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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,512 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jake Adelstein Narrator: Jake Adelstein Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2009 ISBN: 9780307713162
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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 nineteen, 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 prestigiousYomiuri Shinbun. For twelve years of eighty-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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Marvelous. . . . Tokyo Vice offers a fascinating glimpse into Japan’s end-of-last-century newspaper culture as seen from a gaijin’s perspective. It’s filled with startling anecdotes and revelations. . . . Adelstein writes of his quest for scoops with sardonic wit, and his snappy style mixes the tropes of detective fiction with the broader perspective of David Simon’s books as he makes a careful account of his journalistic wins and losses. . . . The author’s gallows humor bleeds into even darker, more serious hues once Adelstein starts covering the Japanese mafia. . . . Astonishingly proves that no matter how weird and perverse Japan may seem in fiction, the real thing never fails to exceed our most violent expectations. Sarah Weinman, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind
  • Tokyo Vice succeeds on several levels: as gripping journalism, as a ragged crime tale, as culture-shock memoir. Stakes are raised in its third act as the yakuza exercise increasing pressure on Adelstein, but he pursues the story anyway. Obviously, he lived to tell his tale — and thank goodness, because it’s a fascinating one. BOOKGASM
  • Engrossing. . . . fast-paced. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution
  • Exposes Tokyo’s darkest, seamiest, most entertaining corners. . . . [A] gritty, true-to-life account of 12 years on the news beat as a staffer for a Japanese daily — and it is exceptional. Its classic atmospherics rekindle memories of Walter Winchell and Eliot Ness. It’s a tale of adrenalin-depleting 80-hour weeks, full ashtrays, uncooperative sources, green tea, hard liquor, and forays into the commercialized depravity of Shinjuku’s Kabukicho. . . . Definitely raises the bar. . . .  A classic piece of 20th century crime reporting. The Japan Times
  • Groundbreaking reporting on the yakuza. . . . Adelstein shares juicy, salty, and occasionally funny anecdotes, but many are frightening. . . . Adelstein doesn’t lack for self-confidence . . . but beneath the bravado are a big heart and a relentless drive for justice. The Boston Globe 
  • Gripping. . . . [Adelstein’s] vividly detailed account of investigations into the shadowy side of Japan shows him to be more enterprising, determined and crazy than most. . . . In some of the freshest pages of the book, our unlikely hero tells us about his initiation into the seamy, tough-guy Japan beneath the public courtesies,. . . . Adelstein builds his stories with as much surprise and grit as any Al Pacino or Mark Wahlberg movie, blurring the lines between the cops, the crooks and even the journalists. . . . Tokyo Vice is often so snappy and quotable that it sounds as if it were a treatment for a Scorsese movie set in Queens. Yet the facts beneath the noirish lines are assembled with what looks to be ferocious diligence and resourcefulness. For even as he is getting slapped around by thugs and placed under police protection, Adelstein never loses his gift for crisp storytelling and an unexpectedly earnest eagerness to try to rescue the damned. Pico Iyer, Time
  • A journalist's memoir unlike any I've ever read. Dave Davies, Fresh Air
  • [A] gripping story. . . . Pulls the curtain back on a sordid element of Japanese society that few Westerners ever see. In addition to his clash with [a] yakuza boss, Adelstein details the more notable cases from his 12-year career at the Yomiuri, including "The Chichibu Snack-mama Murder Case" and "The Emperor of Loan Sharks." No less fascinating is the view Adelstein provides into Japanese society itself. . . . Adelstein's Tokyo is a veritable Gomorrah where nearly every act of intimacy is legally bought and sold. San Francisco Examiner
