TOKYO VICE by Jake Adelstein


An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
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The author’s adventures as a top crime reporter for Japan’s largest newspaper.

As he completed his studies at Tokyo’s Sofia University, Adelstein took the exam to become a reporter for Yomiuri Shinbun and, surprisingly, was hired. Thus began 12 years of reporting on, and living within, the underbelly of Japanese society. Initially assigned to cover crime in a Tokyo suburb, Adelstein is at his best describing the intricate rules that govern relations among the press and police. As with so much else in Japan, good reporting, or gaining a scoop, depends on cultivating personal relations. A reporter spends much time “schmoozing and massaging” police detectives, bringing them gifts and drinking long into the night with them, which helps develop mutually beneficial friendships. After covering stories like the “Chichibu Snack-mama Murder Case” and the case of a serial-killing dog breeder, Adelstein became the only American journalist to gain admittance to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Press Club. His beat became Tokyo’s infamous Kabukicho district, an area of “pure sleaze,” and soon he was investigating the trafficking of women in Japan, a widespread illegal business often protected by the politically powerful and by the yakuza, Japan’s ubiquitous organized-crime syndicate. The yakuza were heavily involved in sex trafficking, and a story about a yakuza boss receiving a liver transplant in the United States led to a threat on Adelstein’s life. He eventually published the story, but only after returning to Japan as an investigator on human trafficking for the U.S. State Department. Though the author occasionally echoes the writing of Mickey Spillane—“She could milk a customer like a dairymaid with a fecund cow”—this is a serious story focusing on the sexual abuse of women in Japan and the official indifference to that abuse.

Not just a hard-boiled true-crime thriller, but an engrossing, troubling look at crime and human exploitation in Japan.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-307-37879-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2009


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