Japan in You Only Live Twice

As I mentioned a few days ago, I just re-read Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice.

One thing that struck me during this reading was the view of Japan and the Japanese culture. I’d always thought of the novel as a kind of celebration, even fetishization, of everything Japanese. But on closer examination, Fleming is actually really hostile to Japan. The food is weird, sake is served in irritating little thimbles, the ninjas think they’re all that but the German SS would have wiped the floor with them, and the clothes are chintzy. They’re conformists, they’re obsessed with death, and they brought Doctor Shatterhand’s suicide garden on themselves. Barely a page turns without some dripping disdain pointed Japan’s way.

And what’s interesting is that YOLT is often described as a sort of loving travelogue, whereas it’s almost the opposite. Food for thought.

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2 Responses to “Japan in You Only Live Twice”

  1. Zippertuck Says:

    Possibly one reason for this sour look upon the Japanese culture is the fact that Bond is still getting over the death of his wife and everything is looked through this lens. Imagine being Bond, your wife killed by your archenemy, and you have to go to Japan and spend incredible amounts of time learning the culture just so you can kill those who killed your wife. Would be very frustrating for the Fleming Bond and cast even the most enjoyable moments in dark light. Besides when Fleming wrote this book the memories of WWII were still very fresh and it took the Allies many years to get over what the Japanese did during that time.

  2. Deborah Lipp Says:

    I think it’s a lot more about Fleming and World War II than about Bond. Fleming also ddi non-fiction travel writing, and often used Bond (or Leiter) to voice his own travel opinions. And the novel is almost over before Bond realizes that his enemy is actually Blofeld, so that is not a factor in his earlier impressions of the country.

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