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April 11, 2023

Photos of Akiko Wakabayashi as Bond Girl Aki in the 1967 Film ‘You Only Live Twice’

Akiko Wakabayashi (born 13 December 1939) is a Japanese actress who became known in her field by playing in the film Song for a Bride (1958). She then appeared in Woody Allen’s film What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) but it was mainly her role as the Bond girl Aki in the 1967 film You Only Live Twice (where she reunited with Mie Hama, her partner in What’s Up, Tiger Lily?) that made her known to Western audiences.

Wakabayashi is best known in English-speaking countries for her role as Bond girl Aki in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice. Before this, she had made many films in her native Japan, especially Toho Studio’s monster films, such as Dagora, the Space Monster (1964) and Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), both of which were also released under various other titles. In Ghidorah, she played a mystical princess, who could predict the future and was also a prophetess.

When production of You Only Live Twice began, Wakabayashi was slated to play the role of Kissy Suzuki while her co-star Mie Hama played Suki, one of Tiger Tanaka’s top agents. When learning English proved to be a major hurdle to Hama, the women switched roles, with Hama playing the smaller part of Kissy and Wakabayashi playing the larger part of Suki. At her suggestion, the character of Suki was renamed Aki. They had acted together in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) and Kokusai himitsu keisatsu: Kagi no kagi (1965), from which footage was recut to make Woody Allen’s What’s Up Tiger Lily?.

In 1971, she made an appearance in an episode of Shirley’s World. Wakabayashi made only one more film (and a guest TV appearance) before disappearing from both the big and small screen. In an interview in G-FAN magazine (No. 76), Wakabayashi said she retired from acting owing to injuries sustained while making a film.

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