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Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan Hardcover – 13 Oct 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 335 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books; 1st edition (13 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307378799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307378798
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.7 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,057,695 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

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 15 July 2010
Format: Paperback
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 By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 5 May 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Cuban Heel VINE VOICE on 20 Jan 2011
Format: Paperback
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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