You Only Live Twice (James Bond #12)

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30.05.2019

The castle was the usual horned roof affair of Japanese prints. It stood in a cleft between the mountains that must have once been an important pass, for ancient cannon pointed out from the summit of giant, slightly sloping walls of black granite blocks. They were stopped at the gate to a wooden causeway across a brimming moat and again at the castle entrance. Tiger showed his pass, and there was much hissing and deep bowing from the plain-clothes guards and a bell clanged in the topmost tier of the soaring edifice, which, as Bond could see from the inner courtyard, was badly in need of a coat of paint. As the car came to a stop young men in shorts and gym shoes came running from various doors in the castle and formed up behind three older men. They bowed almost to the ground as Tiger descended regally from the car. Tiger and Bond also bowed. Brief greetings were exchanged with the older men and Tiger then proceeded to fire off a torrent of staccato Japanese which was punctuated by respectful ‘Hat’s’ from the middle-aged man who was obviously the commandant of the team. With a final ‘Hai, Tanaka-san’ this official turned to the twenty-odd students whose ages seemed to be somewhere between twenty-five and thirty-five. He called numbers and six men fell out of the ranks. They were given orders and ran off into the castle. Tiger commented to Bond. ‘They will put on camouflage clothes and go off into the mountains through which we have come. If anyone is lurking about they will bring him to us. And now we will see a little demonstration of an attack on the castle.’ Tiger fired off some more orders, the men dispersed at the double and Bond followed Tiger out on to the causeway accompanied by the chief instructor with whom Tiger had a long and animated discussion. Perhaps a quarter of an hour later, there came a whistle from above them on the ramparts and at once ten men broke cover from the forest to their left. They were dressed from head to foot in some black material, and only their eyes showed through slits in the black hoods. They ran down to the edge of the moat, donned oval battens of what must have been some light wood such as balsa, and skimmed across the water with a kind of skiing motion until they reached the bottom of the giant black wall. There they discarded their battens, took lengths of rope and a handful of small iron pitons out of pockets in their black robes and proceeded to almost run up the walls like fast black spiders.

Tiger turned to Bond. ‘You understand that it is nighttime. In a few days, you will have to be doing something similar. Note that the lengths of rope terminate in an iron hook which they throw up and catch in crevices between the stone blocks.’ The instructor said something to Tiger and pointed. Tiger nodded. He said to Bond, ‘The man at the end is the weakest of the team. The instructor thinks he will soon fall.’

The line of climbing men was now almost at the summit of the two-hundred-foot wall, and sure enough, with only yards to go, the end man lost his foothold and, with arms and legs flailing, and with a scream of terror, fell back down the sheer black face. His body hit once and then crashed into the calm waters of the moat. The instructor muttered something, stripped off his shirt, clambered on to the rail of the causeway and dived the hundred feet down into the water. It was a perfect dive, and he swam in a swift crawl towards the body that lay ominously face downwards in the moat. Tiger turned to Bond. ‘It is of no account. He was going to fail the man anyway. And now come into the courtyard. The invaders have scaled the wall and they will now use bojutsu on the defenders, that is fighting with the stave.’

Bond took a last glance at the instructor, who was now towing the corpse, which it certainly was, to the shore by its black hood. Bond wondered if any of the students was going to fail his test at bojutsu. Failure was certainly total in Tiger’s training camp!

Back in the courtyard, individual couples, dancing and dodging, were fighting furious single combats with thick staves about two yards long. They swung and parried with two hands on the stave, lunged at the belly, using the stave as a lance, or did complicated in-fighting with face almost pressed against face. Bond was astonished to see tremendous thrusts and whacks into the groin leaving the victim unmoved when he, Bond, would have been writhing in agony. He asked Tiger about this. Tiger, his eyes bright with the last of battle, answered briefly that he would explain this later.

Meanwhile, the invaders were slowly being overcome by the defence. Black figures toppled unconscious or lay groaning with hands clutched to head or stomach or shin. Then there came a shrill blast on the whistle from one of the instructors, and it was all over. The defenders had won. A doctor appeared and attended the fallen, and those who were on their feet bowed deeply to one another and then in the direction of Tiger. Tiger made a brief and fierce speech which he later told Bond was of congratulation on the sincerity of the display, and Bond was then led into the castle to drink tea and view the museum of ninja armament. This included spiked steel wheels, the size of a silver dollar, which could be whirled on the finger and thrown, chains with spiked weights at each end, used like the South American bolas for catching cattle, sharp nails twisted into knots for defeating barefoot pursuers (Bond remembered similar devices spread on the roads by the Resistance to puncture the tyres of German staff cars), hollowed bamboo for breathing under water (Bond had used the same device during an adventure on a Caribbean island), varieties of brass knuckles, gloves whose palms were studded with very sharp, slightly hooked nails for ‘walking’ up walls and across ceilings, and a host of similar rather primitive gadgets of offence and defence. Bond made appropriate noises of approval and amazement and reflected on the comparable Russian invention used with much success in West Germany, a cyanide gas pistol that left no trace and a sure diagnosis of heart failure. Tiger’s much vaunted ninjutsu just wasn’t in the same league!

