Akiko Wakabayashi was born on August 26, 1941 in Tokyo, Japan. During her work in movies, she became one of Japan’s most popular actresses of their cinema’s “Golden Age”, ranking with actresses Kumi Mizuno and Mie Hama. One of her first films was Akiko (1961), which was named after her. Interestingly, the movie title shares both her real and character names. Her career took off when she came to Toho Studios, appearing in a host of sci-fi films, including that of the sexy gangster moll in Uchû daikaijû Dogora (1964) and the bewitching alien-possessed princess in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964). However, in the Western Cinema, she is probably best-known for her role as Bond girl “Aki” in the 007 epic, You Only Live Twice (1967), appearing alongside actor Sean Connery. When production of the 007 film began, Wakabayashi was originally chosen to play Bond girl “Kissy Suzuki” and her co-star, Mie Hama, is to play Bond girl “Suki”. As Hama had a difficult time mastering the English language, the two actresses switched roles. In addition, Wakabayashi suggested her character name be Aki instead of Suki.
In the late 1960s to early 1970s, Japan’s movie industry experienced an economic slump, which resulted in severe budget cuts. During that time, Wakabayashi made a rather abrupt end to her acting career, and has never been seen on the big screen since. Whether or not the economic slump played a factor, Wakabayashi remains one of the most memorable actresses of Japan, especially to Toho Studios’ sci-fi fandom.
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