Tokyo Vice is now on sale online through Random House and Amazon!
Tokyo Vice is the story of Jake Adelstein, 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.
Updated May 14th 2022
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 prestigious Yomiuri 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. The Tokyo Vices of Jake Adelstein and his attempts to do the right thing are chronicled in this first-hand account of life in three dimensions of Japan: journalism, law enforcement, and the underworld. Source materials used to write the book are posted here for the curious and people who are not weaselly unsuccessful minions hired by a disgruntled gangster.
199 thoughts on “Tokyo Vice: The Book”
Enjoy your book very much; it is so easy to read; I am half way thru.
I would like to put your book on my Western Trucker Approved Reading List (Don’t worry, you are in good company). Please let me know if you would rather not be on my list. I would place it in the “Classic Crime” category.
I was in Tokyo on R & R in 1960 when stationed with the Army in Seoul Eighth Army Hq. I remember buddying around Tokyo with a photographer named Karl, who also lived in a Buddhist temple. He simply couldn’t live like his father from the Bronx, who had worked for Karl Zeiss in NYC for thirty years.
Thanks for the great job, Rob Palmer
Enjoy your book very much; it is so easy to read; I am half way thru.
I would like to put your book on my Western Trucker Approved Reading List (Don’t worry, you are in good company). Please let me know if you would rather not be on my list. I would place it in the “Classic Crime” category.
I was in Tokyo on R & R in 1960 when stationed with the Army in Seoul Eighth Army Hq. I remember buddying around Tokyo with a photographer named Karl, who also lived in a Buddhist temple. He simply couldn’t live like his father from the Bronx, who had worked for Karl Zeiss in NYC for thirty years.
Thanks for the great job, Rob Palmer
Thanks for writing. Tokyo in the 60s must have been a trip. Please put it in the list.
I’m a reporter for the ABC news station in San Francisco, was raised in Tokyo and graduated from ASIJ in 1964. I’ve long been fascinated with the Yakuza as well, and in fact, on my assignments to Japan when i worked for NBC San Francisco KRON TV, I actually met and interviewed Watanabe, the Oyabun of the Yamaguchi-gumi gang in Kobe in his compound during the aftermath of the Quake there. We were the only TV crew allowed into the compound and was treated really great by him and his Capos, who took us on a tour of the beautifully manicured headquarters of the Yamaguchi-gumi. We shot the food and clothes giveaway that they orchestrated way before the government supplies arrived. Was quite impressive … all these young gangsters unloading supplies from trucks and lining them up on tables outside the walls of the compound to long lines of residents. I had several pictures taken with Watanabe in his garden which he tended. He was the quintesential host, i must say. At the end he gave me his business card and told me to show it if I ever was in a difficult spot. LOL. I have ordered your book and can hardly wait to read it. BTW in the 80’s and early 90’s I did several stories on the Yakuza infiltration into San Francisco and also met a Yakuza Oyabun here through an FBI agent who was monitoring his activities.
That’s amazing. I’d love to see that footage if you still have it. Mr. Watanabe passed away last year. I am in San Francisco often. I’ll definitely look you up!
Your book Japon Vice is fantastic for the truth,Thank you for the work and resurch and the risk you take,,,,
I like the Japonese culture,the kind ,,,of Philosophie they tray to have,,,,I am disappointed,,now
Which kind of life are they preparing for the futur,,,,,Mafia is every where but young prostitution accepted by the government is not acceptable,,,,please continue,,,,to work for these young girls,,,,Money is not life,,,,
Thank you again,,,
Very respectable regards
Sabine, thank you very much writing in. I think Japan has made progress in fighting human trafficking and that makes me hopeful.
Your book was a real education. I first lived from Japan in 1978-1980. I went to school in Tokyo in 1986 and interned at a Tokyo law firm. Your book tied together a lot of things that I have seen over the years. I admire your willingness to stand up for what is right, even at great personal cost. I wish you all the best.
Thank you for taking the time to write. Japan in 1986 must have been quite a trip.
Dear Josh aka Jake,
Tim and I each bought a copy of the book from B&N on last Sat after we saw you. I spent the rest of Saturday, all of Sunday reading it. I couldn’t put it down. I totally ignored Tim and the kids. Tim finished it Monday. Wow! It is phenomenal! I am so proud of you and all the work you did to make it a reality. Well done!
Let’s get together when you are back, if you have time.
Thank you so much Gina.
I hope this explains a little bit of my flakiness over the last two years. Good god, it’s been a long haul.
I just finished your book. Terrific read!!!
I have been visiting Japan since the early 90s (my in-laws live in Shinjuku) and remember a few of the stories you write about. I always make a point of walking through that crazy ass Kobukicho area… Now it makes a little bit more sense.
Thanks for the GREAT read… and doing the right thing!
I just finished reading your book. I could not put it down, and I have recommended it to nearly every person I Speak with. The Cashier at Barnes and Noble told me how incredible this book was while I payed at the register. It opens up a whole new world to me, and i cannot wait to read more about the Yakuza, and organized crime in Japan. You have an incredible gift. Thank You
Thank you for writing in and thank you for telling your friends about the book. I’m excited that even the cashier is chiming in.
Jake, awesome book– just finished it last night. It was an exceptional look at a part of Japanese culture that it seems like every American knows about but in a very childish, Hollywood-influenced way. Thanks for a great read. Oh, and sorry to see your book tour doesn’t include a stop at Powell’s in Portland, OR!
Thank you. As for Powell’s Books, Apparently they were all booked up. I’d go in a second if they booked me–even if I had to scrape up airfare from my loose change jar. I love that place. I spent an entire day there once.
I heard your interview on NPR and went out and bought your book the same day! I Love it. I am halfway through and can’t stop talking about to all my relatives and friends. Its nice to have insight about what goes on in different countries and bring awareness to the world. I lived in Japan when I was younger for a few years and don’t remember much. But your book has peaked my interest to learn more about it.
Just finished the book. It was great. I was sad at the end. I was really hoping she wasn’t hurt. I am coming to yokohama in Jan. I hope to one day meet you. I too love japanese culture and hope that human trafficking will stop in japan one day.
remarkable book; fasciating & moving.
Take care and good luck
I loved your book. I read it cover-to-cover in a few days. Having spent a great deal of time in Japan over the past 20+ years I knew of almost everything you wrote about, however, you filled in many gaps I was not aware of. Thank you for that.
I have met in public a few Yakuza (not chimpira). They are the most polite and courteous men I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet in Japan. One encounter was at the old Tokyo Kur Onsen under Tokyo Station. He was sitting right next to me in the shower area and politely handed me a razor from the cup of razors above his stall area. Everyone else stayed away but I sat down right next to him because I had never seen full body tattoos before in my life. I introduced myself and told him I was from California and admired his artwork. He was very modest and polite even though I was being a bit of a baka yaro.
