Akiko Wakabayashi, the Japanese actress best known for her role as the Bond girl Aki in the 1967 007 feature film You Only Live Twice; was notable for being the first Asian companion of the famous secret agent man. But outside of the western market, she esteemed for being one of the most prolific and beloved actresses from Japan’s very own golden age of cinema.
While some of the most iconic films of all time produced during Hollywood’s Golden Age; which is often thought of as being between the 1950s and 1960s; the time period in which the film industry reached it’s peak; and became a common form of entertainment for the masses. Japan’s Golden Age primarily limited to the 1950s alone.
Three films, in particular, stand out from this era, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and Tokyo Story. While Wakabayashi didn’t appear in either of these films; she did star in quite a few other iconic movies in her native county. Especially Toho Studio’s monster flicks such as 1964s Dagora, The Space Monster, and Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster.
But even though Wakabayashi already quite the prolific actress in Japan; she became an international sensation after she cast as a Bond girl. And beyond just delivering a memorable performance, she also celebrated for her stunning looks.
Despite the fact that the 1960s are generally consider a time when the western world re-evaluating much of it’s more traditional values. And moving into a new era that openly embraced sexuality and self-repression. The mainstream media still had fairly stringent standards when it came to nudity and sexually provocative depictions of stars. Wakabayashi, however, wasn’t afraid to push boundaries a bit and challenge the establishment with her provocative public image. Join Facts Verse as we take a look at some vintage photos of Akiko Wakabayashi that almost revealed a little too much. While we look at these steamy pics; we’ll also give you a little bit of Akiko’s life story as well as that of her fellow bond girl, Mie Hama.
Akiko Wakabayashi’s Rise To Fame And Work With Mie Hama
Akiko Wakabayashi was born on December 13, 1939, in Tokyo, Japan. During her early work in film; she quickly became one of Japan’s most popular actresses during the countries Golden Age of cinema. In fact, she, Kumi Mizuno, and Mie Hama were the three most prolific Japanese actresses of their day.
One of the first films that she appeared in was 1961s Akiko which got it’s name because of her. In it, she played a character of the same name. Her career took off from there, and she eventually found her way over to Toho Studios. Where she appeared in a whole slew of sci-films featuring giant world-endangering monsters; including Dogora in 1964, in which she played an enchanting alien-possessed princess, and Ghidora, The Three-Headed Monster which also came out that same year. In that film, she played a mystical princess prophetess who had the ability to predict the future.
When production of You Only Live Twice commenced, Wakabayashi was initially going to play the role of Kissy Suzuki. While her fellow Japanese co-star Mie Hama was going to play Suki, one of Tiger Tanaka’s top spies. But after the producers of the film had learned that Hama’s English wasn’t particularly great. The two women switched roles, with Hama playing the less featured role of Kissy and Wakabayaashi playing the bigger role of Suki. And after Akiko suggested a name change, the producers agreed to swap out the name Suki for Aki.
Wakabayashi and Hama had previously acted together in 1962s King Kong vs. Godzilla, and 1965s Kokusai Himitsu Keisatsu: Kagi No Kagi. Filmmaker Woody Allen would later reuse footage from those two films when making his 1966 comedy film What’s Up Tiger Lily?
As Aki and Kissy Suzuki, Wakabayashi and Mie Hama would both receive the attention and affection of Sean Connery as James Bond. Hama, in fact, would be the first bond actress to drag the famous bachelor spy to the altar. Kissy Suzuki, promised Connery that she would be faithful to him to the end of time. But she did that partly just to deceive the nefarious supervillain Erst Stavro Blofeld and his evil criminal organization SPECTRE.
While Kissy Suzuki may have asked for Sean’s hand in marriage. Akiko also very friendly with Bond; showed immense skill in the bedroom, and drove her Toyota 2000 GT equipped with enough gizmos and gadgets that even Bond himself impressed by.