  • Debut author Adelstein began with a routine, but never dull, police beat; before long, he was notorious worldwide for engaging the dirtiest, top-most villains of Japan's organized criminal underworld, the yakuza. Thanks to [Adelstein's] immersive reporting, readers suffer with him through the choice between personal safety and a chance to confront the evil inhabiting his city. . . . Adelstein also examines the investigative reporter's tendency to withdraw into cynicism ("when a reporter starts to cool down, it's very hard… ever to warm up again") but faithfully sidesteps that urge, producing a deeply thought-provoking book: equal parts cultural exposé, true crime, and hard-boiled noir. Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • Not just a hard-boiled true-crime thriller, but an engrossing, troubling look at crime and human exploitation in Japan. Kirkus
  • Terrific. With gallows humor and a hardboiled voice, Adelstein takes readers on a shadow journey through the Japanese underworld and examines the twisted relationships of journalists, cops, and gangsters. Expertly told and highly entertaining. George Pelecanos
  • Sacred, ferocious and businesslike. This is the Japanese mafia that Adelstein describes like nobody else. Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System
  • Anyone interested in tattooed yakuza, 'soapland' brothels, and the various other aspects of Japan's lurid underbelly is guaranteed to be electrified by Tokyo Vice. Why is a manual on the perfect way to commit suicide a Japanese bestseller? Who goes to sexual harassment clinics? What's it like to spend a night in a male hostess bar? Tokyo Vice reveals all this and more. It's a story of lust and profit; a chronicle of fear and determination; most of all, a modern bildungsroman that simultaneously illuminates the soul of its narrator and that of modern Japan through the underside of Tokyo, the world's most fascinating city. I loved this book for many reasons—its humor, its pathos, its insight, its honesty—and maybe most of all, for reminding me of how lucky I am to live here. Barry Eisler, author of Fault Line
  • Jake Adelstein's razor straight reporting from the mean streets of Tokyo is a coming of age story that reveals more than it pretends to—because he has the guts to find the truth, and the gall to tell it. Roland Kelts, author of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S.
  • Vivid, insightful, and totally revealing of the decadent, seedy and sexual parts of Japanese society, Tokyo Vice is ripping fun. Karl Taro Greenfeld, author of Speed Tribes: Days and Nights with Japan's Next Generation
  • Jake Adelstein writes in the classic hard-boiled Dashiell Hammett manner—complete with stubbed out cigarettes and a shot of whiskey shared with his cop informant—but this is not San Francisco or New York, it's Tokyo, and it's not fiction.  Those who live and work in Japan will recognize reality on every page.  It's at times a harsh and ugly reality, but depicted humorously with whimsical details of Japan's twilight world that we only dreamt of. A guaranteed page-turner. Alex Kerr, author of Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Japan
  • A gripping and absorbing read. Very few foreigners ever come close to discovering what's really going on in Japan's closed society. Adelstein chases two major stories that pull him into a vortex of destruction, threatening his friendships, his marriage and even his life. As he battles with profound issues concerning truth and trust, Tokyo Vice approaches a heart-pounding denouement. This is a terrifying, deeply moral story which you cannot put down, and Adelstein, if occasionally reckless, is an extremely courageous man. Misha Glenny, author of McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld
  • A tale of a gaijin who stumbled onto a story so important and so dangerous that it put his life at risk. A yakuza offered him half a million dollars not to tell it. He wrote this book instead. Peter Hessler, author of River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze
  • In this dark, often humorous journey through the underworld of Tokyo, Jake Adelstein captures exactly what it means to be a gaijin and a reporter. Whether he is hunting for tips in Kabukicho or pressing yakuza for information, it is an adventure only he could write. For anyone interested in Japan or journalism, this is a must read. Robert Whiting author of Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Oli Beddall | 2/13/2014

