Perhaps I am predisposed toward this author because I am also a Jewish guy from Missouri. However, I have nowhere near the temerity that the author has, who became so fluent in Japanese that he became a reporter in Japan and ultimately winds up taking on the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia.
This book has the elements of a confessional memoir, with crime stories woven within, and an in-depth look at Japanese life and culture, all in one package. On the latter, it centers mostly on the seamier side of Japanese life and culture in its criminal and sex trade arenas.
Unlike another review I recall that did not like the author reading the text, I found it a very authentic reading that added something a professional reader may not have accomplished.
It is a riveting read and I highly recommend it.
This book is a full of surprises and wonders even for a Japanese like me, exposing the details of all the hidden aspects of Japanese underground cultures like sex industries, organized crimes, foreign workers, and so many others. These things you only hear from rumors, low profile weekly magazines or yellow evening news papers. Now they are all uncovered by a former prestigious Yomiuri reporter Jake Adelstein, who I would like to call "Henna gaijin (a weird foreigner)" with a sense of great respect as he dared to stick into the things that most Japaneses try to avoid even mentioning.
I have lived in/near Tokyo in most of 90's and 00's, and am kind of familiar with most of the news stories covered in this book through TVs and newspapers. But, I learned they are totally different from inside. For example, in the case with Saitama dog-lover serial murders, the connection between the breeder and an organized crime group was barely mentioned on Japanese TVs and major newspapers. Other things as well.
The narration by the author gives vividness to the scenes and to the tone of the voices of the people in the book. Although it is not of professional, I found I am kind of fond of it.
Great work, no doubt.
Many Japanese consider Japan to be the safest country in the world. This myth is apparently part of the social consciousness. Yet as Adelstein shows, the reason for this is the police activity itself is narrowly defined and police powers very limited. This gives the impression that Japan has a low crime rate. Other reviewers said that the narration was a problem. This made me think twice about purchasing this title. Don't! The narration is fine and the are only a few places in the 9 hours where the author speaks at speed but I would not have preferred a voice actor.
Adelstein's achievements as a reporter in the context of Japan are noteworthy in themselves. But he has achieved much more than just reporting as this work will tell. I also found some useful clips on Youtube to look at with the author.
I gave it five stars as it is a great true story, well told, but has social impact that really makes this an ongoing tale.
A highly enjoyable audiobook. The author really captures what it's like being an American reporter at a Japanese newspaper. The stories Adelstein writes about are always fascinating, scary and heartbreaking. A terrific read. My one complaint would be that the author sometimes reads the text too quickly and isn't really trained in voicing audiobooks. Once you get used to his cadence, though, it's just fine.
Jake Adelstein has written and narrated a tremendous book detailing his time as a newspaper crime reporter and freelance crime journalist in Japan. He is probably one of the most knowledgeable Westerners on topics like the Yakuza and Japanese red-light districts, and to listen to a book which 1) expounds in great detail on such interesting subjects and 2) is quite entertaining is a sheer pleasure.
The author's narration is also excellent, not at all "over the top" as I have had to suffer through with many other audiobooks. In the end, it is Adelstein's honesty (both about his own inner thoughts and actions and the identities and places featured) that caused me to rate this book 5+ stars.
Out of 20 books in my Audible library, a handful deserve 5 stars. Only three deserve 5+ (the others are Snowball and The Greatest Trade Ever) because I was compelled to listen for 1+ hours/day.
Tokyo Vice starts off as a dry, but fascinating organizational study of the Japanese media and work culture, appealing to any amateur sociologist. Slowly it ramps up to a shocking survey of Japan's seedier side: Yakuza crime, murder, and human trafficking. Mr. Adelstein's vivid portrayal both drew me closer to, and alienated me from, the Tokyo I thought I knew. His reading is compelling. Though he isn't a professional it was a treat to hear the real emotion in his voice as he discussed the events that happened to him as his life was endangered by the type of reporting he was conducting. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Japan, crime reporting, and the Yakuza mythos.
I give this book 5 stars for content, but the author's amateurish narration only gets 1-2. On the plus side, I found this true story told by a skillful (and admittedly somewhat foolhardy) American working as a first time reporter in Japan engrossing. The author takes you inside the workings of Japanese journalism, culture, and the operations of yakuza organized crime syndicates. Mr Adelstein is often brutally honest about himself. His brave reporting of Yakuza exploitation in the face of personal risk is a public service. I found the content of the book both educational and dramatically engaging in the way one would hope from this kind of expose. Unfortunately, the author is a much better writer than narrator of spoken word audio. In my past, I produced hundreds books on tape for national publishers. I learned the hard way that authors, unless they also happen to be actors or professional broadcasters, seldom are any good at reading their own material because narrating and writing are two entirely different skills. Mr. Adelstein's reedy, sotto vocce narration style is just plain amateurish and sometimes hard to understand, especially at "faster" speed on my Ipod. He often falls into a repetitively droning rising and falling cadence that has little to do with the dramatic content of each sentence. He does not enunciate very clearly and occasionally swallows words. This book would have been much more enjoyable if it had been read by an experienced professional narrator who could really bring out the dramatic sense of the work. I suspect the audio publisher figured they could save time and money in the recording studio because the author would know the correct pronunciation of Japanese names and expressions. It was not worth the trade off. The result is barely adequate -- just acceptable enough to get me through the book. I did not listen to the sample recording under the Audible listing. I suggest you do so before downloading this book.
While some others denigrate the narration of the author, I found it to be a low key but brutally honest examination of life in Japan and the Japanese crime beat. Loved the story, and the narration fit the general style and tone of the yarn being told.
Yes, It's a good story, especially for a reader interested in Japanese Culture
Description of the scenarios. I could vividly imagine the situations encountered by the narrator. Having traveled to Japan before, and believing it to be this idealistic place with no crime, this really proves that the Japanese society, like most societies, is not perfect.
Unfortunately, his narration was a little dorky... and awkward. He stumbled on his words many times.. both English words and any Japanese words he had to say. It made me take the story not-so-seriously, as if the narrator didn't truly live these events. He also didn't take his time reading, so, dramatic effect was lost. It was like he was nervous and didn't practice, and just posted the first take of the book.
The most interesting tidbit that I picked up was that the Japanese Mafia (yakuza) functions outside of Japan, very heavily.. Also that there are books and guidelines written in Japanese on how to ..basically live your life, or "leave" your life.
New narrator please, or re-record it.
If you are interested in Japanese culture, this is a great listen. It presents the side of the culture, primarily crime, that is rarely show in full light. It shows the seeder parts of Japan as seen through the eyes of an American who has spent a great portion of his life there.