Most readers probably know me as the third continuation author of the James Bond novels. I was the first American to be commissioned by the Ian Fleming Estate and the publishing arm, Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., to write new adventures, which I did between 1996 and 2002. During those seven years, I traveled the world. Since Bond novels are known not only for a bit of action/adventure, they also contain some “travelogue” aspects. It was essential that I walk in 007’s footsteps, so to speak, and visit the places I was writing about.
In the spring of 2001, my friend and guide, James McMahon, and I flew to Japan in order for me to research my sixth and final Bond novel, The Man With the Red Tattoo. James could speak the language and knew his way around, so his presence was vital. We spent a lot of time in Tokyo, but also traveled to more remote parts of the country, including the cities of Kamakura, Hakone, and Aomori, as well as to the northern island of Hokkaido and its cities of Sapporo, Noboribetsu and Shiraoi.
But the most significant place we visited was the island of Naoshima, located in the Inland Sea in Kagawa Prefecture (a prefecture is the equivalent of a state in America).
It was James who had called my attention to the place. It’s a rather sleepy little island and would otherwise not be on anyone’s radar except that it hosts one of the country’s most spectacular art museums. When I first viewed pictures of Benesse House—a combination art museum and hotel—I knew I had to use it as a setting in my novel. Its designer was the great Tadao Ando, perhaps Japan’s leading architect, and it looked as if it belonged in a James Bond film. The building, with its unusual angles and curves, reminded me of the work of Ken Adam, the designer who had brought a similar, singular look to the early 007 pictures. Benesse House is also full of wonderful artwork by contemporary artists from all over the world.
To get there, James and I took the bullet train from Tokyo to
Okayama (four hours) on the southwest
portion of the main island of Honshu, passing Mount Fuji
on the way. We changed to a smaller
train to Uno, and then walked to the ferry port. A press interview I had done a couple days
earlier in Tokyo had hit the newspapers, and I had said I would be going to over the weekend. Well, my picture was in the paper along with
the story. When we arrived at the ferry
station, the ticket lady was expecting
us and had the newspaper open to the page with my photograph. She was excited and asked for my
autograph. As we waited for the ferry,
several other people ran up to me and asked for an autograph. (One person even wanted James’ autograph!) Naoshima Island
Eventually we boarded the ferry and it took us to Naoshima, about a twenty-minute ride from the Uno port. When we got to the island, a crowd of about fifty people stood on the dock, waiting for me! I had to sign autographs, pose for pictures… it was unbelievable. I had never received that kind of attention. Two young female guides from Benesse House, Kayo and Yukiko, were there to meet us and take us by car to our lodgings. Benesse Corporation had purchased a portion of the island and renamed that section
The president and CEO of Benesse Corporation, Soichiro Fukutake, has a
kind of Richard Branson-style mystique in Benesse Island . He is very wealthy, owns several islands,
yachts, and art museums. He is also
President of Berlitz Corporation. Japan
When we arrived in
, we were met by
reps from their city government, including the mayor, and were treated to a
traditional Tsutsuji Daiko drum performance by local elementary and junior high
school students, performed in my honor.
After that bit of flattering pomp and circumstance, we were rushed to Benesse
House. Our rooms were in the “Annex,”
which was another Bond-like building up the hill from the main museum,
accessible by cable car. My room was the
largest, with a huge glass wall overlooking the sea. With a push of a button, the entire wall descended into the floor,
opening up onto the terrace! Simply amazing,
and very Bondian. Naoshima Cultural
Koya and Yukiko gave us a tour of the island, showing us several ongoing art projects in
. We saw the City Hall and other sites, but the
main attraction, naturally, was Benesse House.
That night, we had a special kaiseki dinner thrown by Mr. Fukutake
himself. He couldn’t have been
friendlier. We even met Tadao Ando, who
was on the island appearing in a documentary being filmed at the time, Mrs.
Fukutake, and other reps from the museum.
Ando-san presented me with an autographed catalogue of his works. We had something in common in that he also
knew I. M. Pei, the architect for whom I worked in the late 1980s in Manhattan. Naoshima Cultural