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

Jake Adelstein
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

13 Oct 2009
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. For twelve years of eighty-hour workweeks, he covered the seedy side of Japan, where extortion, murder, human trafficking, and corruption are as familiar as ramen noodles and sake. But when his final scoop brought him face to face with Japan’s most infamous yakuza boss—and the threat of death for him and his family—Adelstein decided to step down . . . momentarily. Then, he fought back.

In Tokyo Vice, Adelstein tells the riveting, often humorous tale of his journey from an inexperienced cub reporter—who made rookie mistakes like getting into a martial-arts battle with a senior editor—to a daring, investigative journalist with a price on his head. With its vivid, visceral descriptions of crime in Japan and an exploration of the world of modern-day yakuza that even few Japanese ever see, Tokyo Vice is a fascination, and an education, from first to last.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 335 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books; 1st edition (13 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307378799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307378798
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,135,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Terrific. With gallows humour and a hard-boiled voice, Adelstein takes readers on a shadow journey throught the Japanese underworld and examines the twisted relationships of journalists, cops, gangsters. Expertly told and highly entertaining. (George Pelecanos)

Sacred, ferocious, and businesslike, Adelstein describes the Japanese mafia like nobody else. (Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah.)

Gripping and absorbing ... A terrifying, deeply moral story that you cannot put down. (Misha Glenny, author of McMafia.)

Hugely fascinating... utterly authentic. (Literary Review)

Fascinating (Books Quarterly)

thrilling (Financial Times)

Hardcore (Jewish Chronicle)

Gripping. (Catholic Herald)

Fascinating. (James Cracknell, Daily Express) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

A page turning insider's account fighting crime in Japan. Does for Tokyo what Homicide did for Baltimore. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I'd hoped 20 Jan 2011
By Cuban Heel VINE VOICE
I first became aware of this book when I heard an extract of it read on Radio 4. It was the opening and it sounded so gripping that I rushed out and bought it straight away. I started to read it and yes, the opening was gripping and tense and had me turning the page desperate to find out what happened next. Then it moved on to the beginning of the author's career as an American journalist in Japan, and that was great too. After that, though, it kind of started to drift a little bit.

Don't get me wrong, each chapter of the book is interesting and very well written. It's just that the synopsis and the opening set you up for a very tight and linear tale where everything that happens to Adelstein leads up to this ultimate confrontation with the Yakuza. And the problem is, the structure of the book doesn't live up to that. The case that he opens with doesn't really reappear until towards the end, and inbetween are a series of individual crime cases that the author covered during his time in Tokyo, but which are not really related beyond the fact they involved him and, sometimes, different members of the Yakuza. It feels a bit like the book started out as a more general memoir and then, either as a framing device or under publisher pressure, this beginning was tagged on to make it seem more focused.

I'm not saying it's a bad book - it isn't. But I feel a bit disappointed as I was led to expect one thing and ended up with another. I think it would have been better had it just been presented as a series of memoirs, then the disjointed nature of some of it wouldn't have mattered.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just the facts, san 15 July 2010
By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
The memoirs of an American reporter who worked the crime beat for a major Japanese newspaper, Tokyo Vice is hardly a flattering portrait of the Japanese police. In a country where serious crime is still comparatively rare and attitudes are less than PC, at times it feels as if crime is regarded more as an administrative nuisance than a problem: sexual crimes are regarded as virtual misdemeanours, murders of foreigners (especially non-white foreigners) are often never investigated and yakuza are informed of raids in advance to avoid incident, information is rarely shared with foreign police agencies - or even ones in different Japanese districts - and courts often give minor sentences for major crimes.

Despite its dramatic opening that takes about 300 pages to pay off, it's far from the most comprehensive account of the modern yakuza you'll find, more a decent overview, but then they're not the book's real focus. Instead, it concerns itself with all aspects of newsworthy crime in Japan, resulting in few being addressed in particular detail. Adelstein is particularly good on the insularity, inefficiency and wilful bureaucratic blindness that seems a key part of Japanese officialdom's institutional mindset - there's an overriding sense of an establishment habitually controlling information to avoid taking responsibility for failure and of the media willingly going along with them to avoid being shut out and denied the meagre table scraps they are occasionally thrown. The author freely admits to being a part of this process, and it's something that could have been built on more, yet it still feels like he's being held back by the Shinbun newspaper's official guidelines that have taken root too firmly for him to shake free. But that's perhaps the least of the book's problems.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Ever since I spent a ten-day vacation in Japan, I've been keeping my eye out for interesting books that might help me better understand the country. I've traveled to a lot of countries in the world, but Japan felt more alien to me than any place I'd been. This book by an American who worked as a crime reporter for a major Japanese newspaper (Yomiuri Shinbun) during the 1990s is a decent window into the Japanese underworld, through which readers can get a sense of how Japanese society differs from that of the U.S.

The popular American image of the crime reporter is one of a kind of investigator/muckraker/sensationalist/lone ranger, always looking for the lurid scoop, eager to make the authorities look foolish. The Japanese version couldn't be much further from that. First of all, the sheer number of reporters assigned to the crime beat is astonishing. Several times in the book, he recounts how when news of a murder would come through, you might see 5-10 reporters from a single paper converging on the crime scene! Even more interesting is the overt dependence of the reporters on the cops. Not only are they based in an office within the police building, but they seem to be almost entirely reliant on police press releases and inside tips for their stories. Moreover, they are exceedingly deferential when it comes to the timing of when they actually file these stories. And yet even more striking is the extent to which reporters visit their cop sources at home, bring gifts, and form strange quasi-friendships/patronages.

In any event, Adelstein's beat inevitably leads him into the not-so-murky world of the yakuza, Japan's organized crime.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good read
Published 17 days ago by steve langley
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing read
Absolutely loved this book and was excited to hear a movie is being made of this with I believe the screenplay being written by Jake Adelstein. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mark Crory
4.0 out of 5 stars Damn good read, but .....
Despite some excessively long parts in the first half of the book, when Adelstein is describing his early days as a reporter in Japan, this book is a gripping read, especially in... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Stefan43
3.0 out of 5 stars Tokyo vice
An interesting insight into Japan's organised crime, police and journalistic culture.

The writing style was generally confident and engaging but at times it felt like it... Read more
Published 9 months ago by mrpunkjnr
5.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyable and interesting.
Japan's always been one of those cultures that's fascinated me, but still exists on my "to-do" list of places to visit. Read more
Published 15 months ago by James
4.0 out of 5 stars Unconventional, entertaining, intelligent and flawed
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... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Simon Alexander Collier
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Any foreigner who joins a Japanese company in Japan the way that Mr Adelstein did deserves a lot of credit. Read more
Published on 17 Sep 2012 by Steve in Japan
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read, real page turner
I hadn't read a book for a long time before I came across this, and the premise really interested me. Read more
Published on 13 Sep 2012 by masterbenru
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific, gripping
I don't understand how this book gets 1 and 2 star ratings. It's a terrific book, so well written that I read it from cover to cover in three sittings. Read more
Published on 12 April 2012 by Mr. R. W. M. Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars mixed feelings
This book attracted me by the cover and the title and the fact

that it was a true story. It had a promising beginning however

the more I read the more I... Read more
Published on 9 Mar 2012 by Green Book Addict Librarian
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