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

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  8,627 ratings  ·  858 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
Hardcover, 335 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Pantheon
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  8,627 ratings  ·  858 reviews

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Nov 28, 2009 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
Jeffrey Keeten
May 08, 2014 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
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
Christ, what a douche.
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
Apr 21, 2010 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
Dr. Barrett  Dylan Brown, Phd
Nov 16, 2009 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
Jan 02, 2010 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
Nov 10, 2009 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
Dana Moison
Nov 24, 2018 rated it liked it
It's hard to define this book under one category: Does it have a substantiated plot or is it non-fiction? Autobiography or biographic? Documentary or fictional? It probably has a little bit of everything.
This is a human document that allows us to get a glimpse of the Japanese society.
I personally find the Japanese culture to be very intriguing, so when I heard there was a book describing the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia, I knew I had to read it.
The book begins rather slowly and mostly focuses o
Mar 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
Full disclosure: I lived in Tokyo for seven years as a teacher and office worker and, for a year during that time, dated a proof-reader for an international news agency, so I have some insight into the culture and the job.

That said, I was really surprised at how disappointing this book was. For a memoir about a reporter's career investigating yakuza, prostitution, drugs, corruption, sex-trafficking, and murder, it's really dull. I wanted to rate this book a little higher for just being mediocre,
Nov 12, 2009 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
Feb 19, 2010 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
Rohit Enghakat
This book is the author's description of his experiences as a crime reporter in a Japanese daily Yomiuri Shinbun. There is no plot as such. The book is divided into different chapters of the author's various assignments covering the crime beat in Tokyo. the narrative is not too captivating and one may either like it or hate it. The most interesting tidbits were about the workings of the Japanese sex industry and the sleazy nightlife description. Although there was a lot about the yakuza but noth ...more
Jul 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery, japan
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
Michael Gerald
Jan 12, 2014 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
Our Abiko
Mar 20, 2012 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
Daniel Warriner
Jul 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Journalist Jake Adelstein's Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan is a remarkable achievement on a number of fronts. Here you've got a guy who comes to Tokyo to study at Sophia University (in the early 90s), lands a job reporting in Japanese for the Yomiuri Shinbun, works round the clock to make connections and eke out information at police branches and on various strata of the underworld, and gets the stories out there in the face of media red tape and threats of reprisal ...more
Nov 29, 2012 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
Jan 06, 2010 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.
Shawn Buckle
Dec 09, 2011 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
Dec 28, 2009 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
Tamsien West (Babbling Books)
Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Tokyo Vice is one of those books that sticks with you. Even years after first picking it up in the university book shop when I was going through a 'new new journalism' phase, I still think about this book from time to time. This is probably heightened as I follow the author on twitter (he remains a reporter in Tokyo to this day), and have travelled to Japan 4 or 5 times since reading it for the first time. In any case, Adelsten's book is a rare window into the Japanese police force, news media, ...more
Michael Pronko
Apr 23, 2015 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. ...more
Aug 10, 2014 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. ...more
Dave Hill
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As an occasional journalist, I really liked this book. As a Japanophile, I loved it. And as a guy who is basically a slave to the underworld and also sometimes likes reading about bath houses and stuff, I couldn't put it down. ...more
Japan has always been a country that operated a bit separately from the rest of the world. Not a surprise given the country's isolation from the rest of the world for a good chunk of time. So, it's only natural that one would be drawn to learning as much as they can about it.

This is what the author Jake Adelstein did during the 90s and 2000s. having completed his degree in Tokyo, he went on to work on the police beat for one of the most prominent newspaper industry. This book is half memoir of
Jul 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: asia, 2018
A hard-hitting & fascinating book.
Emi Bevacqua
Nov 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating look at how the yakuza subculture coexists with Japanese police and mass media. Jake Adelstein left Missouri at 19 to study abroad at Sophia University in Tokyo, and upon graduating became the first gaijin (non-Japanese) hired on as a career journalist at the highly esteemed Yomiuri Shinbun. Tokyo Vice spans his newspaper career covering Organized Crime and Vice Crime in and around Tokyo from 1993 to 2005 (plus a couple years post-Yomiuri). Thrilling, suspenseful, filthy, tragic, tru ...more
Philip Girvan
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
An entertaining romp through underworld Tokyo, but there's far too much focus on the author's marital difficulties, his sexual conquests, and his struggles as a gajin reporter navigating Japanese protocol and culture.

The book does have some good stories, a lot of black humor, and a bracing examination of contemporary Japan's darker aspects. There were a couple of interesting tidbits re the relationship between organized crime and Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) such as the Koizumi family'
Oct 08, 2009 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. ...more
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Japanophiles!: Tokyo Vice 1 28 Aug 04, 2013 11:27AM  

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