Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan [NOOK Book]

Overview

A riveting true-life tale of newspaper noir and Japanese organized crime from an American investigative journalist.
 
Jake Adelstein is the only American journalist ever to have been admitted to the insular Tokyo Metropolitan Police Press Club, where for twelve years he covered the dark side of Japan: extortion, murder, human trafficking, fiscal corruption, and of course, the yakuza. But when his final scoop exposed a scandal that ...
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Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan

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Overview

A riveting true-life tale of newspaper noir and Japanese organized crime from an American investigative journalist.
 
Jake Adelstein is the only American journalist ever to have been admitted to the insular Tokyo Metropolitan Police Press Club, where for twelve years he covered the dark side of Japan: extortion, murder, human trafficking, fiscal corruption, and of course, the yakuza. But when his final scoop exposed a scandal that reverberated all the way from the neon soaked streets of Tokyo to the polished Halls of the FBI and resulted in a death threat for him and his family, Adelstein decided to step down. Then, he fought back. In Tokyo Vice he delivers an unprecedented look at Japanese culture and searing memoir about his rise from cub reporter to seasoned journalist with a price on his head.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
"Groundbreaking reporting on the yakuza. . . . Adelstein shares juicy, salty, and occasionally funny anecdotes, but many are frightening.... Adelstein doesn't lack for self-confidence... but beneath the bravado are a big heart and a relentless drive for justice."--The Boston Globe

"A journalist's memoir unlike any I've ever read."--Dave Davies, Fresh Air

"Marvelous. . . . Tokyo Vice offers a fascinating glimpse into Japan's end-of-last-century newspaper culture as seen from a gaijin's perspective. It's filled with startling anecdotes and revelations. . . . Adelstein writes of his quest for scoops with sardonic wit, and his snappy style mixes the tropes of detective fiction with the broader perspective of David Simon's books as he makes a careful account of his journalistic wins and losses. . . . The author's gallows humor bleeds into even darker, more serious hues once Adelstein starts covering the Japanese mafia. . . . Astonishingly proves that no matter how weird and perverse Japan may seem in fiction, the real thing never fails to exceed our most violent expectations."-Sarah Weinman, Barnes and Noble Review

"Tokyo Vice succeeds on several levels: as gripping journalism, as a ragged crime tale, as culture-shock memoir. Stakes are raised in its third act as the yakuza exercise increasing pressure on Adelstein, but he pursues the story anyway. Obviously, he lived to tell his tale - and thank goodness, because it's a fascinating one." -BOOKGASM

"Engrossing. . . . fast-paced."-The Atlanta-Journal Constitution

"Gripping. . . . [Adelstein's] juicy and vividly detailed account of investigations into the shadowy side of Japan shows him to be more enterprising, determined and crazy than most. . . . In some of the freshest pages of the book, our unlikely hero tells us about his initiation into the seamy, tough-guy Japan beneath the public courtesies, a racy world filled with reporters given names like Chuckles and Googly. He digs up details in "the Chichibu Snack-mama murder case." He sleeps with a yakuza's moll who has a dragon tattoo on her back. . . . Adelstein builds his stories with as much surprise and grit as any Al Pacino or Mark Wahlberg movie, blurring the lines between the cops, the crooks and even the journalists. "You and I are in the same business," a gangster tells Adelstein early on. "We're in the information industry." As the kid from Missouri begins to disappear deeper and deeper into the demimonde - sleeping in police HQ, drawing dangerously close to a hostess who works at the Den of Delicious and taking on the gangs responsible for human-trafficking in Japan - he comes to lose all sense of where his life ends and the 8th Circle of Hell strip club begins. . . . Tokyo Vice is often so snappy and quotable that it sounds as if it were a treatment for a Scorsese movie set in Queens. "The word isn't victim - it's sucker," one made man pronounces. . . . Yet the facts beneath the noirish lines are assembled with what looks to be ferocious diligence and resourcefulness. For even as he is getting slapped around by thugs and placed under police protection, Adelstein never loses his gift for crisp storytelling and an unexpectedly earnest eagerness to try to rescue the damned."-Pico Iyer, Time

"Exposes Tokyo's darkest, seamiest, most entertaining corners. . . . [A] gritty, true-to-life account of 12 years on the news beat as a staffer for a Japanese daily - and it is exceptional. Its classic atmospherics rekindle memories of Walter Winchell and Eliot Ness. It's a tale of adrenalin-depleting 80-hour weeks, full ashtrays, uncooperative sources, green tea, hard liquor, and forays into the commercialized depravity of Shinjuku's Kabukicho. . . . Definitely raises the bar. . . . A classic piece of 20th century crime reporting."-The Japan Times

"Very colorful . . . very entertaining."-The Seattle Weekly

"[A] gripping story. . . . Fascinating. . . . Pulls the curtain back on a sordid element of Japanese society that few Westerners ever see. In addition to his clash with [a] yakuza boss, Adelstein details the more notable cases from his 12-year career at the Yomiuri, including "The Chichibu Snack-mama Murder Case" and "The Emperor of Loan Sharks". . . . Adelstein's Tokyo is a veritable Gomorrah where nearly every act of intimacy is legally bought and sold."-San Francisco Examiner

Advance praise: "Debut author Adelstein began with a routine, but never dull, police beat; before long, he was notorious worldwide for engaging the dirtiest, top-most villains of Japan's organized criminal underworld, the yakuza. Thanks to [Adelstein's] immersive reporting, readers suffer with him through the choice between personal safety and a chance to confront the evil inhabiting his city. . . . Adelstein also examines the investigative reporter's tendency to withdraw into cynicism ("when a reporter starts to cool down, it's very hard… ever to warm up again") but faithfully sidesteps that urge, producing a deeply thought-provoking book: equal parts cultural exposé, true crime, and hard-boiled noir."-Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Not just a hard-boiled true-crime thriller, but an engrossing, troubling look at crime and human exploitation in Japan."-Kirkus

"Jake Adelstein's razor straight reporting from the mean streets of Tokyo is a coming of age story that reveals more than it pretends to-because he has the guts to find the truth, and the gall to tell it."-Roland Kelts, author of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S.

