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Tokyo Vice Paperback – 8 Jul 2010

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Frequently Bought Together

Tokyo Vice + For Fukui's Sake: Two years in rural Japan + People Who Eat Darkness: Love, Grief and a Journey into Japan's Shadows
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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (8 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849014647
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849014649
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 2.7 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 198,621 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)

Book Description

A page turning insider's account fighting crime in Japan. Does for Tokyo what Homicide did for Baltimore.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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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40 of 45 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steve in Japan on 17 Sept. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Any foreigner who joins a Japanese company in Japan the way that Mr Adelstein did deserves a lot of credit. I can only imagine the struggles with the language, the culture and the not-so-subtle discrimination. The way he lays out his early experiences at the Yomiuri are great - he doesn`t complain or feel sorry for himself, must have been tempting to jack it in at times. He also nailed the Japanese humour in quite a few places in ways that made me laugh out loud.

The descriptons of Roppongi and Kabukicho etc are spot on, and I think capture the quirkiness and excitement of those places, as well as the sordid and the human suffering. Its a brave man who tells this story and I think the author does it very well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By mr_ska TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There are a variety of tensions in Jake Adelstein's Tokyo Vice. Some of which detract from the overall impact of the book despite being a product of the social world which the book is meant to shed light on. The most problematic is the nature of Adelstein's work as a reporter for the Yomiuri Shinbun. It is initially presented as a giant coup for a westerner to be allowed into the 'high status' and closed world of Japanese newspaper journalism, yet it quickly becomes apparent that the work is deeply morally compromised and more or less entirely rotten to the core. Whilst that could, and probably should have been presented as an exposé of the sleazy reality of Japanese print journalism it is instead left as ambivalent and unresolved problem. Almost as if Adelstein had achieved a great and flawless victory in being given the honour of living amongst the rats in the sewer.

Aside from that problem the rest of the book is really quite informative and a good reminder that there is nothing glamorous or enticing about the reality of Tokyo life. In fact, Adelstein does a very good job of showing that behind the surface differences between Japanese culture and American or British cultures the underlying dynamics are much the same. His explanations of how the Yakuza operate and how the older generation of Yakuza feel that the younger ones have lost all of the true spirit and respectful internal subculture quite closely mirror the kinds of attitudes you can find amongst older criminals from the East End of London should you have an interest in reading other books around that subject. That includes the unacknowledged hypocrisies from the older generation of criminals in both Japan and London.
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