Another encounter was in an elevator at a 5-star hotel. I was carrying a heavy suitcase and a shopping bag full of wedding SWAG. This guy, missing pinkie and all helped me with my bag when I exited the elevator at my floor.
My view of these guys is consistent with what my Japanese friends tell me how they know them. They are polite to a fault, honorable gentlemen and always impeccably dressed in public. I’m disappointed to hear in your book that their old honor code is withering away and that the old ways are going away. That’s sad.
Thanks for the great book. You seem to be quite well versed in this. I hope you write a follow-up book. Might I suggest a book on honne and tatemae. Most of my friends who are not familiar with Japan have this very inaccurate view of the real Japan. My best friend in Japan told me many years ago, “You will soon find that many things in Japan are not what you think they are.” It would really be cool to see a book on this, what you see is this….and what it really is is this.
Stay safe. Good luck with the book.
Your letter brings up a good point–many of the old-school yakuza bosses, on an individual level, are great guys. My bodyguard/driver used to be a gang boss and his old boss and he himself are very polite, dependable, and honorable. I think the old days when they primarily collected protection money and actually did some minor debt collection from deadbeat customers etc and a little illegal gambling—they were probably less of a social evil.
However, the guys who rise to the top in the organization would probably do the same in a legitimate business as well. Once you get past the surface gloss of civility and politeness–many of them are just tribal sociopaths. I still find that many things in Japan are not what I think they are but I find the same about people whom I thought I knew well. In the darkest time in your life, it’s amazing how suddenly it becomes apparent that people are not what profess to be and the best friends you have are not always the ones you like the most–or trusted the most.
it’s sad to see the old guard of the yakuza die away. That’s the theme of my second book, THE LAST YAKUZA.
I’m the guy who mentioned Powell’s earlier– I got in contact with them and they are interested in hosting you after the first of the year. If you or your agent want to get in touch with me by email I’ll put you in touch with my Powell’s contact. My email address is
Your book was incredible. As I read, I could imagine myself sitting in the back of a smoky dive with you telling me each story. It’s difficult for me to explain, but the book read like being read to. I admire the style in lieu of all the time spent in Japan. I have been here less than a year as an English teacher and I occasionally catch myself speaking to other native speakers in broken, oversimplified English.
I got my jounalism degree last year as the industry took a pretty drastic nosedive (especially in my native Philadelphia). My job prospects didn’t look good post-graduation, so I headed off to Hokkaido to teach. Any suggestions for venting my journalistic passion while here (outside of blogging)? My Nihongo is lacking, but I’m dying to get my feet wet…
Thank you for your passion and dedication. I look forward to many more Jake Adelstein books.
I rarely smoke these days, although I do have some lapses but glad to know that I conveyed right mood—it’s what I was hoping for. If you ever come across something worth writing about, drop me a line. Sometimes, we actually can pay a paltry amount for a good submission.
Don’t give up on journalism—but like many of us, you may have to get a second job to keep your journalism habit alive.
The book is also available on iTunes via Audible. Listening to the book/story directly told by Jake is something else.
Congratulations on a great read. Was up until dawn reading it which seemed appropriate with all the late hours you were describing! A Japan-changing and eye-opening book for many foreign-residents and visitors to Japan, I feel. We posted a review of the book in October: http://japanvisitor.blogspot.com/2009/10/tokyo-vice-book-review.html
Thank you! I saw the review and thanks for writing in. I’m adding your blog to the sites we link to!
If I were teaching in a journalism school (and I graduated from one), I would find a way to get this book on the syllabus. You exemplify the spirit of journalism, and having been a reporter who had a scoop now and then, I know the motivation and exhilaration big stories can bring. None are much bigger than the human trafficking and Yakuza finagling with the U.S. government you exposed, so kudos to you! Even more enlightening for me was the inside view of how the police, crime organizations, and various businesses work in Japan. My jaw dropped over and over. What a different world!
I doubt I’ll ever get on the syllabus of any journalism school since according to one professor I’ve broken most of the journalist ethics that most journalists keep. But I can’t say I really feel bad about that. I think some good came out of my unorthodox methods.
If you do ever end up teaching at a journalism school, I’d be happy to speak to your class if you can sneak me in.
Jake, Having lived in Chiba for eight years and thinking I had seen a lot, I will never see Japan in the same light after finishing your book today. Thank you for sharing your story in English. I too am from Missouri, and after reading your book and mentioning Rock Bridge Elementary, you must be from Columbia. I graduated from Columbia College and worked at MU after that. I am glad too see a fellow Missourian uncover such corrupt and shocking facts about what goes on over here, and what you have done has made a difference already, and hopefully change for the better will continue. I wish you and your family well.
John Michael White
Chiba, Japan (formerly Excelsior Springs, MO)
As a fellow Columbian, thank you very much for writing. I’m glad to see that we both ended up in Japan. Maybe we can create an ex-pat community of former Columbia, Missouri residents there. (LOL). Let me know when you plan to visit Columbia again, if ever. I’d love to buy you a “chopped cow-burger” at Ernie’s, if they’re still around, and hear about your experiences in Japan. If you are in Tokyo in January, drop me a line.
Thanks for the message! Ernie’s is still there on Walnut, as far as I know. I won’t be going home this winter, so I will be in Japan in January. If you can email me, I will give you my ketai number and hopefully we can meet up in Tokyo if you have the time when you are back in January. Just give me a call or an email. I was in Tokyo today, and saw a nice stack of your books on the new arrival area at Kinokunia in Takashimaya times square. I also picked up a Metropolis and saw Tokyo Vice as a “must read”. Take care, and hope to hear from you! John
Thanks for a wonderful book.
As a former big-daily newspaper reporter and editor, I found your tales of life at a Japanese paper intriguing. Those alone would have made the book a worthwhile read. But the depth of your experiences and the moving accounts of the characters in your life made a great read even better. You were obviously in a unique position to write this book, but that alone would not have made it as good as it is. Your personality, writing style and your willingness to let us into your life are what make this book one that I’ll recommend to friends for years to come.
Thanks very much for writing. I think this time of the year is when I recall the people in the book the most. Writing 年賀状 (the annual New Year’s cards) makes me think back on all that’s happened in the last twenty years I’ve spent in Japan and about all the people who I can no longer send cards to anymore. If a little bit of Sekiguchi, Hamaya, Shibata, and Helena, live on in the book–it makes me happy. I’m always hoping that I might actually get a card from Helena–saying that she’s really all right, that she got out of Tokyo in time. Maybe this year.
I just finished your book and I found it fascinating. I’d been planning a trip to Japan for a while and immersing myself in everything I can find, your book offered a novel perspective on part of Japan I have never heard much about.