"A tale of a gaijin who stumbled onto a story so important and so dangerous that it put his life at risk. A yakuza offered him half a million dollars not to tell it. He wrote this book instead." -Peter Hessler, author of River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze

"Anyone interested in tattooed yakuza, 'soapland' brothels, and the various other aspects of Japan's lurid underbelly is guaranteed to be electrified by Tokyo Vice. Why is a manual on the perfect way to commit suicide a Japanese bestseller? Who goes to sexual harassment clinics? What's it like to spend a night in a male hostess bar? Tokyo Vice reveals all this and more. It's a story of lust and profit; a chronicle of fear and determination; most of all, a modern bildungsroman that simultaneously illuminates the soul of its narrator and that of modern Japan through the underside of Tokyo, the world's most fascinating city. I loved this book for many reasons-its humor, its pathos, its insight, its honesty-and maybe most of all, for reminding me of how lucky I am to live here."-Barry Eisler, author of Fault Line

"Terrific. With gallows humor and a hardboiled voice, Jake Adelstein's memoir takes readers on a shadow journey through the Japanese underworld and examines the twisted relationships of journalists, cops, and gangsters. An unusual reading experience, expertly told and highly entertaining."-George Pelecanos

"Vivid, insightful, and totally revealing of the decadent, seedy and sexual parts of Japanese society, Tokyo Vice is ripping fun."--Karl Taro Greenfeld, author of Speed Tribes: Days and Nights with Japan's Next Generation

"A gripping and absorbing read. Very few foreigners ever come close to discovering what's really going on in Japan's closed society. Adelstein chases two major stories that pull him into a vortex of destruction, threatening his friendships, his marriage and even his life. As he battles with profound issues concerning truth and trust, Tokyo Vice approaches a heart-pounding denouement. This is a terrifying, deeply moral story which you cannot put down, and Adelstein, if occasionally reckless, is an extremely courageous man." -Misha Glenny, author of McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld

"Sacred, ferocious and businesslike. This is the Japanese mafia that Adelstein describes like nobody else."-Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System

"Jake Adelstein writes in the classic hard-boiled Dashiell Hammett manner-complete with stubbed out cigarettes and a shot of whiskey shared with his cop informant-but this is not San Francisco or New York, it's Tokyo, and it's not fiction. Those who live and work in Japan will recognize reality on every page. It's at times a harsh and ugly reality, but depicted humorously with whimsical details of Japan's twilight world that we only dream of. A guaranteed page-turner." -Alex Kerr, author of Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Japan

"In this dark, often humorous journey through the underworld of Tokyo, Jake Adelstein captures exactly what it means to be a gaijin and a reporter. Whether he is hunting for tips in Kabukich? or pressing yakuza for information, it is an adventure only he could write. For anyone interested in Japan or journalism, this is a must read." -Robert Whiting author of Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

A young Japanese-schooled Jewish-American who worked as a journalist at Tokyo newspaper Yomiuri Shinbun during the 1990s, debut author Adelstein began with a routine, but never dull, police beat; before long, he was notorious worldwide for engaging the dirtiest, top-most villains of Japan's organized criminal underworld, the yakuza. A pragmatic but sensitive character, Adelstein's worldview takes quite a beating during his tour of duty; thanks to his immersive reporting, readers suffer with him through the choice between personal safety and a chance to confront the evil inhabiting his city. He learns that "what matters is the purity of the information, not the person providing it," considers personal and societal theories behind Tokyo's illicit and semi-illicit pastimes like "host and hostess clubs," where citizens pay for the illusion of intimacy: "The rates are not unreasonable, but the cost in human terms are incredibly high." Adelstein also examines the investigative reporter's tendency to withdraw into cynicism ("when a reporter starts to cool down, it's very hard... ever to warm up again") but faithfully sidesteps that urge, producing a deeply thought-provoking book: equal parts cultural exposé, true crime, and hard-boiled noir.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
The author's adventures as a top crime reporter for Japan's largest newspaper. As he completed his studies at Tokyo's Sofia University, Adelstein took the exam to become a reporter for Yomiuri Shinbun and, surprisingly, was hired. Thus began 12 years of reporting on, and living within, the underbelly of Japanese society. Initially assigned to cover crime in a Tokyo suburb, Adelstein is at his best describing the intricate rules that govern relations among the press and police. As with so much else in Japan, good reporting, or gaining a scoop, depends on cultivating personal relations. A reporter spends much time "schmoozing and massaging" police detectives, bringing them gifts and drinking long into the night with them, which helps develop mutually beneficial friendships. After covering stories like the "Chichibu Snack-mama Murder Case" and the case of a serial-killing dog breeder, Adelstein became the only American journalist to gain admittance to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Press Club. His beat became Tokyo's infamous Kabukicho district, an area of "pure sleaze," and soon he was investigating the trafficking of women in Japan, a widespread illegal business often protected by the politically powerful and by the yakuza, Japan's ubiquitous organized-crime syndicate. The yakuza were heavily involved in sex trafficking, and a story about a yakuza boss receiving a liver transplant in the United States led to a threat on Adelstein's life. He eventually published the story, but only after returning to Japan as an investigator on human trafficking for the U.S. State Department. Though the author occasionally echoes the writing of Mickey Spillane-"She could milk a customer like a dairymaid witha fecund cow"-this is a serious story focusing on the sexual abuse of women in Japan and the official indifference to that abuse. Not just a hard-boiled true-crime thriller, but an engrossing, troubling look at crime and human exploitation in Japan.
From the Publisher
“Groundbreaking reporting on the yakuza. . . . Adelstein shares juicy, salty, and occasionally funny anecdotes, but many are frightening. . . . Adelstein doesn’t lack for self-confidence . . . but beneath the bravado are a big heart and a relentless drive for justice.”--The Boston Globe 

 “Gripping. . . . [Adelstein’s] vividly detailed account of investigations into the shadowy side of Japan shows him to be more enterprising, determined and crazy than most. . . . In some of the freshest pages of the book, our unlikely hero tells us about his initiation into the seamy, tough-guy Japan beneath the public courtesies,. . . . Adelstein builds his stories with as much surprise and grit as any Al Pacino or Mark Wahlberg movie, blurring the lines between the cops, the crooks and even the journalists. . . . Tokyo Vice is often so snappy and quotable that it sounds as if it were a treatment for a Scorsese movie set in Queens. Yet the facts beneath the noirish lines are assembled with what looks to be ferocious diligence and resourcefulness. For even as he is getting slapped around by thugs and placed under police protection, Adelstein never loses his gift for crisp storytelling and an unexpectedly earnest eagerness to try to rescue the damned.”—Pico Iyer, Time

