Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
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Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  3,699 ratings  ·  474 reviews
From the only American journalist ever to have been admitted to the insular Tokyo Metropolitan Police press club: a unique, firsthand, revelatory look at Japanese culture from the underbelly up.

At nineteen, Jake Adelstein went to Japan in search of peace and tranquility. What he got was a life of crime . . . crime reporting, that is, at the prestigious Yomiuri Shinbun. Fo...more
Hardcover, 335 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Pantheon
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3rd out of 246 books — 133 voters
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Mar 03, 2010 Jake rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
Everything I ever learned that was important in my life I put in this book; it's almost the totality of what I have learned about Japan and right and wrong and the grey areas in between., Giving it four stars is probably a little like as they say in Japanese, 自画自賛 (jiga-jisan) "praising your own painting" which is terribly immodest and not Japanese like at all but there you are. It's not perfect but it's probably the best book I will ever write and I'm happy with that.
I've gotten some really ni...more
Barrett  Dylan Brown
Dec 14, 2009 Barrett Dylan Brown rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Journalists, Secret Agents
Recommended to Barrett by: NPR
Wow. Double Wow. Did I say, wow? Jake Adelstein is an amazing superhero and a total douchebag. This book made me realize how potently similar the profession of Intelligence Officer and Reporter are. The only real difference is that in Reporting you protect your sources and in espionage you burn them.

Adelstein protects his sources while putting his family and friends at risk. He knows three forms of martial arts, speaks several languages, and happens to have a Japan fetish. Whether he really is C...more
After reading Tokyo Vice I had to take some time to digest it, to let the incongruities of laws and bureaucracy in Japan try to somehow make sense, to remind myself again and again that the world is an ugly, ugly place behind the neon lights and the advertisements and the glare of a TV screen. The impact that Tokyo Vice left upon me was as wide as an eclipse and as deep as a crater.

If you are looking for characters to admire you'll only find a few between these covers, Jake being one of them. Do...more
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 ge...more
Barry Graham
This is one of the most riveting books I've ever read. In fact, I'm writing this review after staying awake all night finishing reading it.

Adelstein isn't much of a writer. His prose is clumsy and frequently cliched, and he has sentences so awkward you can tell he's now more used to writing and speaking in Japanese than in his native English. But none of that matters. He's such a brilliant storyteller that it's easy to see how he was able to become a successful reporter for a Japanese newspaper...more
Our Abiko
Our Man tidied up an old blog post of a review. It was written under the influence of 7-Eleven red, but still holds, er, water:

a) If you read Tokyo Vice and don't immediately want to down a bottle of Jack Daniels and run off to journo school to do battle with the forces of evil, please, please, please unfriend Our Man on Facebook, unfollow Our Man on Twitter and un-, er, just go, because Our Man has no time for you.
b) Tell you what. You want the narrative voice of Holden Caulfield, with the wit...more
Jake Adelstein's recounts his time on the biggest Japanese Newspaper, Yomiuri Shinbun. This book promises yakuza, coverups, prostitution and...vice. However, Adelstein breaks the cardinal rule: your subject is interesting, not your experiences of them. No one wants to read about a journalist's experience, they just want to read about the story.

Unfortunately, we get a lot of anecdotes about his early days on the paper, vaguely interesting cases told without any setup or suspense, and updates abo...more
Jake Adelstein, like his book, is unconventional, entertaining, intelligent and flawed. A Jewish American who acquired Japanese language skills sufficient to be recruited as the first foreigner ever to work for Japan’s top selling newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun (not to be confused with its English offshoot, the Daily Yomiuri), "Tokyo Vice" is the tale of Adelstein's unique experiences, including his near fatal run-in with one of Japan’s major crime bosses and his admirable exposure of an importa...more
Tokyo Vice was not what I expected.

I learned about Tokyo Vice from NPR's Planet Money and listened to the interview with Jake Adelstein about the economics of Yakuza crime in Japan. I was expecting something more like "Tokyo Underground" but with a more economics spin. What I got was a very interesting True Crime book about the seedier side of Tokyo and its outer suburbs.