The film brought Wakabayashi and Mie Hama international fame. Although Hama had also already appeared in dozens of films, and Akiko was a huge star in Japan.
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Akiko Shined As Aki
Aki was first seen in You Only Live Twice when Bond met her at a sumo wrestling show of all places. 007 was there to meet up with a contact who promised to lead him to Mr. Henderson, M16’s recommended contact in Japan.
Aki ended up taking Bond in her car to meet with Henderson. But after Henderson killed himself during their rendezvous. Bond attacked and killed one of Henderson’s attackers. Bond then tried to impersonate the dead criminal and driven to the Osato Chemical Works Headquarters by Aki; where he inevitably got discovered by the bad guys.
Aki ended up rescuing him, using her sweet driving skills. She then took 007 to meet with her boss, Tiger Tanaka. It’s at that meeting that Aki, who for some reason dressed in a skimpy bikini; invited Bond to spend an evening with her. Famously, she asked the suave secret agent to sleep with her by stating that she thought she would enjoy very much serving under him.
After Bond carried her off to bed and did what secret agents and their consorts do. Bond returned to the Osato Chemical Works in the morning and met up with Blofeld’s henchman Mr. Osato. After that brief meeting, Bond himself pursued by SPECTRE gunmen, and once again, Aki rescued him from certain doom.
The gunmen then chased Aki’s car while she led them on a wild chase across the countryside. Eventually, an SIS helicopter lifted the gunmen’s car off the road with a couple of giant magnets before plopping it into the sea.
Aki then took Bond to a marina to take a look at a ship that Bond suspected being used by the criminals. While investigating the boat, Bond and Aki once again attacked by Spectre baddies. Bond ended up telling Aki to leave and go report what had happened to Tanaka. But she at first refused to leave him behind. Eventually, however, she agreed and departed.
Aki made her next appearance in the film after Bond got captured and nearly killed by Helga Brandt. This took place when she had gone to Tanaka’s Headquarters to meet with him while Bond was about to go on another mission that he refused to let her join him on.
After Bond returned to the Kyoto base, Aki met up with him to discuss the details of their plan to foil SPECTRE’s plot. She had wanted to play the role of Bond’s wife in the covert operation, but this plan got vetoed since she’s not a native resident of the island of Ama.
This decision proved to be a good one, however, since Aki never ended up making it off the island. Following Blofeld’s orders, Osato had dispatched ninja assassins to put an end to Bond, and one of them ended up sneaking into Bond and Aki’s bedroom while they slept and attempted to poison 007.
Sadly, Bond ended up shifting in his sleep, and Aki ended up getting poisoned instead. After briefly struggling for breath, she ended her turn as a Bond girl by dying.
Akiko’s Later Career
In the late 60s and into the early 70s, Japan’s film industry experienced a bit of a slump which resulted in studios making some pretty serious budget cuts. Around this time, Wakabayashi abruptly ended her acting career and has since never seen again in film. Whether or not that economic downturn had anything to do with her departure from the film industry is uncertain, but Wakabayashi’s last appearance was in an episode of the sitcom Shirley’s World in 1971.
Wakabayashi remains to this day one of the most beloved and memorable actresses from Japan – especially with fans of Toho Studio’s groundbreaking and timelessly iconic sci-fi films. At 81 years old, Wakabayashi is still alive and well, presumably enjoying her retirement in Japan. Although, not much is known about what she has been up to in the years since leaving the world of cinema behind as she has done her best to stay out of the spotlight.
Mie Hama’s Career After You Only Live Twice
Akiko’s Bond co-star Mie Hama, who played Kissy Suzuki, went on to also leave Hollywood behind just as Akiko had done, but she did stay active in Japanese cinema for quite some time. After You Only Live Twice, Hama appeared in nearly 20 films in japan, with her last one being 1989s Kitchen.
After retiring from film, Hama took up a career as a television and radio host while working to preserve old farms and traditional agriculture techniques.
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