very least," he added.

"Grey Pearl," the madame, who bad black lacquered teeth, a bizarre affectation, and was so thickly made up that she looked like a character out of a No play, translated. There was much giggling and cries of encouragement. Trembling Leaf covered her face with her pretty hands as if she were being required to perform some ultimate obscenity. But then the fingers divided and the pert brown eyes examined Bond's mouth, as if taking aim, and her body lanced forward. This time the kiss was full on the lips, and it lingered fractionally. In invitation? In promise? Bond remembered that he had been promised a "pillow geisha." Technically, this would be a geisha of low caste. She would not be proficient in the traditional arts of her calling -- she would not be able to tell humorous stories, sing, paint, or compose verses about her patron. But, unlike her cultured sisters, she might agree to perform more robust services -- discreetly, of course, in conditions of the utmost privacy and at a high price. But to the boorish, brutalized tastes of a gaijin, a foreigner, this made more sense than having a tanka of thirty-one syllables, which in any case he couldn't understand, equate in exquisite language, his charms with budding chrysanthemums on the slopes of Mount Fuji.

We have, in the early 1960s, a description of geisha, that Fleming could have adapted from any number of books about Japan, that today would be considered a politically correct disclaimer -- i.e., "Dear reader, we are going to talk about geisha girls who have sex, but please understand that real geisha make love only through dance, song, and poetry."

We also have the first of many language lessons in Fleming's most touristy Bond story. The movie, which is rather different from the book, devotes even more attention to introducing Japan as an exotic country.

Dedicated to two journalists

At the geisha party are two other principal characters, Dikko Henderson and Tiger Tanaka. Henderson had met Bond at Tokyo airport when Bond arrived undercover as an official of Her Majesty's Australian Diplomatic Corps. Tanaka is the head of the Japanese Secret Service.

Fleming dedicated You Only Live Twice to Richard Hughes and Torao Saito, the models for Henderson and Tanaka.

Richard Hughes

Richard Hughes (1906-1984), an Australian, was the Far East correspondent for the Sunday Times. He was Fleming's tour guide first in Hong Kong and then in Japan, where they were joined by Saito, a journalist friend of Hughes.

Hughes, an old Asia hand who had been covering Southeast and East Asia from Hong Kong since the 1930s, came to Japan in 1940 and then in 1945. In 1948 he founded what may have been the first Sherlockian society in Japan, called The Baritsu Society. Apparently one of its members was Yoshida Shigeru (1878-1967), the prime minister. Another was Saito.

See review of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903) for more details about the origin and meaning of the term "baritsu".

Hughes himself appears to have done some spying, for the British government, if not also for the Soviet Union as agent named Altamont. His reputation inspired another fiction spy, William Craw, the aging journalist who worked for British Intelligence in John le Carre's The Honourable Schoolboy (1977). The novel begins as George Smiley, the head of British intelligence, sends the newspaper reporter cum British agent Jerry Westerby to Hong Kong, where he works with William Craw.

Hughes' life has been the subject of a number of articles and books, including Norman Macswan's The Man Who Read the East Wind (A Biography of Richard Hughes), Sydney (NSW): Kangaroo Press, 1982, 184 pages. Hughes' son, the jazz pianist Dick Hughes, has written about his father's unusual life in his own colorful autobiography, Don't You Sing (Memories of a Catholic Boyhood), Sydney (NSW): Kangaroo Press, 1994, 164 pages.

Torao Saito

Torao Saito was an aviation reporter for Asahi Shinbun, and later edited Asahi's Koku Asahi [Aviation Asahi] magazine. He was also the chief editor of the first dozen or so issues of This Is Japan, a large format journal that came out annually from 1954 (No. 1) to 1971 (No. 18).

This is Japan remains the most ambitious national publicity annual ever to be published in Japan. Each issue contained from 400 to 500 glossy pages of advertising with many articles covering all manner of mostly cultural topics, with numerous black-and-white and color photographs. Many issues were distributed in wooden, corrugated board, or plastic slip cases. Some included translations of short stories. All had contributions from contemporary writers and journalists, including Richard Hughes.

The film

So in real life, too, Dikko Henderson and Tiger Tanaka were fairly colorful individuals. Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay for the 1967 Lewis Gilbert film version of the novel. The cast featured Sean Connery as James Bond, Charles Gray as Dikko Henderson, and the late Tetsuro Tamba (1922-2006) as Tiger Tanaka.

"You Only Live Twice" was the springboard for Tamba's career as one of Japan's most personable actors. It also didn't hurt the careers of Akiko Wakabayashi and Mie Hama, who played Bond girls Aki and Kissy Suzuki. The story is that Hama and Wakabayashi were originally cast in the opposite roles but Hama had problems with her English, and might not have got either role had Tamba not interceded.

The novel and the movie, though very different, exemplify the best and the worst in Steamy East lore.