Sometime during my first week in Tokyo several years ago, I was walking down the street in Ikebukuro, a large west-side shopping district, when some random fellow came up to me, made a gun with his fingers, took careful aim at me and said “Hwah! Dubberoh-sebben!” I guess I must have done a double take (dubberu-take-u), because he laughed and said, “You—Jamesu Bondo-san!” Then I got it, and had a good chuckle (and, truth be told, I was more than a little flattered, even though I knew he was referring to the Sean Connery of white-bearded Indiana-Jones’-dad recent years, rather than the debonair young Connery of the Bond era). My companion of the day was enough younger that she didn’t know who Sean Connery was (sigh…); for her, Daniel Craig was James Bond. So, when we got back to my place, we looked up Sean Connery on Yahoo, and we were able to find a few images that bore some passing resemblance to me, especially if the viewer had 20/200 vision or was in the throes of substance abuse.
Less than a week later, the same friend and I were in Ueno, a totally different part of Tokyo, when an older couple approached us on the sidewalk. The man was grinning, animatedly pointing at me and apparently trying to convince his wife of something. They stopped us, and thanks to the help of my trusty friend and translator, it became apparent that they too thought I was Sean Connery. Or at least he did; I think for her the jury was still out.
Over the years, these chance Tokyo sightings of the Scottish actor became more frequent, and on several occasions, pretty amusing. Once I hastily scribbled an autograph for an older woman who spoke no English; she handed me a pen and paper, and she clearly wasn’t about to take no for an answer. I asked her name, one of the few phrases in Japanese that I knew at the time, and wrote: “For Setsuko, Best wishes…”, followed by an illegible scrawl of a signature that I hoped would pass either for Bruce Tierney or Sean Connery, should I ever be called on it.
In one memorable case, a seemingly deranged young guy approached me outside a restaurant, bowed deeply, and exclaimed in broken English: “John Connally, I am you bigmost fan!” (Who would have thought that a JFK-era Texas governor would have had such a following in Japan?) He then assumed a shooter’s stance, pointed two finger-guns in my direction, and started mouthing the staccato theme song from the opening credits of the Bond films. To top it off, when I went into the restaurant, he followed me in, secured an adjacent table, and then practiced his limited English on me for the next half hour. I didn’t get a lot of it, but I understood him to say that he liked Elic Crapton velly much. Eat your heart out, Mr. Crapton, because even though he likes you velly much, he is my bigmost fan.
So, I was getting pretty used to this by Christmas time, when I went to the See’s Candy shop in Omotesando to buy a US-sourced gift for a friend. I was wearing my favorite red lumberjack shirt, just the thing for the Tokyo winter when there is a bit of a chill in the air, but not quite cold enough to call for my leather bomber jacket. As I waited my turn in the line, a half-Japanese little girl of about four or so could not take her eyes off me. I smiled at her once, then looked away. When I glanced back, she was pulling at her father’s pants leg and pointing in my direction. Surely, this kid was not a Sean Connery fan? Her American father nodded in my direction, gave a grin of recognition, and came over. Here we go again, I thought. “Hi,” he said, “This is my daughter Emi; she wants to meet Santa Claus,” he said. Okay, that was not quite what I was expecting. Still, whether your job is secret agent or bringer of holiday gifts, it is critical that you stay in character. I smiled benevolently down at the winsome little face, and said, “So, Emi, have you been a good girl this year?”