Mie Hama: Bond Girl Kissy Suzuki, Then And Now
Sean Connery and Mie Hama in 'You Only Live Twice' (1967). Source: IMDB
In 1967's You Only Live Twice, Mie Hama played Kissy Suzuki, one of the attractions awaiting Sean Connery's James Bond in Japan. Along with Akiko Wakabayashi, who played Aki in the same film, Hama was a barrier-breaking screen vixen at a time when Asian actresses weren't seen in many western films, much less cast as sex symbols. And while the track record for life after Bond has proven a mixed bag for the lovely ladies seduced by 007, Mie Hama did something rarely seen in Hollywood, voluntarily leaving the limelight for a normal life.
A Trailblazing Beauty Not To Be Forgotten
Mie Hama, who played the sultry Kissy Suzuki, opened many eyes in her sexy bikini which undoubtedly rocked the world of many young male moviegoers. Prior to You Only Live Twice, Asian actresses weren’t receiving much mainstream attention in America.
However, once Mie Hama hit the big screen in her sensuous white bikini, you could almost hear producers scrambling to find her information. In a way, “the Brigitte Bardot of Japan,” as Playboy dubbed her, helped pave the way for Asian actresses in Tinseltown.
One And Done
Despite plenty of demand for Mie Hama to continue working in English-language show businesses, she opted out. The Japanese icon never worked in another Hollywood film, walking out on her contract with the Japanese studio, Toho.
As she said to the New York Times, “It was an honor to be a Bond girl, but once was enough. I didn’t want that image to stick with me. I am actually a subdued and steady person, but I felt that somewhere beyond my control, others were creating a character named ‘Mie Hama.’"
More Than A Bond Girl
While Mie Hama may have left Hollywood, she didn’t exactly retire to a quiet countryside home. She remained a cult figure in Japan and stayed in the public eye, working as a television and radio host. She also wrote an astounding 14 books, which center on motherhood, manners, and self-discovery. Hama became a role model for the many women, who buy her books in droves.
Not Made For The Hollywood Life
Even though Hama found fame and fortune early, after being plucked by Toho executives while working as a ticket puncher, she was never comfortable with it. Any opportunity she got, she’d leave the life of glitz and glamour behind and go backpacking in India and Europe.
When she got the part as a Bond girl, she had no idea what she was getting herself into. “I had never seen a 007 movie, and had no idea 007 was such a huge international hit,” she remembered. Once she landed in London, she quickly realized what she had gotten herself into when studio executives examined her wardrobe.
“You’re a Bond girl now,” she was told. “The clothes you wear, the jewelry you put on, we will manage all of that.” For some that would be like finding Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. For Hama, it was a lot to handle, “Everything from my weight to the height of my heels was decided. It may have looked glamorous, but for me, it was all a huge ordeal.”
Back To Basics
At 5 foot 5, Mie Hama stood shoulder to shoulder with many of Japan’s male stars. Holding her own in a major motion picture alongside Sean Connery secured her place among the stars of Japan. Although she could have continued working in film, at 40 Hama found her calling driving in the countryside of Japan.
“Japan was giving up its real self in its rush for economic development,” Ms. Hama said. “I realized that Japan had to get back to its real self. And so did I.” Many of her books preach the importance of living true to yourself, “It can be lonely to live on your own terms, but it is the way to real happiness,” she said. “My experiences have taught me that.”
Tags: Bond Girls | James Bond | Ladies | Mie Hama | Movies In The 1960s | Then And Now | You Only Live Twice
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