"A journalist's memoir unlike any I've ever read."--Dave Davies, Fresh Air
 
“Marvelous. . . . Tokyo Vice offers a fascinating glimpse into Japan’s end-of-last-century newspaper culture as seen from a gaijin’s perspective. It’s filled with startling anecdotes and revelations. . . . Adelstein writes of his quest for scoops with sardonic wit, and his snappy style mixes the tropes of detective fiction with the broader perspective of David Simon’s books as he makes a careful account of his journalistic wins and losses. . . . The author’s gallows humor bleeds into even darker, more serious hues once Adelstein starts covering the Japanese mafia. . . . Astonishingly proves that no matter how weird and perverse Japan may seem in fiction, the real thing never fails to exceed our most violent expectations.”—Sarah Weinman, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind
 
Tokyo Vice succeeds on several levels: as gripping journalism, as a ragged crime tale, as culture-shock memoir. Stakes are raised in its third act as the yakuza exercise increasing pressure on Adelstein, but he pursues the story anyway. Obviously, he lived to tell his tale — and thank goodness, because it’s a fascinating one.” —BOOKGASM
 
“Engrossing. . . . fast-paced.”—The Atlanta-Journal Constitution

“Exposes Tokyo’s darkest, seamiest, most entertaining corners. . . . [A] gritty, true-to-life account of 12 years on the news beat as a staffer for a Japanese daily — and it is exceptional. Its classic atmospherics rekindle memories of Walter Winchell and Eliot Ness. It’s a tale of adrenalin-depleting 80-hour weeks, full ashtrays, uncooperative sources, green tea, hard liquor, and forays into the commercialized depravity of Shinjuku’s Kabukicho. . . . Definitely raises the bar. . . .  A classic piece of 20th century crime reporting.”—The Japan Times

"[A] gripping story. . . . Pulls the curtain back on a sordid element of Japanese society that few Westerners ever see. In addition to his clash with [a] yakuza boss, Adelstein details the more notable cases from his 12-year career at the Yomiuri, including "The Chichibu Snack-mama Murder Case" and "The Emperor of Loan Sharks." No less fascinating is the view Adelstein provides into Japanese society itself. . . . Adelstein's Tokyo is a veritable Gomorrah where nearly every act of intimacy is legally bought and sold."—San Francisco Examiner

"Debut author Adelstein began with a routine, but never dull, police beat; before long, he was notorious worldwide for engaging the dirtiest, top-most villains of Japan's organized criminal underworld, the yakuza. Thanks to [Adelstein's] immersive reporting, readers suffer with him through the choice between personal safety and a chance to confront the evil inhabiting his city. . . . Adelstein also examines the investigative reporter's tendency to withdraw into cynicism ("when a reporter starts to cool down, it's very hard… ever to warm up again") but faithfully sidesteps that urge, producing a deeply thought-provoking book: equal parts cultural exposé, true crime, and hard-boiled noir."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Not just a hard-boiled true-crime thriller, but an engrossing, troubling look at crime and human exploitation in Japan."—Kirkus

"Terrific. With gallows humor and a hardboiled voice, Adelstein takes readers on a shadow journey through the Japanese underworld and examines the twisted relationships of journalists, cops, and gangsters. Expertly told and highly entertaining."—George Pelecanos

"Sacred, ferocious and businesslike. This is the Japanese mafia that Adelstein describes like nobody else." —Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System

"A gripping and absorbing read. Very few foreigners ever come close to discovering what's really going on in Japan's closed society. Adelstein chases two major stories that pull him into a vortex of destruction, threatening his friendships, his marriage and even his life. As he battles with profound issues concerning truth and trust, Tokyo Vice approaches a heart-pounding denouement. This is a terrifying, deeply moral story which you cannot put down, and Adelstein, if occasionally reckless, is an extremely courageous man."—Misha Glenny, author of McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld

"A tale of a gaijin who stumbled onto a story so important and so dangerous that it put his life at risk. A yakuza offered him half a million dollars not to tell it. He wrote this book instead." —Peter Hessler, author of River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze

"In this dark, often humorous journey through the underworld of Tokyo, Jake Adelstein captures exactly what it means to be a gaijin and a reporter. Whether he is hunting for tips in Kabukicho or pressing yakuza for information, it is an adventure only he could write. For anyone interested in Japan or journalism, this is a must read." —Robert Whiting author of Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan

"Anyone interested in tattooed yakuza, 'soapland' brothels, and the various other aspects of Japan's lurid underbelly is guaranteed to be electrified by Tokyo Vice. Why is a manual on the perfect way to commit suicide a Japanese bestseller? Who goes to sexual harassment clinics? What's it like to spend a night in a male hostess bar? Tokyo Vice reveals all this and more. It's a story of lust and profit; a chronicle of fear and determination; most of all, a modern bildungsroman that simultaneously illuminates the soul of its narrator and that of modern Japan through the underside of Tokyo, the world's most fascinating city. I loved this book for many reasons—its humor, its pathos, its insight, its honesty—and maybe most of all, for reminding me of how lucky I am to live here."—Barry Eisler, author of Fault Line

"Jake Adelstein's razor straight reporting from the mean streets of Tokyo is a coming of age story that reveals more than it pretends to—because he has the guts to find the truth, and the gall to tell it."—Roland Kelts, author of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S.

"Vivid, insightful, and totally revealing of the decadent, seedy and sexual parts of Japanese society, Tokyo Vice is ripping fun."—Karl Taro Greenfeld, author of Speed Tribes: Days and Nights with Japan's Next Generation

"Jake Adelstein writes in the classic hard-boiled Dashiell Hammett manner—complete with stubbed out cigarettes and a shot of whiskey shared with his cop informant—but this is not San Francisco or New York, it's Tokyo, and it's not fiction.  Those who live and work in Japan will recognize reality on every page.  It's at times a harsh and ugly reality, but depicted humorously with whimsical details of Japan's twilight world that we only dreamt of. A guaranteed page-turner." —Alex Kerr, author of Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Japan

The Barnes & Noble Review
Contemporary Japanese crime novelists explore violent territory that Americans, even with their love of serial killings and on- and off-screen horror, would be loath to touch. The 1999 novel Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, as controversial as it was in Japan for its depiction of youthful brutality, might never have seen the light of day here had it originated from an American writer, especially as its initial publication came about around the same time as the Columbine school shootings. Women writers based here certainly do go deep into the heart of the gruesome (Chelsea Cain and Karin Slaughter are the most recent examples), but Natsuo Kirino’s Out, coolly brilliant in its portrayal of four desperate women resorting to the dismemberment (and beyond) of a dead man formerly viewed as a threat, barrels straight through every limit of tolerance.

