You Only Live Twice (1964)

Author: Ian Fleming
Published: 16th March 1964
MI6 Rating:

Data Stream
Villains: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Irma Bunt
Plot: Creating a garden of death for Japanese suicides
Bond Girls: Kissy Suzuki
Allies: Tiger Tanaka; Dikko Henderson, M, Sir James Molony, Miss Moneypenny, Mary Goodnight, Colonel Bill Tanner
Locations: London, UK; Tokyo, Japan; Kyoto, Japan; Fukuoka, Japan; Kuro Island, Japan
Highlights: Obituary, exploration of castle grounds, fight with Blofeld

Capsule Synopsis
James Bond suffers a breakdown and becomes a security risk after the murder of his wife. M, granting him one final chance, sends him on a vital diplomatic assignment to the Japanese Secret Service. There, he must go to impossible lengths to complete his mission and avenge Tracy.

Above: 1st edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK). Artwork by Richard Chopping.

Official Blurb (Penguin 2002 Edition)
Bond, a shattered man after the death of his wife at the hands of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, has gone to pieces as an agent, endangering himself and his fellow operatives. M, unwilling to accept the loss of one of his best men, sends 007 to Japan for one last, near-impossible mission. But Japan proves to be Bond's downfall, leading him to a mysterious residence known as the 'Castle of Death' where he encounters an old enemy revitalized. All the omens suggest that this is the end for the British agent and, for once, even Bond himself seems unable to disagree...

Official Blurb (Penguin Modern Classics 2004 Edition)
‘You only live twice:
Once when you are born
And once when you look death in the face’

Shattered by the murder of his wife at the hands of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, James Bond has gone to pieces as an agent. M gives him one last chance, sending him to Japan for a near-impossible mission. There Bond is trained in the fighting arts of Ninja warriors and sent to infiltrate a mysterious fortress known as the ‘Castle of Death’ – a place of nightmares where a lethal poisoned garden destroys all who go there – and awakens an old, terrifying enemy. You Only Live Twice sees Bond’s final encounter with the insane mastermind Blofeld – one that could mean the end for 007...

Chapter Listing

Part 1 / "It is better to travel hopefully..."

  1. Scissors Cut Paper
  2. Curtains for Bond?
  3. The Impossible Mission
  4. Dikko on the Ginza
  5. MAGIC 44
  6. Tiger, Tiger!
  7. The Death Collector
  8. Slay it with Flowers
  9. Instant Japan
  10. Advanced Studies
  11. Anatomy Class

Part 2 / "...than to arrive"

  1. Appointment in Samara
  2. Kissy Suzuki
  3. One Golden Day
  4. The Six Graduations
  5. The Lovesome Spot
  6. Something Evil Comes this Way
  7. Oubliette
  8. The Question Room
  9. Blood and Thunder
  10. Obit:
  11. Sparrow's Tears
Above: British Pan paperback 2nd edition (1971).

Obituary: Commander James Bond, CMG, RNVR
M writes: As readers will have learned from recent issues, a senior officer of the MoD, Commander James Bond, is missing, believed killed, while on an official mission to Japan. It grieves me to have to report that the hope of his survival must now be abandoned...

Above: British Book Club edition (artowk by Cuthill); British Pan paperback film tie-in 2nd edition (1966); British Triad/Granada paperback edition (1978)

Following the death of Tracy, Bond has become a liability to the secret service, and on the advice of Sir James Molony M decides there is only one possibility of turning Bond around - to send him on an impossible mission. Bond’s job is to get direct access from the Japanese to Magic 44, the project revealing all Soviet radio transmissions. In Japan, Bond is directed by Australian Dikko Henderson to Tiger Tanaka, head of Japan’s SIS. However, the Japanese already have Blue Route, a Chinese information system, which Bond hoped to exchange for Magic 44. Tanaka shows Bond an example of Magic 44's work, an instruction by the USSR trying to blackmail weaponry from England, and Bond sends this home and thus averts a major crisis.