While the book ended with you surviving your encounter with the yakuza, I have to say I did feel sad when you mentioned your regret about lost time with your family. I hope all is still well there. I know your family life wasn’t a focus on the novel, but it was a point of curiosity for me and I would have liked to hear more about it.
Another thing I noticed is the similarities between your own moral code and the ‘old-school’ yakuza code. You lived life as a reporter by your own ethics and morals, not necessarily those of societies. However, there were certain things it seemed, you would simply *not* do.
Very cool book, thanks!
I too was impressed at the level of detail in your recollections, but I suppose I should expect nothing less from a reporter. You seemed to have often played the “dumb gaijin” card against those who think foreigners are practically a subspecies, and I salute you for it. I lived in Hiroshima doing the standard English teaching route in 2006, then moved on to become a shokutaku shain in Kagoshima the following year. Hopefully will find work in northern Honshu (or Tokyo, but I prefer the inaka) soon and return to Japan. I’ll be sure to follow your subculture blog. Congrats on your success.
Thank you for your great book. I was totally engaged with it from start to finish. It was interesting to see this perspective of Japan, which is quite different from the martial arts mythology/tech/anime notion that I usually spend my time on.
I found the end of the book, particularly the part about Helena, upsetting. I truly hope you hear from her some day. As a reader, I was filled with “How can they get away with this?!” feelings. Poking into the affairs of that foreign entertainment group is clearly dangerous, however, after reading the book, I am wondering if anyone is looking at their activities?
The Foreign Entertainment Group (Zengeiren) is still around to the best of my knowledge but they are keeping a very low profile.
You’re right–I should see what they are up to these days.
I read your book several years ago when my husband brought it home from the library. It started out for me as just a time killer. But by the time I was finished I very much regreted reading it. The reason is the friend of yours you call Helena. The guy who showed you that picture wasn’t lying to you. I’m sorry, but you are not ever going to hear from her in this life. Best to just face it and do what you need to do about that. I’m only writing this because I’m unable to put her out of my mind. Sometimes the things one reads, once read, cannot be unread. Sad to say in her case.
I don’t know. There’s nothing I can do to change the past. There is atonement and that’s the best I can do.
Just got done reading your book 12 hours before I arrived in Tokyo! Lucky for me, I live in Kyushu. Great book. Freaked me out a bit since I have been visiting Tokyo for the past several years when you were writing about all the horrible shady things that no one cared about. Would love to catch up with you in Tokyo one day.
It was a great read–exciting, funny, emotional. I’ve been to Japan a few times, and it was really interesting from a cultural standpoint to see a very different side of things.
I read this from a bit different standpoint for most readers, being a cultural anthropologist (but of Africa, not Japan). My first reaction was THIS IS AMAZING–I WANT MY ANTHROPOLOGY TO READ LIKE THIS! Later, although I did REALLY enjoy the book, I had some other reactions.
As some people have raised, I’m not totally sure how much hasn’t been fictionalized to some extent. There is obviously the issue of obscuring to protect people, but I got the sense that there were places where it was semi-fictionalized so the story would read better. The most obvious place (and this may have been an editorial mistake) was on p.46, where the outcome of the trial some months later is purported to have appeared in the evening edition the night of the arrest. This is a minor problem, but when there is something so obvious it makes one wonder about things that aren’t obvious.
The other thing that troubled me perhaps more was the question of ethics. As I continued reading I was saying to myself “Oh my God! Journalists can do this!” I was imagining how if this was scholarly research this could never get past a Human Subjects Institutional Review Board, which tries to ensure that no “human subjects” of your research are harmed. Apart from many other more minor things, Helena appears to be a casualty of the project. Afterwards I read things by journalists discussing violations of journalistic ethics, and evidently it isn’t just my comparison with anthropology, but with journalism, as well.
I feel like the answer we get to this question in the book is “the story at any cost.” I don’t think I totally buy that–there may be some things that society needs to know, but other things can be left alone. So, I don’t know if the story was worth the costs. I don’t know that the author claims the story was worth the costs either. The author certainly does not portray himself as an unambiguous good guy. But this is certainly much more of a romantic, swashbuckling sort of story than a confessional, so I think we are left with the impression that it WAS worth it.
We got to read a good story, after all, and none of us died.
I appreciate you pointing out the mistake on pg 46–yes, an editorial mistake. It should have been corrected in the 2nd or 3rd edition but I’ll check. The one line on the outcome of the trial should not be in italics
and down a paragraph.
The story isn’t fictionalized, although there were places where the chronology was left obscure but the actual order of things wasn’t changed. I tried to cover everything in the long NOTES ON SOURCES AND SOURCE PROTECTION.
Ahh, the ethics questions. Well, I’ve been told in person, in reviews, and via email that I have violated “almost all the major rules of western journalism that most journalists keep.” Perhaps. I don’t know the rules. I’ve only had three rules that made sense to me in journalism 1) get the story by any means possible 2) do as little harm as possible 3) protect your sources at all costs, and never betray them. I don’t have a perfect score on any of them, but I try my best. I have a good friend who’s an anthropologist, and what you’ve said, I’ve heard before. In principle, I agree with those rules. I do think that some information can only be obtained by deception, just like undercover police work, and those who oppose that absolutely, are absolute novices.
I’ve always put number three before anything else. Helena was a tragedy. I tried to get her to pull out and she wouldn’t listen but the fault lies in me asking her to investigate things in the first place. Part of being the control, is that you need to know whether your assets are up to the job. Well, maybe some people are okay with letting assets be spent, but I never was. You have to cover everyone even the cut-outs. I think about Helena almost every day and that mistake haunts me like a ghost, it eats up my sleep, and it makes it very hard for me to have a relationship with anyone.
But here’s also something I will say in my defense, when you deal with people who will kill, defame, intimidate, and/or frame their enemies, and also do the same to their family members or sources if they can’t get at the individual–the rules set forth don’t work anymore. If you play by the polite rules of society, innocent people get hurt, vanish, or die. So what do you do then? Do you walk away,essentially abandon your sources and go teach journalism somewhere–secure in the knowledge that at least you didn’t violate any ethical rules or do you stake your ground and fight? The three rules each have a certain weight to them, the third rule always superseded the first for me. It was a failure to uphold the third rule that made me decide there were times when the first rule definitely applied. I’ve dropped several huge stories to protect a source. Human life has always meant more to me than a scoop or information.
I know you don’t mean to impugn my honor but you touched on something that I’ve been thinking about for years, and I wanted to at least state for the record that I have thought about it and I still struggle with it.
Was it worth it? The human trafficking report and the influence it had? Outing Goto Tadamasa and helping bring him down? There are two answers to that. In the terms of the good it did society and probably prevented more people from being victimized–yes. Everything I did on that report, I handed over to the police and they generally shut down the places and liberated the women working there. Politically, in an indirect way–it also resulted in some good. On an individual level, was it worth it? No, it wasn’t. For Helena, was it worth it? I don’t know. I don’t know what really happened. I only know that I was played like a pawn and I hope she wasn’t a casualty of the war. If she was, I don’t deny I bear responsibility for that. I can’t change it and all I can do is atone as best as possible.