The fearlessness of Japanese crime writers (not to mention the violence pervading a great deal of the manga published there) owes something to the news they find at hand, despite the fact that the rate of violent acts in Japan pales next to that in America. Consider the case of Issei Sagawa, who murdered and ate parts of a fellow student while studying abroad in the early 1980s. Upon returning home, Sagawa was declared not responsible for his crimes and never served time in jail – instead, improbably, he became something of a celebrity, and now has several books to his name. A series of child murders that terrorized Tokyo in the late 1980s turned out to be the horrible handiwork of a psychopathic teenager. Violent crime may be rare, but when it does happen, it explodes with the force of multiple powder kegs.

So Tokyo Vice, Jake Adelstein’s marvellous account of his years working as a police reporter in many of Japan’s metropolitan centers and suburban corners, is both highly unusual and not really unexpected. It is a rare thing for a foreigner to be proficient enough to write for a newspaper in his second language, never mind becoming an expert on law and order, sex trafficking, and the country’s strangely corporatized gangster system. But within Japan, it seems, anything is possible, and often done, even while the culture’s vaunted decorum is maintained.

*
• *

“What are the chances that a Jewish kid from Missouri would be accepted into this high-end journalistic fraternity?” The twenty-four-year-old Adelstein’s question to himself in the fall of 1992 is posed years after his arrival on Japanese soil to study at Sophia University, following a childhood spent absorbing the stories and choices made by his county coroner father and an adolescence of anger and confusion quelled by martial arts. His query is answered after a day-long series of exams in a gym, for that’s how Japan’s newspapers, from the top-ranked Yomiuri and second-place Asahi to every other venue (including the second-class wire services and sneered-upon tabloids) find the newest talent. It’s just one of the many ways that journalism as practiced in Japan and America differ wildly, as Adelstein discovers after he accepts a permanent contract with the Yomiuri -- a fate sealed as much by luck and connections as by hard work.

Tokyo Vice offers a fascinating glimpse into Japan’s end-of-last-century newspaper culture as seen from a gaijin’s perspective. It’s filled with startling anecdotes and revelations. There’s the scathing memo sent by a longtime Yomiuri staffer to new hires, instructing them on how police reporters must cultivate sources to obtain precious scoops (“Do you take small gifts when you call on the cops in the evening?” “Do you ask the cops to get food or something to drink with you?” “Have you ever taken your wife and kids with you on a Saturday and stopped by ‘because we were in the neighborhood’?”). There are barroom brawls masquerading as male bonding sessions, and insight into the differences between American and Japanese attitudes toward pornography. Adelstein also superbly evokes the endless boredom that reporters hope will eventually lead to some nugget of valuable information. (“The curse of the police beat: the Yomiuri raises your pay, but it never matches the hours you work” is one of the many aphorisms that pepper the narrative.)

Adelstein writes of his quest for scoops with sardonic wit, and his snappy style mixes the tropes of detective fiction with the broader perspective of David Simon’s books as he makes a careful account of his journalistic wins and losses. Devoting a year to the investigation of the case of a famous dog trainer turned serial murderer, Adelstein gleans fresh information by bringing ice cream to a new cop source and sleeping with a woman connected to the murderer (seemingly unethical behavior his police connection and eventual close friend, Inspector Sekiguchi, applauds: “Keep pumping her for information. Hell, pump her for anything you want. Just tell me what you found out.”) Nevertheless, Adelstein’s trump card is played by somebody else, and “the scoop of the year” is blown thanks to an ordinary mixture of missed phone calls and lack of follow-through.

The author’s gallows humor bleeds into even darker, more serious hues once Adelstein starts covering the Japanese mafia, popularly known as the yakuza but known to its members as gokudo, meaning literally “the ultimate path.” Early in the book, one yakuza member, nicknamed the Cat, approaches Adelstein with a strange request to flush out a possible rat. The Cat’s humanity within his nasty milieu is oddly poignant, especially when he explains why he can’t leave the organization: “Look at me. If I dress like this, I look like any other businessman on the train at his day off. But if I roll up my sleeves [to reveal gaudy, elaborate tattoos] that’s the end of the pretty picture.” Adelstein’s chance discovery that another, more powerful yakuza member found a way to game the transplant system and bump himself up the list for a liver transplant at UCLA brings about threats against the reporter’s young family, his 2005 resignation from the Yomiuri, and a growing sense of unease that he is no longer safe in Japan.

In another incident, a phone call from an attractive young Australian woman opens Adelstein’s eyes to the horrors lurking beneath the glossy surfaces of Tokyo’s hostess clubs, expensive champagne binges, and raucous nightlife. Her story of sex trafficking involving illegal immigrants rocks Adelstein’s world, burnishing him with added purpose at the same time as it facilitates a protracted state of burnout. Still, “There’s a certain charge and power derived from being on a crusade. Self-righteous anger can really motivate you. I had done some things I wasn’t proud of, but compared to the flesh traders I was writing about, I was the Dalai Lama, at least in my mind.”

Adelstein’s mission gets results, especially when he’s tapped to investigate sex trafficking on behalf of the U.S. State Department, and he proudly reports them. But he doesn’t shy away from documenting things he isn’t proud of -- namely, his culpability in the suicide of a fellow journalist and in the disappearance of sex workers, as well as the erosion of his marriage and his estrangement from his young children. Working to alter societal norms and rid Japan of its foulest elements comes at terrible personal cost, and one gets the sense that Adelstein will never shake off the ghosts that haunt him -- even if he had the choice to do so. His Tokyo Vice astonishingly proves that no matter how weird and perverse Japan may seem in fiction, the real thing never fails to exceed our most violent expectations. --Sarah Weinman

Sarah Weinman reviews crime fiction for the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun and blogs about the genre at Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind (http://www.sarahweinman.com).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307378941
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 149,912
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Jake Adelstein was a reporter for the Yomiuri Shinbun, Japan’s largest newspaper, from 1993 to 2005. From 2006 to 2007 he was the chief investigator for a U.S. State Department-sponsored study of human trafficking in Japan. Considered one of the foremost experts on organized crime in Japan, he works as a writer and consultant in Japan and the United States. He is also the public relations director for the Washington, D.C.-based Polaris Project Japan, which combats human trafficking and the exploitation of women and children in the sex trade.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Read an Excerpt

FATE WILL BE ON YOUR SIDE

July 12, 1992, marked the turning point of my education about Japan. I was glued to a position next to the phone, feet inside my mini- refrigerator—in the heat of the summer any cool will do—waiting for a call from the Yomiuri Shinbun, Japan’s most prestigious newspaper. I would land a job as a reporter, or I would remain jobless. It was a long night, the culmination of a process that had stretched out over an entire year.