Tanaka chooses to give the access to England in returning for Bond completing a mission, on which Tanaka’s best man had already been killed. Dr Guntrun Shatterhand, a Swiss botanist, has opened a garden in a Japanese castle, but has stocked it only with deadly and poisonous birds and fishes. Every year, thousands of Japanese flock to the garden to commit suicide. Bond must kill Shatterhand to gain Magic 44.

007 now undergoes an extensive training programme, and is trained as a ninja and disguised as a Japanese. Through this wonderfully-written travelogue section, Bond slowly becomes Japanese. Bond chooses to climb up to the castle from the cliffs, helped by transport from Ama tribes of fishermen, and on Kuro Island he meets up with the stunningly beautiful Kissy Suzuki, who was a Hollywood star before choosing her life of poverty as a fisherwoman. Bond gets to know the tribe and goes fishing every day with the naked women. But Bond also knows one thing Tiger doesn’t. Shatterhand is Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Bond recognised him at once from a photograph.

Kissy leads Bond through the straits to the castle, and he climbs up using ninja techniques and hides in an outhouse. He sees both suicides and murder of people entering the garden, and the next morning he sees Blofeld and Bunt, heavily armoured, going for their walk. Next night, Bond breaks into the castle, but is foiled by an oubliette (revolving floor). Pretending to be a dumb and deaf beggar, Bond is put above a geyser and told it will blow up at 11.15. At 11.14 he gets up, and after a powerful exchange of words, Blofeld comes at Bond with a Samurai sword. They duel, Bond defending himself with improvised weapon. Then:

‘For a moment the two sweating faces were almost up against each other. The boss of Blofeld’s sword battered into Bond’s side. Bond hardly felt the blows. He pressed with his thumbs, and pressed and pressed and heard the sword clank to the floor and felt Blofeld’s fingers and nails tearing at his face, trying to reach his eyes. Bond whispered through gritted teeth, ‘Die, Blofeld! Die!’ And suddenly the tongue was out and the eyes rolled upwards and the body slipped down to the ground. But Bond followed it and knelt, his hands cramped round the powerful neck, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, in the terrible grip of bloodlust.’

With Bunt already dead, Bond switches the geezer so that it will blow up the castle and he grabs the rope of a helium balloon to escape. But a bullet hits him, and he plunges into the sea.

We read Bond’s obituary in The Times, and only afterward do we learn that Kissy picked Bond half-dead from the sea, and nursed him into health and into love with her. Bond is suffering from Amnesia, but finds a piece of paper in his pocket saying ‘Vladivostok’ and, not even knowing who he is, Bond heads for there.

"Finally, after much crossing out and rewriting he said, 'Tiger, who's this? It makes just as much sense as old Basho and it's more pithy.' He read out:
' You only live twice:
Once when you are born
And once when you look death in the face.'
Tiger clapped his hands softly. He said with real delight, 'But that is excellent Bond-san. Most sincere.'"

"The whole demoniac concept was on Blofeld's usual grand scale - the scale of a Caligula, of a Nero, of a Hitler, of any other great enemy of mankind."

"Bond softly unzipped his container and took a bite of one of his three slabs of pemmican and a short draught from his water-bottle. God, for a cigarette!"

"James Bond wrestled with his chopsticks and slivers of raw octopus and a mound of rice."

"Tiger Tanaka's face darkened perceptibly. 'For the time being,' he said with distaste, 'we are being subjected to what I can best describe as the "Scuola di Coca-Cola". Baseball, amusement arcades, hot dogs, hideously large bosoms, neon lighting - these are part of our payment for defeat in battle.'"

Above: British Pan paperback 1st edition (1965)

Above: American Signet paperback 1st edition (1965); British Coronet paperback 5th edition (1989), illustration by Paul Robinson; British Penguin paperback edition (2002)


"A sensational imagination, informed by style and zest"
- Sunday Times

"Instructive and entertaining"
- Cyril Connolly

"Bond is what every mn would like to be, and what every woman would like to have between her sheets"
- Raymond Chandler, Sunday Times

Above: Penguin USA paperback 1st edition (2003)