Tia's Reviews > Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan

Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein
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's review
Apr 21, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: detective-noir, memoirs, non-fiction
Read in April, 2010

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 about people he once knew. The one interesting thing that happened to him--namely, that he got on the wrong side of a Yakuza boss and was forced to publish or literally perish--was teased at the outset but not covered at all until the last 50 pages of the book.

For someone who writes for a living, he seems to be sadly deficient in some of the basics. Or maybe, as a journalist, he never learned how to sustain interest over a whole book's length.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Hugh Ashton Tia, I think you've missed some of the point of the book, which is to describe the relationship between the media, the gangs, and the police. Without the personal experiences, the book would have been somewhat flat. Since the Japanese setup of newspapers, etc. is so radically different to that of the rest of the world, background is needed - and purely factual reporting would be dull as ditchwater.

To say "no-one wants to read about a journalist's experience" seems an odd thing to say, in the light of Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Truman Capote, and other practitioners of "the New Journalism" (hardly new now!).

Davide Pedroni Tia, I agree with you 100%. I'm not sure that no-one wants to read about a journalist ever, but for sure when you buy a book that is supposed to be about yakuza and trafficking you don't want to book to be 80% about the life of a journalist in Japan.

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