And a fourth rule: write the truth not an opinion.
I’ve read your wonderful book numerous times now, both when I’ve been in Japan, and also now I’m back in the States. Aside from the fascinating progression of your career leading to the outing of Goto Tadamasa, there is one chapter that gets me every time: Evening Flowers. Hamaya-san’s story is a beautiful, sensitive, but heartbreaking way to describe 遣る瀬無い (yarusenai). No doubt I’ll read it again one of these days and be touched by it as deeply as the first time.
Greg, Thanks for writing. I wrote that chapter in one sitting—six hours. And then I edited it a little. I miss her. I miss a lot of people. We’re heading into O-bon, the season of the dead in Japan. I wish there were fewer people to mourn in my life.
I just finished your book, I couldn’t put it down, it’s amazingly well written and brutally honest. I’ve been living in Japan for 6 years now and had no idea about what was going on below the surface. I feel so much more educated about the yakuza, prostitution, sexual massage, and human trafficking laws, and why they’re the way they are and why so little changes. I’m so glad you persevered and wrote this even through the stress and threats and violence. I hope you will write another book soon, I def. look forward to reading it. I also hope it causes less stress to you and your loved ones! I feel so motivated to help in whatever little way I can.
I really consider you a modern-day hero, my hat’s off to you sir. お疲れ様です。 This Obon I’ll light some incense and say a prayer for your lost ones.
Well, I’m not much of a hero but I appreciate the expression of respect and will say a sincere thank you. I do what I can. And, yes, I would appreciate the incense and prayers for the departed. I don’t know if there is an after-life but I think it’s still important to remember those who have gone and thus also keep in mind the importance of cherishing those who remain.
I’ve actually read Tokyo Vice well over a year ago, and though I can’t say I remember all the places, names, events– I do know that your book has had a profound impact in my life. I happened to read your book during my self-imposed break after graduating college, and I was at the point where I had no idea where I wanted to go with my future. My friend lent me your book because we’ve always been intrigued by the sex-for-profit culture of Asian societies and she couldn’t have come across it at a more perfect time. I had my interview for medical school soon after I had finished reading, and when my interviewer asked me why I wanted to pursue this career, your book flashed in my mind: I wanted to make an impact in the lives of women and children who are often overlooked or altogether forgotten by society. So thank you for sharing with us your pursuit in this matter. You and all the people you have introduce to us, have been a great inspiration for me and I am so very grateful. I had no idea you were actively communicating with readers through this blog! I’ve backtracked a few of your responses here and I must say, if I ever find the time in between studying for exams and whatnot, I will definitely have to give Tokyo Vice another (or perhaps a few more) read-throughs. Thank you!
I’m really happy that I was of some help in determining your career path. It sounds like you have a good heart and will make an excellent doctor.
I’m honored to have inspired you to do something that will benefit the overlooked and the people who need help.
Best of luck,
I have a question that’s been bothering me about the book ever since I started reading it. Do the yakuza, in a sense, control Japan? I was reading the book and I knew before hand that the the various yakuza groups do have power but not to this extent. Is it fair to say that?
They don’t control Japan. Like every special interest group, they are able to exert influence. Sometimes, tremendous influence. “The Yakuza” is a word covering over 22 organized crime groups. The Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest group, with 40,000 members, they have a lot of influence and a lot of money.
I can’t wait to read this book. I have recently moved to Japan and while trying to immerse myself more and more into Japanese culture, I stumbled onto this site. I am a recent college graduate who majored in sociology and anthropology, and I am sure this read will be more than just compelling, if not inspirational to any future pursuits I may have in this country. The more I read from this website the more and more I am intrigued. I fervently admire the effort and sacrifices that consequently made the writing of this book possible. Kudos and godspeed in all your ventures Mr. Adelstein. You have definitely gained a fan.
It’s always nice to have a fan. Because I seem to be adept at making enemies as well. Good luck with your studies. You’ll find Japan to be anthropologically fascinating.
I just wanted to take my time and tell you how much I enjoyed your book. It was just phenomenal. As a Japanese and an American citizen, I have found myself in your shoes a lot of the times while reading the book. Your book was also very educational– I have never learned about the underworld of Japan and it made me realize a lot of things about Japan. Actually, I felt a personal connection when you mentioned in the book about the Osaka school massacre which took place in Ikeda elementary school. I was attending the sister school of Ikeda elementary school at the time, and it brought back a lot of memories. Thank you for sharing your stories…. I loved every one of them, and I wish the best for you and your family, and everyone else who was mentioned in the book. You’re my inspiration…glad I read this book. これからも頑張ってください。おつかれさまでした！
Thank you for writing in. It must be tough recalling that massacre. When they swiftly executed the man responsible, I was happy. Maybe the only time I’ve ever really approved of capital punishment.
I know that’s not a nice thought but it was a horrible and cruel crime. I’m glad you read the book as well. If I’m an inspiration, I hope it’s to inspire you to live a better life than I have. I’m not sure I made the wisest choices.
I just recently read Tokyo Vice and was completely floored on how fast-paced, gritty, and engaging your memoir was on every single page. I haven’t read a book like this in a long time that kept me fully aware of how the underground crime scene works in Japan. Amazing details! I attended UC Davis and received my degree in English Lit and graduated in the summer of 2009. At that point I wanted to put my efforts into a creative writing type of position for my career. At this moment in time, and struggling economy, I find it very discouraging to keep writing and be creative; however, since reading your book, my attitude has changed for the best. The reason I say this is that most journalists I have read sound pretentious and not aiming to please the average reader. It reminds me to write in my own voice like how you did in your story.
Also, I do have one question about the yakuza’s hand in the film industry. Is there a film that would be comparable to any classic American gangster films in Japan for the yakuza? Like a Japanese Goodfellas?
Thanks Jake. I hope you put some more material soon if it doesn’t endanger your life. Take care and good luck. It was a great read!
Thanks for writing. It is a very hard time to be a fiction writer. The Reality Television ethos has spread to publishing—people want to read memoirs or true stories that read like fiction. Of course, reality is always stranger than fiction. The problem with fiction versus reality though is that fiction has to make sense.
Real life events often do not. Finding the right voice to write a book in is difficult. This is why I’m struggling with the second book. It’s not a first person narrative and finding the right tone isn’t easy. When I wrote TOKYO VICE, I wanted it to be like sitting down with an old friend and having a long conversation.
I think it’s often very good to read your own work out loud or have the speech function on LION do it for you. When we hear the words sometimes we get a better sense of whether the prose works.