Not long before that, I had been wallowing in the luxury of not caring a bit about my future. I was a student at Sophia (Joichi) University in the middle of Tokyo, where I was working toward a degree in comparative literature and writing for the student newspaper.

So I had experience, but nothing that would pass for the beginnings of a career. I was a step up from teaching English and was making a decent income translating instructional kung fu videos from English into Japanese. Combined with an occasional gig giving Swedish massage to wealthy Japanese housewives, I earned enough for day-to-day expenses, but I was still leaning on the parents for tuition.

I had no idea what I wanted to do. Most of my fellow students had jobs already promised them before their graduation—a practice called naitei, which is unethical, but everyone does it. I had gotten such a promise too, with Sony Computer Entertainment, but it was good only if I extended my schooling for another year. It wasn’t a job that I really wanted, but it was, after all, Sony.

So in late 1991, with a very light class load and lots of time on my hands, I decided to throw myself into studying the Japanese language. I made up my mind to take the mass communication exams for soon-to-be university graduates and try to land a job as a reporter, working and writing in Japanese. I had the fantasy that if I could write for the school newspaper, it couldn’t be much more difficult to write for a national newspaper with eight or nine million readers.

In Japan, people don’t build a career at the major newspapers by working their way up through local, small-town newspapers. The papers hire the bulk of their reporters straight out of university, but first the cubs have to pass a standardized “entrance exam”—a kind of newspaper SAT. The ritual goes like this: Aspiring reporters report to a giant auditorium and sit for daylong tests. If your score is high enough, you get an interview, and then another, and then another. If you do well enough in your interviews, and if your interviewers like you, then you might get a job promise.

To be honest, I didn’t really think I’d be hired by a Japanese newspaper. I mean, what were the chances that a Jewish kid from Missouri would be accepted into this high-end Japanese journalistic fraternity? But I didn’t care. If I had something to study for, if I had a goal, however unreachable, the time spent chasing it might have some collateral productivity. At the very least, my Japanese would improve.

But where should I apply? Japan has more than its share of news media, which are also more vital than in the United States.

The Yomiuri Shinbun has the largest circulation—more than ten million a day—of any newspaper in Japan and, in fact, the world. The Asahi Shinbun used to be a close second—now it’s less close but still second. People used to say that the Yomiuri was the official organ of the LDP, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, which has dominated Japanese politics since World War II; the Asahi was the official newspaper of the Socialists, who are almost invisible these days; and the Mainichi Shinbun, the third largest, was the official newspaper of the anarchists, because the paper could never figure out whose side it was on. The Sankei Shinbun, which was then probably the fourth largest paper, was considered to be the voice of the extreme right; some said it had about as much credibility as a supermarket tabloid. Often, it had some good scoops as well.

Kyodo, the wire service, which is the Associated Press of Japan, was harder to figure out. The service was originally known as Domei and was the official propaganda branch of the World War II–era Japanese government. Not all connections were severed when the firm became independent once the war was over. Furthermore, Dentsu, the largest and most powerful advertising agency in Japan (and the world) has a controlling interest in the company, and that can color its coverage. One thing makes Kyodo a stellar news agency to work for, however: its labor union, which is the envy of every reporter in Japan. The union makes sure that its reporters are able to use the vacation days due them—something very rare at most firms in Japan.

There is also Jiji Press, which is kind of like Kyodo’s little brother but a hard worker. It has a smaller readership and fewer reporters. The joke was that Jiji reporters write their articles after reading Kyodo—a cruel joke in a cruel industry.

At first I was leaning toward the Asahi, but I started to feel offended by its tendency to put the United States in a bad light at every opportunity. It seemed at odds with the image I thought most people in Japan had of America—as a voice of democracy, spreading liberty and justice throughout the free world.

The editorials of the Yomiuri were pretty tough-going, though, very conservative and heavy on kanji (the original Chinese ideographs) and vagueness, but the articles in the national news section really impressed me. At a time when the term “human trafficking” had yet to enter the popular vocabulary, the Yomiuri ran a scathing in-depth series on the plight of Thai women being smuggled into Japan as sex workers. The articles treated the women with relative dignity and, if only mildly, was critical of the police for its do-little response to the problem. The paper’s stance, it seemed to me, was firmly on the side of the oppressed; it was fighting for justice.

The Asahi and the Yomiuri had their exams scheduled on the same day. I signed up for the Yomiuri’s.

The exam was part of the Yomiuri Shinbun Journalism Seminar, a well-known covert method of hiring people before the official job-hunting season begins. It helps them grab the cream of the crop. It’s not promoted in a big way, so if you are serious about joining the Yomiuri, you must read the paper religiously, or you will miss the golden ticket. Everyone at the university paper who had aspirations of being a Yomiuri reporter was checking the paper’s pages. In a country where appearances count, I needed to look respectable. I poked through my closet only to discover that the humid summer had turned my two suits into fungal experiments. So I trotted down to a huge discount men’s retailer and bought a summer suit for the equivalent of about $300. It was made of a thin fabric that breathed easily and had a nice matte black finish. I looked good in it.

I wanted to wow Inukai, my friend and the editor of the school paper, with my sartorial finesse, but when I showed up at the office, located in a dark, dungeonlike basement, his response was different from what I’d expected.

“Jake-kun, my condolences.”

Aoyama-chan, another colleague, looked pensive. She didn’t say a word.

I couldn’t figure out what was going on.

“What happened? Was it a friend?”

“A friend?”

“Who died?”

“Huh? Nobody died. Everybody I know is fine.”

Inukai took off his glasses and polished them with his shirt. “So you bought that suit yourself?”

“Yep. Thirty thousand yen.”

Inukai was enjoying this. I could tell because he was squinting like a happy puppy. “What kind of suit did you want to buy?” he asked, all false seriousness.

“The ad said reifuku.”

