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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

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3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,503 Ratings  ·  605 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
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Hardcover, 335 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Pantheon
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Shōgun by James ClavellMemoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenNorwegian Wood by Haruki MurakamiTokyo Vice by Jake AdelsteinThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Best Books About Japan
4th out of 310 books — 206 voters
Tokyo Vice by Jake AdelsteinShōgun by James ClavellThe Shackles Of A Name by Martin Adil-SmithInstruction Manual for the 21st Century Samurai by Alexei Maxim RussellConfessions of a Yakuza by Junichi Saga
Good books about Japan
1st out of 132 books — 60 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jake
Mar 03, 2010 Jake rated it really liked it  ·  (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
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Jeffrey Keeten
May 23, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Mara
Shelves: the-japanese
”Either erase the story , or we’ll erase you. And maybe your family. But we’ll do them first, so you learn your lesson before you die.”

Jake Adelstein went to Japan at the tender age of nineteen. One beautiful thing about being nineteen is it still feels like anything is possible. I remember those heady days well, when failure was a foreign word and those bumps in the road were not anything to get stressed about. On the inside cover of the book, it said that Adelstein had gone to Japan “in search
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Dr. Barrett  Dylan Brown, Phd
Dec 14, 2009 Dr. Barrett Dylan Brown, Phd rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Journalists, Secret Agents
Recommended to Dr. 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
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Erin
Feb 01, 2010 Erin rated it it was amazing
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
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Trish
Nov 20, 2009 Trish rated it really liked it
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
Feb 12, 2011 Barry Graham rated it it was amazing
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
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Tia
Apr 21, 2010 Tia rated it it was ok
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
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Kerry Miller
Christ, what a douche.
Ikebukuro
Jul 06, 2016 Ikebukuro rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Avant toute chose j’aimerai signaler la qualité d’impression de ce livre paru aux Editions Marchialy avec un papier de qualité et une mise en page soignée et originale. Quant au récit, j’ai adoré du début à la fin. Dès les premières pages le lecteur est embarqué dans une histoire d’autant plus incroyable qu’elle est basée sur la réalité des affaires de la mafia japonaise. On découvre le parcours inattendu de l’auteur, un quotidien étonnant et des personnages inquiétants et hauts en couleur. On i ...more
AC
Jul 22, 2014 AC rated it liked it
Shelves: japan, crime-mystery
3.5 stars -- but a positive 3.5. This is an interesting book, and Jake's an intersting guy. He takes some flack for having dolled up his prose a little (fair enough), and he's definitely a self-absorbed kinda guy (as he's the first to admit). But there's some real honesty here -- about himself, as well as about others - a lot of insight into the lunacy that is contemporary Japan - and, in the final analysis, Jake's a guy with balls -- who took a lot of risks (including risking his life) to be, u ...more
AK
Mar 23, 2014 AK rated it it was ok
Very mixed feelings about this one. I never got over my distrust as Adelstein as a narrator, a judgment mainly rooted in my own time spent in Japan, and the incongruousness of the hardboiled, poorly constructed, and ego-centered writing alongside claims of serious and altruistically motivated journalism. I don't think those things (hard living and altruism) are inherently contradictory, but in this book the claims toward both mostly serve the cause of making Jake Adelstein seem like an awesome b ...more
Michael Gerald
Feb 04, 2014 Michael Gerald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Our Abiko
May 20, 2012 Our Abiko rated it it was amazing
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
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Ekaizar
Mar 05, 2010 Ekaizar rated it it was ok
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
Robert Fenner
Jake Adelstein is a talented and hard-working journalist who has written some enlightening and important articles about crime, Yakuza, enjou kosai and the darker side of Japan's sex industry. I recently was made aware of his memoir, Tokyo Vice, and out of respect for his work, thought I'd give it a go.

Unfortunately, Tokyo Vice is not an important or enlightening book. Though it does contain some interesting bits and pieces about the Japanese metropolitan underworld, the majority of the book is t
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Simon
Nov 29, 2012 Simon rated it really liked it
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
Emily
Jan 06, 2010 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
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Jim
Jan 20, 2011 Jim rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 09, 2011 Shawn Buckle rated it liked it
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
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Michael Pronko
Apr 23, 2015 Michael Pronko rated it really liked it
A great reporter who has gotten far below the surface of Japanese life. This is a great read and shouldn't be missed. Some readers might be put off a bit by the self-focus, but Adelstein is a rare foreigner to have dug into the depths of crime, society and the real connections that keep things running, though not to everyone's advantage. As a reporter in two languages, his writing is sharp, clear and to the point. A genuine insight into Japan.
Monica
Aug 10, 2014 Monica rated it really liked it
This is a great story, and very unique. It is an insider's view on what it what like to be a foreign reporter in Japan. It is about writing, life in Japan, and the seedy underbelly of a beautiful country. I found it to be very informative, as well as well written. This novel gave me a glimpse into a life completely different than my own, and it was fascinating.
Marisa Ikstrums
Feb 14, 2015 Marisa Ikstrums rated it it was amazing
I expected to be ambivalent about this book. I did not expect to blow through it in less than a week and come out so much better educated about the yakuza (and crime reporting in Japan) for it. This book is incredibly informative (and more than a little scary) but manages to read like a thriller. It was hard to remember that his story is real.
Janki Sharma Tandon
Apr 15, 2015 Janki Sharma Tandon rated it really liked it
This book is a chronicle about the underbelly of Japan by an incredibly bold journalist. That the book is an emotional expression of personal angst more than the desire to tell a story is apparent from the simplicity of prose and the construction of the story.

Jake appears to be well-imbued with Japanese culture - much beyond what is attributable to his studying and staying in the country for 14-years. He appears to have an inherent affinity for the Japanese way of doing things which earns him t
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Issy
Oct 19, 2009 Issy rated it really liked it
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.
Helena
Feb 01, 2016 Helena rated it it was amazing
Short version review: incredibly brilliant. Read this book.

Unnecessary additional commentary follows.
Disclaimer: extraordinarily self-important, stupid, naïve, eternally slightly drunk commentary taken via voice to text on my iPhone as I read this book, just like all the rest of my reviews here on Goodreads.

This book is truly absolutely incredible. Enjoyed it very much... It is hard to really describe, but it really put you through the ringer of human emotion. Adelstein covers all of his topic
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J.M.
Sep 15, 2015 J.M. rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Japan enthusiasts & true crime readers
Tokyo Vice, Tokyo Vice...

I'll try to structure this review in properly journalistic inverted-pyramid format. Overall, it's a really interesting story, written simply, directly, and honestly. It's easily a better American-in-Asia memoir than this other title I read recently *cough* Eat, Pray, Love *cough*. However, it was, at least in my experience, a bit front-loaded: the most balanced chapters are in the first half of the book, where Adelstein is being recruited by Japan's most-read newspaper (
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Patrick Sherriff
Jan 11, 2015 Patrick Sherriff rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan, journailsm
I 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 me on Facebook, unfollow me on Twitter and un-, er, just go, because I have no time for you.
b) Tell you what. You want the narrative voice of Holden Caulfield, with the wit of Huckleberry Finn (
...more
Suzie
Jan 02, 2010 Suzie rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Dec 04, 2009 Susan Garrett rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 01, 2009 Peter B rated it it was amazing
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
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“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.” 4 likes
“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
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