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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 listeners say about Tokyo Vice

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

One of the best news/true crime experiences

Jake Adelstein's Tokyo Vice is one of the best non-fiction pieces on the life of a foreign reporter working the Tokyo crime beat in the 1990s-2000s. As a bonus, he also happens to be a great narrator, delivering the book in a conversational tone that makes it easy to follow and comprehend Japanese vocabulary. For fans of "People Who Eat Darkness" this offers another perspective on the Lucy Blackmon case from someone who was on the ground covering it when it happened. A fascinating journey. Hopefully, Adelstein will do more narration.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing story

Studying Criminal Justice in college, it’s cool to hear actual, life experiences from people on the job. This book reminded me of those stories and I’m glad I had the chance to read/listen to it. Great narration, great backstory, just all around great.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great story that shows you the dark side of Japan

I think the best part of this audio book is that the author narrates it. Having someone else do the job would have taken away from raw and sometimes emotionally charged descriptions. I would reccomend this book to people who are interested in Japanese culture and want an urthodox gaijin perspective.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

12 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • 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

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Ryuto
  • 07-02-18

Narratorneedstopunctuatehisspeechwithpauses!

This is, as stated by another reviewer, a story about journalism rather than about the Yakuza although the two topics do intersect. It's rather sleazy and I felt 'soiled' after listening to sections of it and I don't want to repeat that experience.

My issue is with the authors performance. There are times when he narrates, avoiding all punctuation, in a barrage of words that just run into each other so quickly it becomes incomprehensible. Also his pronunciation of certain words and phrases down to his regional accent I suppose, makes this difficult to follow. It became a real distraction and indeed irritating.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • S. Morris
  • 03-22-21

Fascinating, Tragic, Shocking & Visceral

I hesitated purchasing this book based on the multiple negative reviewer remarks about the narration. Narrators can make or break a book, even an excellent one, but it stands as testament to the utterly fascinating story told here, that despite the often rapid delivery, seeming to lack the observation of punctuation, the story offsets this in my opinion.

Japan and its culture have fascinated me for many years and this visceral account of crime in Tokyo and life as a reporter there paints a shocking picture of underworld crime, the bizarre sex industry and other aspects of Tokyo nightlife that many in the west may be shocked to discover.

Despite crime in general being lower in Japan than many other developed countries, the tendrils of organized crime are just as much a problem here as the sorts of activities organizations such as the Mafia, which western readers will no doubt be far more familiar with. We, as humans, appear to have a deep fascination for all things crime related, that's probably why so many crime documentaries are on TV. This book is no different and I found myself literally unable to put this title down as Jake Adelsteins journey into the organized crime underworld of Tokyo life is described. One might be forgiven for believing this is a work of fiction, as the sorts of things, places, situations and people he meets along the way seem like something from a James Bond movie. The material here could form a multi part TV series that, if ever made, would probably be very popular.

Not only are we immersed into the life of a hard working, hard drinking and smoking Tokyo reporter, we also learn about elements of Japanese culture, it's odd rituals and customs etc. This book was certainly an education for me and one I'd be very pleased I'd read if I ever planned on visiting Japan, and Tokyo in particular. As tourists to foreign countries, we are all taken in to a large degree by the bright lights of the tourist areas of any big city. For example, I had little idea what a hostess bar was until reading this. Worth knowing if you are an uninformed tourist and stumble into one of these believing it was just a bar with attractive and attentive hostesses. You are likely to end up spending a whole lot more than you planned!

The other aspect to Japanese culture that shocked me and is nothing to do with crime, is the overtly xenophobic attitude of native Japanese to all foreigners. This was also highlighted shockingly in another recent book that I cannot recommend enough, "Lost In Tokyo". This was a real eye opener to me and one any potential visitors to Japan, or at least Tokyo, ought to be aware of.

As alluded to at the beginning of this review, the only negative to this book is the narration by the author himself. It's hard enough for English-speaking audiences to keep track of Japanese names and organizations, so when they are often spoken out rapidly without, so it seems, the aid of commas to allow one to digest sentences, it can make life more difficult at times. Oddly, this isn't always the case, so don't feel that this problem is a constant throughout the book. However, it does pervade much of it. I find this peculiar, given the author of this book and the narrator, is a multilingual journalist, thus someone one might expect to be very good at verbal punctuation. There are poignant reminders during the reading of this story that it is indeed the author who is also the narrator, when one can clearly hear the emotion in his voice as he describes some of the sad events that have personally affected him. This adds to the sense of visceral realism as we can feel the author's pain at those times.

Jake Adelstein reporting style is akin to something one might expect to find in some kind of undercover spy thriller at times. Wining and dining his informants, including the Police themselves as well as having to smooch with beautiful women in order to get information.

Although Adelstein never mentions this, I have to wonder if his marriage survived his career in reporting. Oh, it is also worthy of note here that Jake Adelstein reported on and investigated the Lucy Blackman case, a well publicised death in Japan story of a British national.

I can't say this book is for everyone. It's contents will shock many, but it is a truly fascinating insight into the underbelly of Japanese culture. Personally speaking, if this book sounds interesting to you, then do not be put off by the negative comments regarding the narration, the story here is incredible and well worth your time.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • andy
  • 08-09-20

great book badly read

this is such a shame! the story is so interesting and well written. But mr Adelstein rushes through it skipping syllables and shmushing each sentence down into one word.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • james
  • 12-11-18

Fantastic book, well worth a credit

After visiting Japan I have been engrossed by there culture and and a need to find out more. This book goes into the darker side of crimes and how the police and newspapers work In Japan. A most enjoyable listen. I would highly recommend it.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • paul7
  • 05-31-18

Thanks Jake

Jakes experience is a riveting story. I can’t recommend listening to this enough, Jake narrating the book seems to give it an even more personal feel. I felt his emotions when describing some of the grim parts. Thanks Jake.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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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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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mozart’s Ghost
  • 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.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.