Aoyama-chan tittered.

“What?” I said. “What’s wrong?”

“You idiot! You bought a funeral suit! Not a reifuku but a mofuku!

“What’s the difference?”

“Mofuku are black. Nobody wears a black suit to a job interview.”

“Nobody?”

“Well, maybe a yakuza.”

“Well, could I pretend I just got back from a funeral? Maybe I’d get sympathy points.”

“That’s true. People sympathize with the mentally challenged.”

Aoyama chimed in, “Maybe you could apply to be a yakuza instead! They wear black! You could be the first gaijin yakuza!”

“He’s not cut out to be a yakuza,” Inukai said. “And what would he do when they threw him out?”

“That’s true,” Aoyama said, nodding. “If it didn’t work out, he’d have a hard time going back to being a writer. It’s hard to type with only nine fingers.”

By now Inukai was on a roll. “I don’t think he could get out of the organization with nine fingers. Eight is more like it. He’s a classic screw-up, rude, clumsy, never on time. A barbarian.”

“I can see that,” Aoyama said. “Actually, he could still hunt and peck. But in terms of a career, I don’t think yakuza is it for him, even if he does look nice in a black suit.”

“So what am I supposed to do?”

“Buy another suit,” they said in unison.

“I don’t have the cash.”

Inukai looked thoughtful. “Hmmm. Maybe you can get away with it because you’re a gaijin. Maybe someone will think it’s cute . . . if they don’t just decide you’re an idiot.”

So that’s what I did.

Funeral suit and all, on May 7, I dragged myself to the first session of the seminar, held at 12:50 p.m. at an impressive-looking place right next to the Yomiuri Shinbun’s main office. The seminar was to take place over two separate days. The first was a day of classes. The second was enshuu, or “field practice” a euphemism for the exams. I was a little surprised to see the word used, because it’s basically a military term.*

The seminar started with an opening speech and a lecture “for those of you aspiring to be journalists,” followed by a second lecture on the fundamental ethics of newspaper reporting. Then came a two-hour session during which “guys on the front line”—working reporters—talked about their jobs, the joys of getting a scoop, and the agony of being scooped by the competition.

I don’t remember many details about the lectures. The long hours spent reading and learning to write semicompetently in Japanese had a downside: my listening ability was piss poor. I wasn’t exactly the most fluent of speakers either. I was, however, making a calculated gamble. You had to score well enough on the written test to get even an interview, so I had spent more time on reading and writing than on any- thing else. I wouldn’t say that I was deaf to the Japanese language, just hearing- and speech-impaired.

But from what I could make out, the comments of the police reporter about covering the public security section of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department sounded pretty good. The guy looked to be forty years old, with gray curly hair and slumped shoulders—what the Japanese would call a “cat posture” kind of guy.

According to him, the public security section rarely made an- nouncements and never, ever handed out press releases. Everything was said at the briefing, so if you didn’t pay attention, you missed the story. This was not a place for adrenaline junkies (or foreigners). Reporters sometimes spent an entire year without writing a single word. But when an arrest came down, it was always huge news, since it involved matters of national security.

The actual exam, or “military drill,” as it was called, was scheduled for three days later, at the Yomiuri Vocational School of Engineering, located in the suburbs of Tokyo.

Not having read the corporate brochure, I was a little puzzled that a newspaper would also be running a vocational school. I was still unaware that Yomiuri was far from being just a newspaper; it was a vast conglomerate of companies ranging from the Yomiuriland amusement park to Yomiuri Ryoko, a travel agency, and the Yomiuri lodge in Kamakura, a traditional Japanese inn. The Yomiuri also has its own minihospital on the third floor of its corporate headquarters, sleeping quarters on the fourth floor, a cafeteria, a pharmacy, a bookstore, and an in-house massage therapist. The company-owned baseball team, the Yomiuri Giants, are often compared to the Yankees for their national popularity. With entertainment, vacations, health care, and sports, you could live your entire life in Japan without ever leaving the Yomiuri empire.

From the station, I followed the throngs of Japanese young people in navy blue suits and red ties, the classic “recruit look” of the day. In 1992, that also meant that all those who had followed the popular styles and dyed their hair brown or red had dyed it black again. There was a smattering of women in the female equivalent of sober navy blue suits.

I got to the vocational school fifteen minutes before test time and signed in. One staff person at the reception asked me, “Are you sure you’re in the right place?”

“I’m sure,” I answered humbly.

The exam was divided into four parts. The first was a test of the Japanese language; the second was foreign languages, where you had a choice of several; the third was a written essay; and the fourth was your chance to sell yourself as a potential employee.

I breezed through the first section and was done twenty minutes before everyone else. I sat there for some time, feeling quite proud of myself, until I nonchalantly flipped the exam over and noticed something that made my stomach lurch—there were also questions on that side of the page. I tried hard to finish, but I feared I’d blown the exam. When time was called, I turned in what I’d done (or not done). Furious at myself, I went back to my seat, prepared to forget the rest of the exam and go home.


I must have been sitting there blank-faced with shock when a Yomiuri man came up and tapped me on the shoulder. He had a Beatles bob, wore wire-rimmed glasses, and had a husky voice that didn’t match his stature or appearance. (I would later know him as Endo-san of the human resources department, and he would die of complications from throat cancer a few years later.)

“I couldn’t but help notice you among the applicants,” he said to me in Japanese. “Why are you taking this test?”

“Well, I thought if I did well on it, it might help if I wanted a job on the English-language Daily Yomiuri.

“I took a quick look at your test. You did really well on the first questions. What happened to the rest?”

“It’s very embarrassing. I didn’t realize there were questions on both sides of the page until it was too late.”

“Ahh. Let me make a note,” he said as he pulled a little organizer out of his jacket pocket and scribbled in it.

He turned to me again. “Don’t think about the Daily Yomiuri. It would be a waste. You should try for the real thing. You still have a chance to do well on this. You’re a Sophia student, right?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Thought so. Stick it out,” he said, patting me on the shoulder.

... So there I sat, inner debate raging. Give up and go home, or stick with it? I got up out of my seat and tossed my backpack over my shoulder. As I looked across the room, it seemed for a moment as if time had stopped. All the chatter faded out, people froze in midmovement, and I heard a high-pitched buzzing in my ears. In that instant, I knew that leaving or staying would be the biggest decision in my adult life. Somewhere in an alternative universe, I walked out. But not in this one.

