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VINE VOICEon 22 June 2010
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Fascinating book full of interesting facts and stranger-than-fiction stories from the first hand encounter of the underworld of Tokyo. The author has gone deeper than many other before him, though as a foreigner there is still a limit on how much he have uncovered. I've enjoyed it as a light read.
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is not an easy proposition, an American jew working for a major Tokyo news corporation on the crime beat.

But it is good, so good, the writer is self effacing and readily admits his struggle with understanding japanese culture and we are taken along in his journey of discovery.

The weirdness of Japanese society really comes out here, there is one chapter where he discusses the bestselling books in Japan and how a particularly popular book is a guide how to commit suicide! The inevitable follows where he comes across bodies that were suicides following the suicide manual.

This is really mindblowing stuff and very interesting to read. He also covers things like pornography in Japan and their very skewed views and laws on the issue.

This book really threw me but at the same time it was very interesting to read, the writer has struck a really nice balance of being a determined crime reporter but at the same time stumbling through the battlefield that is Japanese etiquette, he readily admits that many of his scoops are down to people feeling sorry for him and his messing up.

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on 22 May 2014
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. If your interested in true crime or Japan this is a must
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VINE VOICEon 8 June 2010
Jake Adelstein's Tokyo Vice comes well dressed with quotes of warm praise, not least from George Pelecanos, one of the producers of The Wire, ("Terrific. Expertly told and highly entertaining... Hard-boiled.") which led me to expect much. Some punch, a strange yet fulfilling journey, perhaps. However, the reality is this overly long, and at times somewhat laborious and chewy memoir of the author's time as a reporter in Tokyo, falls considerably short of the hype.

Much is made of Tokyo Vice as a worthy expose of Japan's dark underbelly, with the Yakuza featuring prominently; yet the book never really gets it teeth into anything, nor grabs much of a sniff of anything approaching a defining plot. What you actually get for your 335 pages is less a peeling away of layers as our journo slowly but surely discovers, then picks up on, some Yakuza trail; eventually breaking a story of great purpose whilst helping to bring down some devious mob boss, or expose some Yakuza cell to the flashing lights of justice. And more a meandering stream of events, stitched together with little thought to a sense of jeopardy, purpose or drive (short of recording the author's time in Japan). And without any of these, there is very little to hold one's interest. The only reason I kept reading was in the hope that something was going to kick in, that the ever extending introduction would give way to the point to this all; but no, Adelstein just keeps plodding on.

Propelled by the author's first person voice, Tokyo Vice commits the crime of so many also-ran books destined for the bargain bin: too much pointless dialogue; a seeming lack of a conscious editor. I say this because I'd wager every single conversation the author ever had in all his years in Tokyo is in this book. Exchanges seems to bounce back and forth between the author and every Tom, Dick or Sally quite pointlessly in even the most inconsequential situation. Which, unfortunately, proves one thing above all: Adelstein (quite surprisingly for a journalist) appears to lack awareness of that one single notion all good editorials require - a hook to make the reader care.

Clearly in thrall to the big boys, and no doubt aiming for the same shelf as Sebastian Junger's Perfect Storm or Homicide by David Simon, Adelstein's crack at the non-fiction novel - in which the mundane of the everyday can, in the right hands, reveal great beautiful truths about life - reads more like a rather vain, over-excited account of someone's gap year in Tokyo. It's light, too, as the author seeks to portray the comedy of life, but eventually just comes across as self-indulgent with the reader's attention span. As the saying goes, everyone has a book in them; but this does raise questions: Should they necessarily write it? Will it actually be any good? Given the beauty, mystery and atmosphere of Japan, and the shiver-inducing reputation of the Yakuza for brutality - the very things this book is hyped on - I would say Tokyo Vice is a very firm cross for the results column, rather than a tick.
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on 7 July 2015
Such an interesting book. It has certainly added to my understanding and view of Japanese life.
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on 11 December 2014
Awesome book about the inner workings of Japanese crime gangs and the police.
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on 13 November 2015
This is a book well worth reading,truly gripping,edge of the seat stuff.
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on 14 November 2014
exceeded all my expectations! more than just a great book :) thank you.
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on 20 August 2015
Excellent a fascinating book, one of those you can't put down.
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Tokyo Vice is part memoir, part crime tale, part cultural study - and all of it is sharply observed, and interesting to read. The author describes the beginning of his career with a prestigious Japanese daily newspaper, using his position as an outsider to draw attention to and discuss cultural differences, masked in his interactions with other newspaper employees, and the stories that they covered. The prose is typically sharp, edged with one liners and witty remarks, observant, and very difficult to put down. The culture is clearly one that the author has immersed themselves in, and that depth of knowledge shines through in the descriptions of the various cities - Tokyo in particular is rendered very vividly.

As the text moves forward, the author is assigned to the police beat, in Tokyo and elsewhere, and the reader follows Adelstein as he reports on a variety of interesting cases, trades information with cops and informants, and struggles with the morality of the compromises he is required to make in order to report effectively on vice and gang related crime.

While it is possible to portray this as a novel about Yakuza, gangsters, and vice crime in Japan, it can also be seen as a personal journey by the author, from a naive cub reporter to a man struggling not to lose sight of himself when surrounded by individuals on both sides of the law who are morally grey at best. The final sections in particular, centred around human trafficking, sacrifice the fluidity of the previous prose for a more jagged, personal style. Where previous parts of the book read almost as a Chandlerian noir novel, the last segments seem far more personal, the prose almost jerked from the author directly onto the page. It's a different mood to that created previously, but also very effective.

The book explores vice, Yakuza, the culture of criminality and criminal culture of Japan (as well as a sound portrayal of general Japanese life), but also touches on love, morality, personal relationships and the possibility of redemption. It's clever, often hilarious but also sometimes hauntingly poignant. Fast paced, and intriguing, but laced with a certain darkness of mood.
In any case, this is an excellent read, whether you came for the scathing cultural anthropology, the stories of gangs and criminal enterprise, or the personal journey of the author. Extremely well written, and recommended.
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