    " Great stuff. Read it quickly and it was hard to put down. Interesting from the perspective of someone living in Japan and illuminating a lot of little-known dark sides to the culture. Not sure how interesting it would be to someone not interested in the country. Seedy. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Priscilla | 2/10/2014

    " Nice read. The last chapter is the most exciting bites. Recommended! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christopher Butts | 2/7/2014

    " At over halfway through this book I really don't want it to end any time soon. The author reads his work easily, and it feels like someone familiar telling you a story with just enough background information to make sure you're in the loop. It is some of the best non-fiction I've read in a long time. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rachel Cotterill | 2/3/2014

    " I've never been to Japan, and before I picked up this book, I certainly didn't know anything about its sex trade or mafia underworld. Tokyo Vice contains a lot of information on this sort of thing, but it's also the very personal story of the author's own life. The introductory pages give a hint of troubles to come, as Jake is threatened into leaving Japan. Then we drop back some twenty years to follow his growth as a reporter, from the tough entrance exams for a Japanese newspaper, and it's 3/4 of the way through the book before we really find out how he's managed to get into such deep water with a particularly nasty yakuza crime boss. This was tough reading in parts - it's very matter-of-fact about some seriously nasty stuff - but it was also a very moving tale of personal struggles and ethical dilemmas. Definitely recommended. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tyne | 1/27/2014

    " I thought this book was amazing and very informative. As an American who only sees Tokyo through TV or in a magazine, I never thought of the alternative lifestyles and crimes that are taking place. Although the story was very interesting and kept me turning the page, I would have liked to get a little more background on the author. And call me nosy but I really wanted him to elaborate on his family or maybe how his wife felt about his decisions and how it affected their lives. Besides that I thought the book was great and I didn't want it to end. I'm definitely going to read more material about gangs and organized crime in Japan. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kyle | 1/25/2014

    " A fascinating look into the life of an organized crime reporter in Japan. What I found particularly interesting was the story behind the story -- the one that came from reading between the lines. This is a side of Japan that I did not experience, and frankly am glad I didn't. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ross | 1/19/2014

    " this would be an amazing movie. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dan | 1/16/2014

    " An excellent insider/outsider's look at the seedy Tokyo underworld. Jake Adelstein is an excellent storyteller, if still a little unsteady at the long form of a book, rather than the newspaper articles he wrote for a decade. It even has a real-life twist at the end! Highly recommended. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Timothy Hallinan | 1/1/2014

    " I had hopes for this, but it didn't really work. Lots of great anecdotal material but when you close the book you don't feel you've really experienced the Tokyo underworld. David Mitchell's number9dream did a better job, and that was so fictional it was sometimes semi-hallucinatory. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ribhu Rathore | 12/23/2013

    " mildly amusing ...but thats abt it i am thinking of giving up half way ..dont know what the fuss was abt "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Pamela | 11/30/2013

    " It shows the dark side that can't be seen "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Nathan | 7/31/2012

    " Definitely entertaining, but more from the subject and not the writing. Somewhat meandering "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Willy James | 7/20/2012

    " A very interesting book. I don't read a lot of non fiction but I enjoyed this one. I was ready for it to be over but it did hold my attention. Non fiction fans might really enjoy this one. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sandwich | 6/2/2012

    " Blazed through it, fascinating to read about a part of Japan I never experienced. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mollymillions | 3/18/2012

    " A fascinating look at Japan's journalism, vice and organized crime scenes. Adelstein's tone is near noir, but with enough self-depreciating humor to keep himself and the reader grounded. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Al Berg | 2/12/2012

    " A fascinating look into the world of the Yakuza, Japan's organized criminal organizations from the point of view of a gaijin reporter. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Richard | 11/25/2011

    " Incredibly informative. Adelstein's got balls the size of church bells. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Julie Rand | 11/22/2011

    " Fascinating look into the dark side of Japan. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael | 5/22/2011

    " Quite an interesting view of the Yakuza and crime in Japan... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jessica | 5/1/2011

    " I thought I knew about the yakuza. I was wrong. Jake Adelstein knows the organization inside out. The gripping story of a journalist who goes after his story. Tokyo Vice is a true page-turner. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nat | 4/2/2011

    " Read this in pretty much one sitting, finishing up at 2.30 in the morning. Totally engrossing read. I particularly enjoyed the writing style and the manner of which Adelstein describe things. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Celeste | 3/7/2011

    " This book might deserve more than 3 stars - I struggled to get through it, but mostly because I am not a fan of non-fiction. It reads like a magazine article - a 300-page article. All in all, it's an interesting memoir, but the style of writing did not hold my interest enough. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mike | 3/4/2011

    " Quick read about an American Jew who gets a job working on the police beat for Japan's largest newspaper and ends up as an expert on human trafficing and the yakuza. The good, the bad and the ugly of journalism and human nature. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Samantha | 3/3/2011

    " It was certainly very interesting and very graphic in places which sometimes made for an uncomfortable read. It dragged a little near the end but definitely worth finishing. "

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