Category Archives: On the Record

Event: Yakuza fiction vs fact at the New York Japan Society

For those in the New York area, Jake Adelstein will be appearing at the Japan Society’s event, “Yakuza in Popular Media & Real Life: Cracks & Chasms”, on March 10 at 6:30pm.

From popular films to games and comic books, yakuza culture has been portrayed and discussed in many media. Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice–one of the rare books revealing real yakuza culture in Japan–discusses the differences between the image the yakuza want to project and how the major groups really function, and what the taboos are of depicting yakuza in Japan.

Followed by the film:
Onibi–The Fire Within
Thurs., Mar. 10 at 8:15 pm
Often regarded as Rokuro Mochizuki’s masterpiece, Onibi injects both sexual passion and subdued sentiment into the macho world of yakuza cinema. Jake Adelstein introduces the film.

Check out the Web site for more details, and keep an eye out for ticket information! Looking forward to seeing some JSRC readers there!

Upcoming Event: Polaris Project seminar

Jake will be giving a talk about the law-enforcement side of fighting human trafficking at Polaris Project’s monthly seminar series, “You Know Human Trafficking?”

Date: Saturday, September 25 from 7-9pm

Location: JICA Chikyu Hiroba Seminar Room 301 (Map)
(One-minute walk from Exit 3, Hiroo Station, Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line)

Admission: 1,000 yen, 500 yen for students with ID

To register for the seminar, please fill out this form (Japanese only),

For more information, contact:
Polaris Project Japan Office

The latest limelight and upcoming events info

A new interview with Jake Adelstein is up on World Policy Institute focusing on the recent yakuza crackdown, but also touching on some interesting recent topics like their popularity in pop culture, and current political ties.

What had prevented the government from cracking down on yakuza before?

Japan doesn’t have a RICO act. It has limited wire-tapping. There is no plea-bargaining allowed. There is no witness protection or witness relocation program. There is no incentive for a low-ranking yakuza to rat out the people above him and a hundred reasons for him to keep his mouth shut.  For these reasons, most investigations often peter out before really getting off the ground. The branches get clipped, the roots remain untouched.

Jake was also interviewed by Devin Stewart (who added a nice authentic flair to the pronunciation of ‘Adelstein’) of the Carnegie Council. The 44-minute marathon covers all sorts of intricate details about the job, the beat and the yaks, as well as juicy retrospective thoughts about the experiences documented in Tokyo Vice. It’s a little long, but give it a listen! I might start calling Jake the “Yakuza Whisperer”…

And the last bit of news: Jake is about to head off to the land down under to promote Tokyo Vice, and on his travels will be appearing at the Brisbane Writer Festival on September 3 for a somehow appropriately titled talk, “Seed, Sex and Dirty Deeds with Jake Adelstein“. He’s apparently appearing in two other events, but neither sound nearly as titillating. Upcoming details on the rest of his Southern Hemisphere tour will be posted as they come in.

Dirty diapers: How the sumo scandal is a casualty of the National Police Agency war on the yakuza

Sumo, yakuza, and gambling–What started as a scoop by weekly magazine Shukan Shincho revealing a somewhat imaginable connection between the three has blown up into a huge scandal that has lost several wrestlers their jobs and cost the sport sponsorship, TV slots and, worst of all, face. Foreign media have given the issue more than ample coverage while Twitter has been full of cynical and firey commentary ranging from why a yakuza hand in the sumo world even comes as a surprise to why sumo wrestlers aren’t allowed to bet on baseball.

Jake has much to say on the subject, of course, and has offered his underworld knowledge to various media as they rush to cover what is looking to be a major turning point in Japan’s largest traditional sport.

From AFP:

Experts point to a shortage of money that has made sumo wrestlers and stables vulnerable to organized crime. Sumo’s popularity is falling as baseball and football have become the country’s most popular sports.

“The yakuza have always been huge supporters of sumo, financially and in other capacities,” said Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice and a specialist on organised crime in Japan.

“Many sumo wrestlers have yakuza ‘patrons’ who give them money under the table to supplement the sumo wrester’s meagre income and reward them for their victories or encourage them to train harder.”

Read Japan’s sumo bodyslammed by scandal.

And The Observer:

Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice and an authority on organised crime in Japan, said the scandal was connected with a fresh crackdown on a notoriously violent faction within the Yamaguchi-gumi that also had strong ties to the sumo world. “The media haven’t suddenly decided to expose the relationship between sumo and the yakuza,” Adelstein said. “The details were leaked to them by the police.