My favorite yakuza flick is ONIBI: The Fire Within–it is hard to find but worth watching. It may not be out on DVD in the US but Kitano’s OUTRAGE is also surprisingly accurate. And MINBO NO ONNA, which is only available on VHS in the United States is also excellent. BLACK RAIN isn’t bad, just not great.
For a highly romanticized view of the yakuza, THE YAKUZA with Takakura Ken and Robert Mitchum is very good. And personally, I think MILLER’S CROSSING while not being a yakuza film per se, captures a lot of what the yakuza are like and the code of the society.
I remember that meeting very well. I wasn’t a very good public speaker than and it wasn’t easy to stand up and tell the truth. One of the more courageous moments of my life. Often, I have been too quiet when I should have spoken up.
I am 94 pages into Tokyo Vice and I must say your book, sir, is like a wonderful drug. I cannot put this book down, I have always been fascinated by the nation of Japan and its underworld. You have opened this world up to some thirsty foreign eyes and we very appreciate it.
Keep up the fascinating work!
Thank you. It doesn’t have an upbeat ending. I keep trying to work out a real life happy ending for a sequel but until I move into a different area of journalism, I have constant reminders that death comes without invitation and more often than we would like.
Hi Jake, having recently spent a rushed four-day break in Tokyo with my son I have become fascinated by the Japanese way of life, and was generally impressed with the way that this huge, busy city runs – we encountered nothing but kindness and courtesy for the whole period. It was with this sketchy knowledge that I read your book and must say how fascinated I was by a side of Tokyo that we saw little/nothing of (although like all world cities I was in no doubt it existed).
I was very moved by your story and by your willingness to put yourself between a rock and a hard place during the course of the period of the book – clearly it cost you a lot in terms of friends and acquaintances lost, in some respects balanced by the special friendship and support offered by others. The bad and the good – lessons of life.
In that short stay I came to love Tokyo and its people. You have my admiration and respect for your efforts to keep it good.
Tony-san, I am very fond of this country as well. I have some great friends here as well–people who have risked a lot for me and for greater causes. I have tried to return the favor. Recently, my former boss, Kiyotake-san, had the guts to take on the tyrannical CEO of the Yomiuri Group. At yesterday’s press conference, I asked a question that helped him defend his actions and I have written an article to support his accusations. It will probably get me in a world of trouble. However, that is the job of a friend–to stand by your friends when they are doing the right and noble thing and take the heat with them. Thank you for writing. Letters like yours make me feel like maybe I’m not living my life in vain.
First, let me say that by definition of the word, I’m not a “reader”. Typically, I don’t enjoy sitting down “with a good book”, ever. I don’t watch much television, especially “reality programs”, and rarely go to movies. (When I do read, I prefer non-fiction military history – a first-person account of their “story”.)
However, I saw your book at a thrift store, and after reading the back cover two or three times (different visits), I decided I’d give in to curiosity. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d like it after the first few pages… I hung in there, and I’m glad I did.
Thank you for sharing your story. It was a great read, and I’m glad it was still on the shelf.
I’m honored that you took the time to read my book. I hope that there was something of use in the book that stays with you and is useful later in life.
I really enjoyed reading your novel, as i am a foreign student living in tokyo and have aspirations to become a journalist. Tokyo Vice portrayed Japanese culture without idealizing it, with it’s sometimes strange modern and traditional values clashes, and people’s general reactions to foreigners. I have experienced some rascism and sexism but i have also fallen in love with japanese culture and it as interesting reading about a part of japan that i didn’t really know existed. Even after living here for several months, I can only guess at the challenges of working at a japanese newspaper, and wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences as an american journalist in japan.
Hi Mr. Adelstein,
I read your novel when it was published in Italy, and I just want to thank you for your precious work, especially for me in this moment. I’m wiriting my graduation tesis and when I picked the subject I didn’t know how to find the material to gather information about the yakuza XXI century devolepments. Your experience is fundamental for my paper work.
Thank you so much!
p.s I’m sorry for my english, I know I still make a lot of mistakes…
It’s not a novel but a cross-between memoir and true-crime book but I know what you mean. You are very welcome and I’m glad the book was useful. If you’d post a review in Italian on Amazon Italy, that would be great. (I have no shame).
PS. My English is full of mistakes as well. Ask Stephanie or Sarah who edit my stuff.
I just finished reading your book TOKYO VICE. I couldnt get enough of it and Im really upset that its over now! I heard you’re writing a new book. When will it be out??? I cant wait anymore!!!
Thank you for reading the book and writing in. The second book is moving slowly but in the meantime, I write for The Atlantic Wire on a semi-regular basis and and this blog so hopefully that will tide you over until the next book. 😀
I wanted to know if you are accurately being quoted in this excerpt from this article: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fs20091203a4.html
Jake Adelstein, author of “Tokyo Vice,” a memoir documenting his 12 years of reporting on crime for the Yomiuri Shimbun, says that nyotaimori has its fans within various organized crime groups but adds that it is generally considered over-the-top for today’s tastes. “It still takes place and it was definitely something that the yakuza liked to do at parties,” he explains, “but as for now, it’s less popular [with gangsters] than before.
Recently a feminist organization quoted you in a different way, leaving out the second half.:
“It [Nyotaimori] still takes place and it was definitely something that the yakuza liked to do at parties…”
~ Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice a memoir documenting his 12 years of reporting on crime for the Yomiuri Shimbun
Unfortunately I have not yet had the pleasure of reading your book, and was actually drawn to it by the above quote. I do intend to look it up in the future as it seems a fascinating insight on such a deeply underground organization.
I am curious if you know if the practice of nyotaimori still exists in Japan and how it is received and if it is still associated with yakuza and sex trafficking. Your book was published in 2009 and now 2 years later I wonder if you know if this has changed at all.
I have been trying to find written history on the origins of nyotaimori with no real luck.
It seems that most Americans who know about “Naked Sushi” believe that it was/is a well accepted Japanese artform associated with yakuza and formerly geisha practices. Some also believe that nyotaimori has always been associated with sex trafficking. I do not believe it is a widespread practice nor has it ever been widely accepted or treated (at least in Japanese culture) as an artform, since not much can be found about the practice other than Western sources that cannot quote their sources. I’ve read yet another article that yakuza are supposedly the ones that created the practice and that it has only been practice since the 1980s.
I appreciate any insight you may have on this matter.
Thanks in advance for your response!
Miss C, I’m correctly quoted in Brett Bull’s Japan Times piece. The practice is dying out and a few years ago Inagawa-kai members were arrested for nyotaimori because the naked girl was underage. Any decadent tradition will always find a venue but the practice is no longer common and in increasingly mixed-sex working environment, “naked sushi” at a party would create scandal and shame. I think as a motif for “shocking photos” that it may still be utilized. I asked one yakuza about it and he said, “The body warms up ups the sushi and lukewarm sushi is pretty foul tasting. Plus it doesn’t seem very sanitary.”