Although the book didn't give me what I initially expected, it did dish up huge heaping servings of wonderful True Crime Noir....more
I saw this guy interviewed on The Daily Show and thought it was one of the worst interviews I'd seen in a long time. But, the book looked very interesting. I received it as a Christmas present and blasted through it in three days. I thought the book would be more about the yakuza, but it was more about the the way Japanese society is organized and his relationships with the yakuza, the cops and fellow reporters. The yakuza are real and very tattooed and much bigger than the Mafia in America. The...more
Shawn Buckle
Japan today is a lot different from what the author portrays it as. The areas of Roppongi and Kabukicho have been cleaned up under Ishihara years ago, no longer filled with seediness and sleeze, although you can still find it if you look hard enough. It is much like the transition New York City went through.

It's difficult to understand the transformation of Tokyo when reading this book as I don't think Adelstein points to it enough. He should have, because it lends even more authenticity to his...more
This is a hell of a book. It starts off scintillating, continues to educate and outrage and ends both victorious and tragic. I have to admit that maybe I'd romanticized Japanese culture in my mind. This book certainly aquatinted me with the dark side, particularly of the Tokyo sex trade and human trafficking.
Michael Gerald Dealino
Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.

Jake Adelstein, an American graduate of Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan wanted to become a journalist for one of Japan's biggest newspapers, the Yomiuri Shinbun. Turns out, getting in was the easy part.

In this book, Adelstein tells his experiences working the police beat in Japan, lifting the veil on Japan's supposedly peaceful, orderly society. It is a society with a manual for almost anything, including suicide; where prostitution is suppos...more
Jake Adelstein's page turner of a memoir about being a police reporter at a large daily Japanese newspaper in the 90s. The material is fascinating, funny, scary and heartrending. The book is partly about the business side of crime in Japan and partly about what it's like to be a reporter in Japan. You also get that horrible gut churning feeling of knowing these 'characters' are all real people. The crimes have real victims. The toll of the job on Adelstein (and the people he loves) is significan...more
Susan Garrett
Bit of a culture shock - having grown up completely in the US, I knew law and order was different in Other Lands, but had no idea how different it could be. Despite the 'law' aspect, US policing appears to be reactive and chaotic when compared to the extremely rigid Japanese legal system. It's interesting to note that the book covers a period of time and that some of the observations are valid only in a historical sense (however recent that history might be), but there are some topics that fall...more
Peter B
Excellent read. The book is a patchwork of stories from Jake Adelstein's life as a police reporter, spanning from his early days until he is confronted with a life-or-death situation involving one of the most powerful yakuza bosses, which in the end pretty much leads him to write this very book.

It gets fairly graphic at times, but then again, you are reading about mafia - so don't expect unicorns and rainbows here. It's written from Jake's first-person perspective, telling his own story as much...more
Eva Leger
This is another that should have been reviewed as soon as I finished, especially considering all the notes I took and all I wanted to say. Some of it, most maybe, will be forgotten now.
Japan has never interested me much, certainly not like it has for Adelstein, so I'm not even sure what exactly drew me to this book. It must have been the police/mafia connection because those subjects do interest me. To a lesser degree someone doing something for the first time in a foreign place also interests m...more
Caleb Ross
This is how great Twitter can be: when I was just 20 pages into Tokyo Vice, I posted this update:
Jake Adelstein's TOKYO VICE makes me want to be yakuza

He responded the next day with:
@calebjross It's supposed to have the opposite effect. :)

Considering that this exchange was completely unanticipated, I was quite surprised by the direct line of contact with the author. I assumed that the exchange would end there. But, then I finished the book, and I realized how insulting my first comment could hav...more
I'm going to tell you straight away that this is a great book. If you're at all interesting in Yakuza, Japan, journalism, or crime in general, this is a great book to pick up. It's full of great stories, sad stories, and a bit of procedural journalism, which I found pretty fascinating. Jake calls back to how he found his way into Japan, and how he got his start as a reporter, and follows high notes in his career until you are left with his (at the time) current state of affairs, after being thre...more
I heard about this book from an interview and followed up by reading the prelude. Both of these led me to believe that this book would be a journey into the yakuza (Japanese Mafia) and how it related to journalism and the rest of life. I was disappointed. Only about 1/3 of the book actually related to the yakuza. The first few chapters hooked me in describing how the author actually managed to get into Japanese journalism when his Japanese writing skills were only marginal. But, it is clear that...more
Alexander Polsky
A must-read, a crime story, a primer on Japanese culture, an expose on international human trafficking in the sex trade, a scandal about how UCLA surgeons provide organ transplants (with organs that seem to appear conveniently quickly) to yakuza for big bucks (laundered through Las Vegas casinos) and a bildungsroman. There are so many disparate elements at work in this book, it is sui generis.