I put my backpack on the table with a clunk and sat down. I pulled out my pencils, pulled in my chair, sat up straight, and got ready for round two. If I could attach a sound track to my life, I would have selected the James Bond theme right then. Admittedly, aligning one’s pencils doesn’t make for a great opening film montage, but it was the closest I’d ever come to heroic action.

The next section was foreign languages, and cleverly I picked En- glish, where months spent doing boring translation and subtitling instructional kung fu videos paid off. Then I had to translate a passage on the Russian free economy from English into Japanese, followed by a brief passage on social progress in modern society from Japanese into English. I nailed both of them before the next ten-minute break.

Next was the essay. The theme was gaikokujin, or “foreigners,” and after the first-round curse, I was beginning to feel blessed. This topic was something every foreigner is regularly asked about and, at Sophia, to write essays about.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.


It turned out that although I had done abysmally on the Japanese- language section, I still ranked ninetieth out of one hundred applicants, meaning that my Japanese tested better than that of 10 percent of the Japanese applicants. I came in first in the foreign-language section— in both translating English into Japanese and translating Japanese into English. Actually, I lost points on the English translation, which doesn’t say much for my mastery of the English language. I got a C on my essay, more on content than on grammar. In total, on the first three parts of the test I had a score of 79 points out of a possible 100, mak- ing me fifty-ninth out of a hundred. Not glittering, but still I was called in for an interview. The only reason I can imagine was that someone cut me some slack for missing the back page of the Japanese-language test.

The first interview, held three weeks later, was blissfully brief. I had the chance to explain my screw-up, then was asked my expectations of the job and my willingness to work long hours. I stressed my willingness to work hard. They quizzed me about my knowledge of the Yomiuri, and I mentioned the series on Thai prostitutes and how impressed I had been by the in-depth coverage—which scored brownie points with the metro reporters at the session.

I was told there would be two more interviews, and then I heard nothing for weeks.

Now I was nervous. What had begun as a totally off-the-wall challenge was now in the realm of possibility. Every day I came home early and waited for the phone to ring. I read the newspaper religiously. I ramped up my Japanese studies. If I get this job, I thought, how will I survive? I started watching television in the hopes of improving my listening comprehension.

But one day, the frustration of living in limbo became strong enough to shove me out the door and into a bad horror flick at a Kabukicho movie theater.

On my way home from the film, I spotted a funny-looking tarot fortune-telling machine at the entrance of an arcade. In my uncertain state of mind, I figured it couldn’t hurt to consult an expert.

I plunked 100 yen into the machine. The screen lit up and swirled around in a pink and green vortex. I picked the category “Jobs,” my choice of fortune teller, “Madame Tantra,” and plugged in my personal information. Madame Tantra, a very cute Japanese woman wearing a shawl, with a red mark on her forehead like a Hindu priestess, appeared on the screen in a blaze of smoke and had me pick my cards. I rolled the crystal ball–shaped mouse around and clicked on the stacks of cards laid out on the virtual table.

The Final Verdict: King of Swords, Upright.

Success.

Keyword: Curiosity

The job you are best suited for is as a copywriter or editor or something involving writing. For this kind of work, literary skills are necessary, also a certain amount of lowbrow nosiness (inquisitiveness). Because you have both attributes, you’ll surely be able to make use of those skills. If you always keep your antenna out probing for information and nurture your morbid curiosity in a good way, FATE WILL BE ON YOUR SIDE.

I was thrilled. It seemed so dead-on that I kept the printout. Fortified with the good graces of Fortune, I took the last train home and checked my answering machine. There was a call from the Yomiuri asking me to attend a second round of interviews.


The second round consisted of a panel of three people. Two of the judges seemed enthused, but the third looked at me as if I were a fly on his sashimi. I had the feeling that I was a controversial candidate. After a number of queries, one of them asked me the following question, with great seriousness.

“You’re Jewish, yes?”

“Yes, nominally.”

“A lot of people in Japan believe that the Jews control the world economy. What do you think about that?”

I quickly replied, “Do you think that if the Jews really did control the world economy I’d be applying for a job as a newspaper reporter here? I know what the first-year salary is like.”

I guess that was the right answer, because he chuckled and winked at me. There were no further questions.

I got up and was leaving when one of them stopped me. “Adelstein-san, there will be only one more round of interviews. If you are called in for that, you are pretty much in. We will be calling the final candidates on July 12. Be home. We won’t make more than one call.”


And so back to my small apartment on July 12, 1992, where I sat half in the refrigerator, one hand glued to the phone. My throat was parched, and I had the shakes. I felt as if I were waiting to get a last-minute date to prom night.

The call came at nine-thirty in the evening.

“Congratulations, Adelstein-san. You have been selected for the final round of interviews. Please come to the Yomiuri Building on July 31. Do you have any questions?”

I had none.


The last interview went very well. There were smiles all around and the atmosphere was very relaxed. There were no tough questions. One panelist began asking me a very complicated question about Japanese politics, but his Osaka dialect was so thick I had no idea what he was saying. I just played like a psychiatrist and repeated parts of his last sentence, with vague comments, such as, “Well, that’s one way of looking at the problem.” He seemed to interpret my response as total agreement and I didn’t bother to disabuse him.

There were two final questions:

“Can you work on the Sabbath?”

It wasn’t a problem.

“Can you eat sushi?”

Neither was that.

And with that, Matsuzaka-san, one of the senior human resources people, who looked remarkably Jewish for a Japanese guy, slapped me on the back and said, “Congratulations. Consider yourself hired. The formal material will be sent to you in the mail.”

As he walked me out the door, he whispered conspiratorially in my ear, “I’m a Sophia graduate too. I heard good things about you from your teachers. It’s nice to have another Sophian on board.” Incredibly, my dumb luck had stayed with me throughout the whole process, even to the point of having a school connection on the hiring board.

I don’t know why the fates had been so kind, but I thought I should cover all the bases. On my way home, I stopped and added some coins to the pile in front of the Buddha in the gardens of the Nezu Museum.

I owed that Buddha some cash (borrowed subway fare) and I always liked to pay back my debts.


* Yomiuri reporters as an entity are sometimes called the Yomiuri-gun (Yomiuri army), and the unassigned reporters in the shakaibu (national news/crime/metro unit) are the yu-gun (literally the “goof-off army,” but with the traditional meaning of “reserve corps”).