“Failed sumo wrestlers often end up as yakuza enforcers. The sumo world and the yakuza world have long been intertwined. Some ex-sumo wrestlers have even become yakuza bosses.”

Read Sumo threatened by scandal and crime.

Jake expounds on the topic:

The current scandals involving Japan’s organized crime groups, the yakuza, and the Sumo Association, and the sport of sumo itself shouldn’t be seen as an aberration in Japanese society or something that has never existed before–that would be missing the point. It simply is one battle in a war between Japan’s National Police Agency and Japan’s most powerful criminal organization, the Yamaguchi-gumi, that began in September of 2009. The damage inflicted on the image of sumo as Japan’s national sport and the careers of many wrestlers–they simply are casualties of war. And in the case of the Sumo Association, some of those wounds are also decidedly self-inflicted.

Continue reading Dirty diapers: How the sumo scandal is a casualty of the National Police Agency war on the yakuza

Upcoming event: End Modern-day Slavery

Heads up to all our Japan-based readers!

For its latest event, Polaris Project will host author Jake Adelstein and other representatives for an evening on Thursday, May 27 to speak on issues related to human trafficking and crime in Japan.

Place: Tokyo 21c Club, near Tokyo Station

Time: 7-10pm

Entry: ¥5,000 (Soft drinks and a light buffet will be served)

RSVP is required in advance as seating is limited to 90 people
Please RSVP to

Click here to view the flier.

About Polaris Project

Founded in 2002 in Washington DC with the Japan branch established in 2004, Polaris Project combats human trafficking through advocacy work, outreach and education. Since its establishment, Polaris has grown to become of the largest organizations of its kind in the world and has won awards from numerous organizations, including Ashoka Innovators for the Public and the DO Something BRICK award. Polaris Japan is a registered NPO in Japan and Polaris USA is a 501(c)3 NGO in the United states.

Polaris Project would like to thank Tokyo 21c Club for allowing us to use their event space and services. Tokyo 21c club is also home to the Entrepreneur Club for Growing Japan (EGG Japan). For more information on 21c club, please see their website.

Less on livers, more on livelihoods

The Japan Times published in last Sunday’s paper a mammoth of an interview with Jake by Mark Schreiber, stretching almost two entire pages across the Time Out section. While the news media is in no shortage of interviews with Mr. ‘Viceman’ Adelstein, this one is worth the read because, as Jake put it, “there’s little or no mention of liver transplants or UCLA, for a change.”

Insider Reaching Out from The Japan Times, Jan. 3, 2010

Author Joshua “Jake” Adelstein supposes that if he’d stayed home in rural Missouri and had never come to Japan, he’d probably have become a small-town lawyer or a very happy detective on the local police force.

“I was always attracted to the law, probably because my father was the county coroner for many years — and still is now,” he says.

But Adelstein has spent roughly half his life in Japan, first as a student at Sophia University in Tokyo and then as a reporter for the vernacular Yomiuri Shimbun, where he landed a job that put him in touch with what he describes as “the dark side of the rising sun.”

Read “Insider Reaching Out” [via The Japan Times]

NPR animates yakuza girlfriends, serial killers, and other exciting things

Humming killers

After Jake’s interview on NPR earlier this month, Thomas Dreisbach and other interns put their skills to work in editing a segment about Jake’s time covering the case of Gen Sekine, animal breeder turned serial killer in Saitama. It’s a fun, quick-and-dirty summary of “The Saitama Dog Lover Serial Disappearances, Part 1 & 2” (pages 102-135), and artist Kathryn DeFeo got Jake’s hairdo down pretty good.

Check out NPR: In Other Words, Japan Confidential


A look at Japan's underworld from a reporter who covered it for over a decade.
inside japan's underworld

Hello to all the viewers of 60 Minutes or the readers of the Washington Post who have stopped by after seeing the program and/or reading the article. We’d like to thank Lara Logan and the rest of the CBS News crew for visiting Tokyo, and hope everyone enjoyed the segment!

Browse around the site to learn more about the case of Tadamasa Goto and the rest of the Japanese underworld, and don’t forget to check out information about Jake Adelstein’s new book Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan.

For those who have yet to see the 60 Minutes feature on yakuza, it’s available for online viewing here.