The story of a young Jewish college kid who decides to take the Yomiuri Shinbun exam and gets hired on a...more
TOKYO Vice is three things: an outsider’s perspective on Japan in the ’90s and noughties; an insider’s view of the complex, quite often contradictory symbiotic relationship between that country’s press, police force and organised crime syndicates; and an example of the classic journalistic dilemma—how far a person is willing to compromise their own principles in search of a story. American Jake Adelstein goes to Japan as a college student, to learn the language and perhaps even become a Buddhist...more
Tokyo Vice is the first person perspective of Jake Adelstein, a human rights activist who worked as a reporter for Japan's largest newspaper. Adelstein's book touches on several topics, including Japanese journalism, the low rate of crime in Japan but the lower rate of crime clearance by the Tokyo police, the culture of the yakuza organized crime groups, and the sex industry that permeates Tokyo's red-light district, also known as Soapland.

The narrative jumps from topic to topic as Adelstein is...more
Thomas Norwood
This book is very enjoyable. Having spent some time in Japan myself, and never really scratching below the surface, it was a real pleasure to get such a great insight into Japanese culture. Who could imagine that below the ever-so-polite surface, Japanese people (according to this book) are just as rude to one another, if not ruder, than most westerners? And that Japanese society is far more corrupt than one would ever give it credit for? Not only a great insight into Japan, it is also a very ea...more
Pretty solid balance of insider vs. outsider info working the crime beat of a major Japanese newspaper. It certainly demystifies a lot about Japanese bureaucracy within several industries: news, police, and yakuza.

The author is imperfect, most are, but there are several moments when he talks about himself that I wished he wouldn't. I think that I prefer the David Simon method of reporting (a la Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets) to Adelstein's.
A fascinating, can't-put-down look at the Japanese underworld as observed by an American journalist. Adelstein's personal stories reveal a side to Japan that I'd vaguely known about, but had never examined close up. A reminder that it takes an outsider to reveal larger truths about cultural behavior and its larger implications (in this case, Japan's sex industry as well as organized crime in Japan).
It was nice, for a change, to read a book about Japan that didn't spend hundreds of pages explaning the cultural differences between Japan and the West. This is the other side of Confessions of a Yakuza, the side where the human toll is readily apparent. I suppose that "smart" criminals ignore the consequences of their selfishness.
Jake Adelstein was the only American ever admitted to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Club and the rarest of journalists in Japan: a foreigner working for a Japanese language daily newspaper. "Tokyo Vice" is his memoir, and details his career from early days as a fledgling beat reporter fumbling through both a new job and a foreign culture, to the end, 12 years later, when he put his life on the line to help bring down a notorious yakuza boss.

"Tokyo Vice" is full of rich, personal detail and glimp...more
Bob Hoffman
Fifth star is for fellow Gaijin who have lived in Japan. Can't be sure it would be as fantastic for everyone else. For Gaijin who live, or have lived, in Japan, it's a must-read.
I started following Jake Adelstein on Twitter when I read his excellent video game review (Yakuza 3 reviewed by actual Yakuza)

Tokyo Vice is being turned into a movie, starring Daniel Radcliffe, so it seemed like an apt time to read the book.

Jake Adelstein was the first Westerner reporter for a major Japanese newspaper and he primarily did the police beats, focusing on organized crime and vice. This book is a collection of stories about him on the beat and...more
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Japanophiles!: Tokyo Vice 1 14 Aug 04, 2013 11:27AM  
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“You develop a kind of admiration for criminal genius and ruthless efficiency, and you forget that the criminal empire is built on human pain and suffering.” 3 likes
“Confession is for the confessor. It makes you feel good; it ruins the lives of everyone else. It’s a selfish thing to do. Don’t confess.” 1 likes
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