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Prelude: Ten Thousand Cigarettes 3

Pt. 1 The Morning Sun

Fate Will Be on Your Side 11

It's Not About Learning - It's About Unlearning 22

All Right, Punks, Grab Your Notebooks 36

Blackmail, a Budding Reporter's Best Friend 48

It's the New Year, Let's Fight 56

The Perfect Manual of Suicide 62

The Chichibu Snack-mama Murder Case 73

Bury Me in a Shallow Grave: When the Yakuza Come Calling 87

The Saitama Dog Lover Serial Disappearances, Part One: So You're Asking Me to Trust You? 102

The Saitama Dog Lover Serial Disappearances, Part Two: Out of Bed, Yakuza Are Worthless Leeches 119

Pt. 2 The Working Day

Welcome to Kabukichol 139

My Night as a Host(ess) 158

Whatever Happened to Lucie Blackman? 169

ATMs and Jackhammers: A Day in the Life of a Shakaibu Reporter 197

Evening Flowers 203

The Emperor of Loan Sharks 213

Pt. 3 Dusk

The Empire of Human Trafficking 237

Ten Thousand and One Cigarettes 262

Back on the Beat 267

Yakuza Confessions 276

Two Poisons 294

Note on Sources and Source Protection 331

Author's Note 337

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 60 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Dark Side of The Land of the Rising Sun

    This is the book that became the subject of a 60 Minutes expose on four yakuza receiving liver transplants at UCLA. Jake Adelstein was a police reporter in Japan for over a decade and he does a fantastic job of guiding the reader through the underworld of Tokyo and its environs. We, as the reader, grow with him as he gets used to his job and learns the ropes of his trade, and in some ways, also are pulled down into the darkness as he burns out and goes way over his head. A look at the underbelly of Japan that is probably unprecedented. The final third of the book is extremely dark but watching Adelstein match wits with one of Japan's most infamous gangsters is extremely entertaining and it has a very bittersweet "happy" ending. The book lingers in your mind long after you've put it down.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Not-so-Ugly American Abroad

    Jake Adelstein is some kind of guy. This story is as much about him as it is about the sex industry in Tokyo. I mean, really, what kind of guy would have the hutzpah to study Japanese and then apply to be a newspaper journalist at the most prestigious newspaper in Japan? He downplays but admits to crushing difficulties, at least difficulties that would crush most of us. But perhaps you've met his kind--bold, bright, talkative, confident, curious, unimpressed. I have. I just never thought we'd get to see inside the head of one as much as we do in this revealing memoir about his work for the newspaper, working closely with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department to uncover crimes in "vice." Not only do we learn how newspapers work in Japan, we learn a bit about how the police works, how the sex industry works, and finally, how the gangsters, or yakuza work. This is an Iron and Silk for grownups. Total immersion into an Asian culture and well-written enough to serve as an introduction to outsiders.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 1, 2010

    Interesting and Rated R

    I love all things Japan, so was very excited to find this book. It's very detailed and one really feels like they begin to know Jake as a person and friend. The only complaint is that I didn't want to know what was going on in his bedroom. Handfulls of oral sex segments and it was unrelated (for the most part) to the sex trade issue. But, if one can get past that to see the bigger picture--this is a must-read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2014

    Not what I expected, but great read

    This turned out to be one of the most interesting books I've read in a long time (non-fiction, at least). Although the story wasn't what I was expecting, it quickly drew me in and I couldn't put it down.

    A fascinating insight into Japanese culture, a little hint of the US mob, and more.

    Highly recommend.

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  • Posted January 7, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    An unbelievable story

    I don't like writing long reviews, but there is so much to say about Tokyo Vice. Jake Adelstein tells his story of traveling to Japan, living in Japan, picking up their customs, and becoming a reporter. The book starts slow when discussing his choice to move to Japan. But as soon as he starts his career, as a reporter, the story picks up VERY fast. Adelstein has written this book perfectly. Every chapter is detailed and feels like fresh. I finished this book in less than a week. There is no other story like this. Anyone who is a reader must pick this up.

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  • Posted November 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Worth the read, and a big eye opener

    I'd have to say this one was a total eye opener and it felt like a whole new world was opened and you got to see a glimpse of it in a matter of 352 pages. Even that wasn't enough, I thought. I just wanted to know more about a country I know really nothing about. What I really liked about the book is Adelstein takes the time to explain to the reader the social customs and practices the Japanese have in their society and he does so with concise clear detail which does not deviate from the main narrative and it's very straight to the point. It gives the reader a good understanding on Japanese culture and custom, while at the same time providing an entertaining read. I really did enjoy the narrative voice throughout the book. It wasn't boring, or dry. It was fun, entertaining and when it got down to the serious moments it had the appropriate change of tone that I thought was well done. The funny moments in the book were just that. Extremely hilarious. The martial arts battle mentioned above has to be my favorite moment of the book. Picturing it, and reading it just made it altogether really funny and I found myself laughing out loud at that particular scene. There are plenty of funny moments all throughout the book, there's plenty of jibes towards Adelstein by his co-workers and friends that produce a chuckle from the reader, an added bonus is the fact that he's just learning the ropes of becoming a journalist. It's like 'picking on the rookie' theme throughout the first half of the book. As the book progresses, it does take a turn from funny to more seedy, and eventually to deadly serious. It's a gradual change, and I liked it as it was a very smooth transition without a blip. When the narrative did get serious, it suddenly felt as if you were a child who thought playing a game wasn't fun anymore. The comedy was out of the picture, replaced with a much darker theme and suddenly things just didn't seem so happy anymore. The ending leaves the reader empty and sad, yet praises go to Adelstein for finding a worthy cause to support. Do note however there are violent descriptions, and sexual descriptions in the book (it's to be expected considering the subject matter). I definitely recommend this book for those curious about the underbelly of Japan and organized crime. It's not what you think it is as depicted in movies. Read this as an eye opener, but also read it for entertainment as well. It's a wonderful narrative with a serious message in the end. You can't get anything better than this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2010

    Excellent

    An absolutely riveting account of crime reporting in Japan. It left me haunted after reading it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2010

    Fascinating Look at Japanese Life

    Greg Adelstein does a great job of explaining Japanese culture in ways Americans can understand. Tokyo Vice covers much more than how the Yakuza are organized, their place in Japanese society, and Japanese sexual predilections (though those alone are fascinating topics). If you're at all interested in other cultures, this book will keep you reading.

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