Surprisingly, the top level yakuza are very health conscious: they don’t drink and they don’t smoke. That seems to be more and more the norm.
Read this book a couple months back and i still think back on how true grit it all was. The only real description would be real life noir. It’s probably the best book on yakuza crime and one of the more original crime books to come out, more so because it’s by a journalist who witnessed this stuff happen. You captured that vibe of being on the beat and i’m eagerly awaiting your next book.
Thank you. A lot has improved in Japan since the book was written–especially in dealing with human trafficking. The next book isn’t about me. I think I may wait a decade or so to write a sequel to Tokyo Vice. However, I think you’ll find it a good read.
Dear Sir Adelstein,
I’m a Italian reader. I would just like to say: your book is a good thing.
I will recommend it.
Please, walk on like that.
If you will pass through Rome or Venice, it would be a real honor for me be able to meet you.
Thank you for writing. If I do come, I’d love to meet.
I work for a newspaper in Seoul, and while my stories aren’t nearly as interesting as those in Tokyo Vice there’s certainly a lot I could relate to, at least in terms of the working environment and the culture. Your book was probably the most entertaining memoir by a journalist I’ve read, and I’ll definitely be looking for more books of yours in the future.
All the best,
cool! What’s Korean organized crime like?
I don’t plan on writing a “sequel” to Tokyo Vice–maybe not for another decade.
The next book isn’t about me but does have some threads connecting it to Tokyo Vice.
I hope it measures up to the first book.
I’ll try to find some that are listed!
sorry for the message but i’m a student of Political Science, from Italy and i need some information about japanese criminality (yakuza) for my thesis of degree… Please can you give me your contact at email@example.com because i need more information about this subject. Your work and career is amazing. Thank you for your book…really thanks
your really welcome. i have a lot of similar questions and i think i’m going to post a sort of glossary to what i’ve written on the yakuza so far that isn’t on the website.
I just finished reading “Tóquio Proibida”, the Brazilian-Portuguese very well done version of your “Tokyo vice”. I live in Tokyo and got your book when I was in Brazil for Christmas, last December. Amazing writing, read it on my way back to Japan, 23 hours in an airplane. Now I am tracking your Japan Subculture website to improve my knowledge about Japan and the Japanese.
Thank you! Good luck to you as well and thank you for reading.
I’m really enjoying your book so far. In particular, I like how you include the description and process of being a journalist in addition to the stories in your book. I usually don’t read these sorts of ‘crime’ centered books, because they’re more often narrowly focused, obsessed about the violence or grotesque details of the crime(s), or don’t suggest any insight into how their case(s) fit into the rest of the world.
But in your book, for example, I can learn a lot more about the occupation of being a journalist, more subtitles of Japanese society, and real-life political undercurrents that I may not have be aware of. (In fact, I recently watched Kenji Mizoguchi’s “Street of Shame” (赤線地帯) (1956), and tried to find the old Japanese police show “危ない刑事” (1986). Upon reading more details about some the themes in these shows, I stumbled upon your book.) I suppose you could say that it helps me become a little bit wiser about the way the world works, and that’s something I appreciate.
Thank-you for the interesting book : )
Thank you for appreciating the passages on the mechanics of being a journalist and the social undertones of the book. I felt that they needed to be in the book to make it something valuable for budding journalists as well.
Hello, Mr. Adelstein!
I just finished reading Tokyo Vice. I normally read fantasy novels but I grabbed your book on impulse and immediately came to this site upon getting to the last page. It has literally left me breathless and I’m pretty much not going to shut up-ever-about it, especially to my friends who are interested in Japan.
(Okay, well… Maybe I’ll shut up about it eventually. Certainly not in the next two weeks, though.)
I noticed in the comments here that there’s another book on the way and you can bet that I’ll be reading it as soon as it comes out. (And I’ll be reading your articles on The Atlantic Wire and here, too!)
Few people call me Mr. Adelstein but I appreciate the formality. I’m working on a second book, The Last Yakuza: A life in the Japanese underworld and The Nine-Digit Economy: How Japan’s Anti-Social Forces Moved Into Japan’s Financial Markets and the World. The second book is much more dry, but I’m hoping it will be a good read. Thank you for taking the time to write and to read the book.
Otsukaresamadeshita. Jake, I don’t know where to begin. The parallels, connections, core of reference, core of essence, you’ve nailed it. A brilliant work. Had I read this in 1993, I would’ve followed a similar path, I believe. The hunt for the truth at all costs. To find evil and kill it.
I’ve been living in Tokyo for 6 years, pilot, based out of Haneda. I tell my wife that she will better understand me after reading your book. And she’ll have an objective reference in understanding her own people. I’m still searching for a mentor like Sekiguchi-san. Daibutsu, ne? Get back here, stay in it. In this period of mediocrity, in this landscape of Hieronymous Bosch, never, never, never, give up.
I never give up and I’m learning to lose with more grace. Sometimes, I score a moral victory for the team. Now and then.
Hmm, ok so I’m laying down in my couch trying to figure out what to think, or say about this book of yours. And shit, I can’t find the words for what I’m feeling. I read it a couple of years ago, and I also got the audio version. Which really hooked me. I found myself at work, just staring out the windshield of my truck, which is not a good thing doing 80mph down the highway. I forced myself to turn it off, and listen to some music. But, there it was, lingering in the back of my head. Tokyo Vice Matti, Tokyo Vice, a whisper turned into PLAY THE FUCKING BOOK DUDE! Aaand so I did, and I’m sorry if I scared anyone going down I-35 in Texas at the time. When I was done listening to it, this void filled me, the need for more of the same. An easy read, but with depth and emotions, fears and sorrow worn on your sleeves. I’m from Sweden, living in Austin Texas now days though. So of course I’ve read the Stieg Larson trilogy, Girl with the dragon tattoo etc. I feel, all though fictional it also brings up the dark and hidden parts side of my own country. And also taking on the role of women in society, and all the shit they have to deal with, not just prostitution and trafficking. But the objectifying of them, that glance or stare you give a woman. Not thinking it might make them feel uncomfortable. And I know I do it too, all though I strive to be as professional or polite as possible. And I think that drive men have, wether it’s natural or forced upon us thru media and other sources, is a big part of the problem. That creates the need for eg. Trafficking or prostitution, sadly…. If you haven’t read those books you should. Anyway I’m just ranting on a sleeping pill high now, so I’ll just leave you with this. – Great book and keep working for people on the bottom layers of society trying to scrape a living together! I’ll be waiting for the next one.
thanks matti. i’ll read the books. human trafficking is an old and nasty business. slavery under another name.
Jake – Thanks for the great read. What an insane story. You’re one ballsy guy.
