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Publisher's Summary

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 19, 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 12 years of 80-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.

©2009 Jake Adelstein; (P)2009 Random House

Critic Reviews

"Not just a hard-boiled true-crime thriller, but an engrossing, troubling look at crime and human exploitation in Japan." (Kirkus)
"A deeply thought-provoking book: equal parts cultural exposé, true crime, and hard-boiled noir." (Publishers Weekly,)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • Steven
  • Long Beach, US, Canada
  • 02-07-10

Memoir, crime story and travelogue in one package

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.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great book that reveals the underground of Japan

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Like the Japan I see

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.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Richard
  • Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • 07-01-10

Engrossing

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sean
  • Austin, TX, USA
  • 02-22-10

Excellent, gripping and introspective

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Meh

The subject matter is interesting, but the book is poorly written, and the author spends way too much time bragging about his sexual conquest, and attempting to make himself sound like a tough guy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sam
  • Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 12-27-09

half org. sociology, half crime story

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating Story Poorly Narrated by Author

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.

10 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Keia
  • Norman, OK, USA
  • 11-14-09

Incredibly Interesting

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Get a new narrator

Good read; Jake/Josh Adelstein's scratchy voice which eats his words sometimes is hard to understand and can be distracting. Story-wise, be ready for time loops as it chronicles his start as an awkward rookie reporter to becoming a dark, rather almost depressed character already heavily involved with the underworld; the time jumps also provide an added distraction as the reader could easily get confused by what is going on and might have to play it back again just to check out if they had missed any significant detail. Personally, IMO, to get a good gist, there's a nice article written by Peter Hessler of the New Yorker which can give an adequate summary without giving it away.

If you love Crime Fiction, Detective Noir with a hint of Otaku feelz, this is right up your alley.

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  • Overall
  • AJ
  • 07-28-11

Misses...

I bought this because it sounded like a really interesting insight into the dark side of a strange culture.

The main fault is the writer has a knack of making even very entertaining situations sound very flat & boring. A visit to a bar offering a glass toilet you can pay a girl to use is narrated in the style of "I bought a bottle of milk. & a snickers bar. It was a Tuesday." I read a lot of Carl Hiaasen's work - another journalist turned author, and the contrast is huge. Hiaasen is writing fiction, but he takes odd people doing strange things & lays it out in a hugely entertaining way. Adelstein in contrast lays it out in seemingly the least interesting way he can. I kept feeling there was a great entertaining read trapped in there desperately trying & failing to get out.

The second problem is Adelstein narrates his own book. This saved some cash & it helps with the Japanese names, but after so long in Japan he speaks English almost like a fluent Japanese speaker, words are rushed or compacted, often sentences are read in that Japanese way of almost hyphenating the whole sentence, - "Why-would-I-want-that-I-asked". A lot of the book is conversation but without "I said / He said". When reading this is easy, but when listening I find that 99% of voice actors use different voices to make it clear. Adelstein not only doesn't change his voice, his style of hyphenating an entire sentence can often mean you have to concentrate very hard just to figure out who is talking. And it adds to the overall blandness.

Last, again a by-product of not using a professional voice actor or possibly of his years of not speaking English, he pauses at strange moments sentences pause in the middle or they run straight over commas

I do get the feeling if he had told his stories to another reporter turned author (Hiaasen, Michael Lewis), had them write it & then had a voice actor narrate it, it could have been a five star effort. As it is, its a strange listen & a bit boring

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Ross Pope
  • 11-15-17

Great book, but the narration is a bit flat

Read the book a few year ago and found it gripping. Enjoyed hearing the story again, really interesting to hear about the Japanese under world and all the strange, sometime horrible things that go on. One point of the story in particular is quite touching and sad. Well worth a read / listen if you have any interest in moderne Japanese culture or crime.

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  • muovikassi88
  • 05-24-17

shook my world

it starts out funny and light, turns dark as dry blood on the wall, read it, you won't be disappointed.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-21-16

Authentic Journalist

The narrator style which some reviewers have a problem with adds to the authenticity and visceral enjoyment of the piece.

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  • Matthew Elliott
  • 10-03-16

Wow, just wow.

This book was a fantastic source of information and a great book. Unforgettable and Powerful.

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  • Tim McCourt
  • 10-22-15

interesting story, dry delivery

The book tackles a very intricate slice of Japanese culture, it has lots of interesting insider knowledge and does a good job of giving the reader a decent lay of the land. The structure jumps around at times and the delivery and writing was a little dry and factual. I would recommend it though, purely as eye opener into a previously closed world.

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  • Mr. M. E. Winning
  • 06-06-17

Slow start, strong finish

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Would definitely recommend this book - Adelstein is a powerful author and his narration, while at times choppy, lent authenticity to his words. The content started slow, but this helped build interest in the people involved. The finish was surprising and outstanding.

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  • MR
  • 02-18-17

Very solid

It's read by the author. There are aspects of the story that must have been difficult for him to read, so that was interesting.

Well worthwhile.