Out in the courtyard again, the leader of the camouflaged troop reported the discovery of motor-cycle tyre tracks that stopped and turned back a mile from the castle. That had been the only trace of a tail. Then came, to Bond, the blessed bows and farewells and they were on their way again, bound for Kyoto.

‘Well, Bondo-san. What did you think of my training school?’

‘I thought it was very sincere. I can imagine that the skills that are learned would be most valuable, but I would have thought that the black dress for night work and the various gadgets would have been as incriminating, if you were caught, as a pistol. But they certainly went up that wall damned quick, and that bojutsu business would be very effective against the usual night-prowler with a bicycle chain or a flick knife. I must get Swaine and Adeney to make me a two-yard-long walking stick.’

Tiger sucked his teeth impatiently. ‘You speak like a man who only knows of the sort of fighting that goes on in a cheap Western. You would not get very far with your methods if you were trying to penetrate North Korea dressed as a simple peasant with his staff.’

James Bond was rather exhausted by the day. He was also sorry for the student who had died showing off for his and Tiger’s delectation. He said shortly, ‘None of your ninjas would last very long in East Berlin,’ and relapsed into a surly silence.

11

ANATOMY CLASS

To BOND’S unspeakable relief, they put up that night at the smartest hotel in Kyoto, the Miyako. The comfortable bed, air-conditioning and Western-style lavatory on which one could actually sit were out of this world. Better still, Tiger said that unfortunately he had to dine with the Chief of Police of the prefecture and Bond ordered a pint of Jack Daniels and a double portion of-eggs Benedict to be brought up to his room. Then, from a belated sense of duty, he watched ‘The Seven Detectives’, a famous Japanese television series, failed to spot the villain, and went to bed and slept for twelve hours.

The next morning, hungover and conscience-stricken, he obediently fell in with Tiger’s plans that they should visit the oldest whore-house in Japan before a quick drive to Osaka for the day’s journey across the Inland Sea to the southern island of Kyushu. ‘Bit early for visiting a whore-house,’ had been his only comment.

Tiger laughed. ‘It is a matter of deep regret to me that your baser instincts should always be in the ascendancy, Bondo-san. Prostitution is now illegal in Japan. What we are about to visit is a national monument.’

‘Oh, good show!’

There was a deal of bowing and hissing at the whore-house, a spacious establishment in the now defunct red lamp street of the ancient capital, and they were presented with handsomely bound descriptive booklets by the earnest curator. They wandered over polished floors from chamber to chamber, and gravely inspected the sword cuts in the wooden supports that had been inflicted, according to Tiger, by samurai infuriated by lust and impatience. Bond inquired how many actual bedrooms there had been. It seemed to him that the whole place was taken up by a vast kitchen and many dining-rooms.

‘Four rooms,’ answered the curator.

‘That’s no way to run a whore-house,’ commented Bond. ‘You need quick throughput, like a casino.’

‘Bondo-san,’ complained Tiger. ‘Please try and put out of your mind comparisons between our way of life and yours. In former times, this was a place of rest and recreation. Food was served and there was music and story-telling. People would write tankas. Take that inscription on the wall. It says “Everything is new tomorrow.” Some man with a profound mind will have written that.’

‘Then he threw his pen away and reached for his sword and shouted, “When is room No. 4 going to be empty?” National monument indeed! It’s like in the new African States where they pretend the cannibal stewpot in the chief’s hut was for cooking yams for the hungry children. Everyone tries to forget his rowdy past instead of being proud of it. Like we are of Bloody Morgan, or Nell Gwynne, for instance. The great murderer and the great whore are part of our history. You shouldn’t try and pretend that your oldest whore-house is a sort of Stratford-on-Avon.’

Tiger uttered an explosive laugh. ‘Bondo-san, your comments on our Japanese way of life become more and more outrageous. Come, it is time to cleanse your mind in the salubrious breezes of the Inland Sea.’

The Murasaki Maru was a very modern 3,ooo-ton ship with all the luxuries of an ocean liner. Crowds waved her goodbye as if the ship was setting off across the Atlantic instead of doing a day trip down the equivalent of a long lake. There was much throwing of paper streamers by groups bearing placards to show whom they represented – business outings, schools, clubs-part of the vast travelling population of Japan, for ever on the move, making an outing, visiting relatives or shrines, or just seeing the sights of the country. The ship throbbed grandly through the endless horned islands. Tiger said that there were fine whirlpools ‘like great lavatory pans, specially designed for suicides’ between some of these. Meanwhile, Tiger and Bond sat in the first class dining-room and consumed ‘Hamlets’ – ham omelets – and sake. Tiger was in a lecturing mood. He was determined to correct Bond’s boorish ignorance of Japanese culture. ‘Bondo-san, I wonder if I will ever get you to appreciate the nuances of the Japanese tanka, or of the haiku, which are the classical forms of Japanese verse. Have you ever heard of Basho, for instance?’

‘No,’ said Bond with polite interest. ‘Who’s he?’

‘Just so,’ said Tiger bitterly. ‘And yet you would think me grossly uneducated if I had never heard of Shakespeare, Homer, Dante, Cervantes, Goethe. And yet Basho, who lived in the seventeenth century, is the equal of any of them.’