As I finished the book, I had just one big question it’s one that I’m sure many other readers have as well: Did you ever find out what happened to Helena? Was it her in the photos Cyclops showed you? I find it strange that you didn’t pursue this more in the book. You did so much high-risk reporting and sleuthing to help women who were total strangers to you, but when it comes to someone you are very close with, it seemed odd that her disappearance (and the meeting with Cyclops) didn’t get more attention and propel you to find out what really happened to her. Did you ever find her?
I never found her. I had one email years later that gave me hopes she might still be alive. At least one woman from that period created a new life for herself. She doesn’t want her husband to ever know what she went through and I respect that. If she really did start a new life for herself, it’s not my place to ruin it. I would feel better knowing the answer but not at her expense. I wish I knew.
It’s hard to know how much you’re being gamed in the underworld. Things are more complex than they seem at first.
Just purchased the book from B&N on line. Had to have it after viewing a Youtube segment. Great reading!
Take care of yourself.
I was in yokosuka from 1974 to 1976 , in us navy. I rented a house in Hayama and hung out in Yokohama. I had quite a liquor resell thing going with the bars in yokoham chinatown. A bottle on the us base cost about 5$ and on the japan ginza it was 40. Johnny walker black, we also got porno from Holland and resold it. I remember also getting a few hand guns from the base and resell to yakas. Once we rented a limo and the staff of the Superman bar when to see sammy davis in toyko. Drugs were hard too buy and sell back then. 40 years ago. Your book bought back some of the bullshit we did. We would buy a type of pain killer from the pharmacys , called optillidon. Must of had morphine in them One of my shipmates got busted selling heroin that we had bought from a trip to hong kong. He did a year in japan prison. Also murder of a hostess in yokosuka around 1975, a crazy us marine did it..
I started reading your book and, frankly, one thing is really killing me. Who was the liver donor for the oyabun in the beginning of the book? Was there ever any record? More to the point-were they still alive?
If you read to the end, there is somewhat of an answer. The question of the “lucky timing” was never really answered. The donor was a perfect match, almost like he was hand-picked.
A perfect match ? Did the oyabun have any close or even shirt-tail relatives in Hawaii that may have had a fatal accident during that time?
Not that I know of. There were four yakuza altogether but all the donors were from Southern California.
I have just read your book. I really enjoyed it but I noticed that’s true what one of host guys told about you – you like to tell your stories and talk about yourself. 😀 I like it. It’s nothing wrong but those description of you got my attention.
I’m looking forward to your second book.
BTW…I must ask… have you ever found out what really happened with Helena? Have you ever followed up your believes that she made it?
Thanks for few days of great adventure with your book.
Hah. It was a pretty accurate comment, maybe.
I like to talk about myself less and less as I get older and hopefully wiser.
When the book was about a week from going to press, my editor at Random House said that the book needed to be more personal, that I needed to talk more about my feelings and emotional state as events unfolded.
He said it was something that was important to people reading the book.
I was hesitant to do it. That’s not the training you get as a journalist in Japan.
But, at the same time, I knew that a yakuza related private detective agency was digging into my life, and so I also thought about that long and hard. (If you follow the news in Japan, this year a private detective and a lawyer were arrested for illegally obtaining data on an organized crime cop. The detective agency had received millions from anti-social forces over the last few years.)
So, my editor’s request and my decision that it would be harder to be blackmailed if I documented all my shady and questionable acts made the book more confessional than I ever wanted it to be.
I don’t know about Helena. As time goes by I understand that I was a chess piece in a larger struggle amongst rival yakuza, not a pawn, but not a bishop either.
I got an email a year or so after the book was published which I thought might have been from her. I wrote back. The mail account was already dead.
I was in touch with one of her close friends who hadn’t heard from her since she vanished. She is married with kids and made a fresh start in her life. She asked me to stop contacting her, very politely. And so I did.
Sometimes people need to move on. I haven’t moved on much.
It’s hard to lose someone you loved. Especially if there are things that you wish you had said to them. My best friend Michiel passed away on the 9th of this month after years of battling leukemia. We were friends from 2004. She was confidante and my pal and more. I said what I needed to say to her before she left this world. And I was glad I did.
I try not think about Helena. And I don’t know if I really want to know anymore what happened. Because it wouldn’t change anything. And maybe it would ruin the new life she has started, if that’s the case.
Sometimes truth is a medicine. Sometimes it’s a poison.
Sometimes you just live with the wounds. (Wow, that sounds really melodramatic but I don’t know any better way to say it.)
Thanks for reading the book. I hope you got something out of it that is useful.
ohh, I did. It was really interesting. I was in Japan last year as a tourist and I knew that I just touched the surface of Japanese culture. Your book gave me better understanding and I realize how much more is there to explore.
Japan is one of those countries where you can come back many times and you still feel that you haven’t discovered enough.
I have literally finished reading your book today and I have this controversial and extravagant tough that the CIA “scholarship” to do job on human trafficking was just operation to put Goto out of Yakuza?
I’m waiting now for your next book and meantime I will recommend “Tokyo Vice” to people I know.
PS: If you are looking for book to read I can recommend you “The Queen of South” by Arturo Perez-Reverte. You might like it.
I will check it that book out someday. As for “the CIA scholarship”, you give the agency way to much credit for competency. Try reading “Legacy Of Ashes” and you’ll realize that they can barely plan the annual picnic.
Sometimes, I am.
I’m a Game Designer studant here in Brazil and our teacher chose the “Tokyo Vice: the Book” for a project of the university.
Basicly we’ll have to do a game about you and your book.
I’m very interested in knowing some more about you, and I know that it’s kind of impossible but i would be very gratefull if I could interview you for making a nice game that you would like to say “Hey! that’s me!” (maybe it’s strange and you’ll just ignore ir hehe)
So i ask: Could you let me interview you for making a good game?
case the answer is either positive or negative i’m already very grateful
Oh… in case of your curiosity this is the cover of the portuguese version of Tokyo Vice: http://www.companhiadasletras.com.br/images/livros/12871_gg.jpg
Forbidden Tokyo: A dangerous journey through the japanese underworld. is the translation of the portuguese title
it’s arround 25 dollars (50 reais)
thanks again! i hope i get your answer =]
25 dollars? Well, it seems expensive but I hop it was worth it. And I like the title.
It’s a little expensive but it’s worth the money! I’ts a great book and i’m enjoying it very much!
I’m flattered that your going to do a game about the book and me. That’s a little surreal.
However, if it’s for commercial use, you’ll probably have to clear it with the publisher. For a project, I think it’s fine.
I’ll send you an email.
I picked up your book in Osaka at the Kinokuniya bookstore for 1500 yen. It was a great read, well worth the money I spent. I got to read about a side of Japanese society that I don’t get to see on my visits there. I wondered why you didnt put your wife and children’s names as the lead acknowlegements. I hope to see your book turned into a movie soon. Maybe John Cusack can play your part.
Thank you. I didn’t really think about the order of the acknowledgements but I wanted to thank the people who had helped get the book published first. It seemed like the right thing to do.
Maybe it will become a movie. It would be nice. If I was independently wealthy, I could write more without fearing being sued.
I read Tokyo Vice over the weekend and I was completely blown away. I could feel it was written from your heart and by the end of it , I felt I knew the characters as well as you did. Truly inspiring material. I’m sure you’ll be approached by film-makers soon. Give it to the best.
And good luck with your journalistic career and my best wishes to Sunao,Beni and Ray. Cheers.
I can think of less depressing ways to spend the weekend but if you came away feeling that you knew some of the people than I feel like I did a good job with the book. Sunao, Beni and Ray are all well although it’s been three years since the book was published so the kids are a lot bigger but very well adjusted–I think.
Loved the book. My wife wishes that there was a japanese language version of the book so that she could read it.
Thank You Very Much
Thank you for writing me. Someday there will be a Japanese version when I find a publisher with balls.
I am currently backpacking on my own through Japan and happened to snag your book while on the road. It was a perfect read for long train rides and while slurping bowls of ramen solo at the counter. In fact, it went by much too quickly! Thanks for an engaging story and for enlightening me on many aspects of Japanese culture (and subculture) that have interested me since I arrived a month ago, and kudos to you for your admirable work on fighting human trafficking.
Thank you very much. Good luck on your journey and safe travels.
I just finished Tokyo Vice and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it. (Well, not all of it, but you know what I mean ;-). I lived in the Tokyo area from 93 to late 2001 (both in Saitama and in Hyakunincho… a stones throw from Kabukicho) so I remember quite well some of the things you wrote about. Loan shark companies and Lucie Blackman in particular. I had many flashbacks while reading the book, some good, some – not so much. i.e. the human trafficking. We may have spoken over the phone at some point during my stay there as I worked for a pretty popular company with the “gaijin” community back then and your name sounded familiar (thus the reason I picked up your book) I always thought the yakuza ruled the roost in my neighborhood, as opposed to the police – now I know it was.
I’m heading to Japan for a visit in Nov or December. I still consider it my second home but I’ll certainly be looking at it with a different perspective this time. I hope you and your family are well and I look forward to reading more of your work and hanging out here at japansubculture.com
The family is well although I separated from Mrs. Adelstein amicably. You lived in Hyakunincho? You should go back and check it out–the place is thriving. It’s part of the Korean culture boom in Japan.
Great articles man. Has Hollywood come calling for Tokyo Vice? If not, knock, knock.
Knocks are always welcome. 😀
Hello Mr. Adelstein,
I am Ren from the Philippines and a Japanese Studies Major. I just finished Tokyo Vice few hours ago. Thank you for giving light to show what are the things happening in the shadows of Japanese society. It presented what are the ‘real’ things beyond the ‘honne’ & ‘tatemae’ culture. Your experiences and stories are indeed amazing, interesting, and scary.
Best of luck! 🙂
Ren, thank you very much for writing in and expressing your appreciation of the book. I find many things I like in Japanese society but it has a dark side that is labyrinth and frightening. Tonight I was speaking with Michael Woodford, the ex-CEO of Olympus and his experience is almost surreal. When you probe too far past the tatemae (建前）and get to the truth–it can cause a lot of trouble. Good luck with your Japanese studies!
Hi, I started to read the book yesterday and will finish it today. I really like it. It is very well written and very entertaining. I lived 10+ years in Tokyo and recently moved to the country side in Kansai. I found in the the book many things that I experienced myself, though in different situations. Very interested by the description of media and police ‘industries’. Thank you !
You are very welcome. Thanks for the kind words. I hope Kansai is as pleasant or more pleasant than Tokyo.
Thank you. When I wrote my comment, I was still at the first half of the book. After reading the second, I think the term ‘entertaining’ is not adequate. I would replace it by frightening, or real… You demonstrated a lot of courage and determination.
I wasn’t sure whether I should warn you that the book gets darker as you reach the end. The job itself started out being a lot of fun but the deeper you go into the underworld, the darker it gets. Metaphorically if not literally. I don’t know if I demonstrated much courage but some measure of persistence. Thanks for writing in.
Wow O__O Tokyo Vice sounds like a very interesting story and it is very different from the other based-in-Tokyo synopsis I have read before. It’s amazing that you wrote it, would you give someone who aspires to write their book based in Tokyo some advice? I have wanted to write an interracial story based there but I need the experience first of all.
P.S Jealous at the amount of trackbacks/pingbacks that you can get ;___;
It would be good to live in Japan for a long time.
Just finished your book. Terrific. I really enjoyed it.
If I ever meet you in Propaganda (I am a regular), drinks are on me.
Thank you very much. I don’t drink much these days because I don’t have much of a liver left but I appreciate the offer immensely.
Just finished reading your book and it’s definitely one of the best reads i’ve had in a while.
As an italian who grew up in Tokyo from age 12~18 (1992-98) and spent many more years visiting my parents there till 2008 and friends, I can relate a lot to your stories. It gave me a lot of insights into stuff that i “sort of knew”. I’m definitely recommending it to all my close friends who like me grew up there as expats. Japan is “home” to me in a strange way, but there are some things that I will never understand about it.
Btw any word about Helena?
Keep up the great work!
Thank you very much.
No word but I don’t lose hope.
Hello Jake, my name’s Johan and I live in Sweden. I suppose you could call me an aspiring writer, but that’s a whole other story. What I came to say was this:
I just finished reading your book after pulling an all-nighter, and…Wow. It’s really amazing. I stumbled upon it by chance (why the hell it hasn’t reached my attention before now is beyond me), and I thank whatever powers that be that I did. It gave me an insight into Japan and japanese society that I’ve never been able to find anywhere else, and it left me deeply moved. Reading your story, following your journey and all your struggles was intense and kind of mindblowing at times. To me, it goes into that rare category of books that seemingly without effort sticks straight in the mind and won’t ever leave, in a good way. It was a true inspiration, and one hell of a trip. Not sure what this comment will accomplish, but if nothing else it might hopefully brighten up your day. Thank you. ありがとございました。
All the best.
Thank you very much. It did brighten my day. I hoped when writing the book that it would stay with them in some way and that they would learn from my experiences. It is wonderfully validating to be told that for even one person, that the book was positive inspiration. Good luck with your writing. Writing is increasingly a difficult occupation to make a living doing but if you can make it your vocation or find time to do it while earning enough to survive, it’s often rewarding in many ways.
As a Muslim I wasn’t expecting much from a Jew. But good job. Lol
Just kidding. Great read 😉
As a Muslim I wasn’t expecting much from a Jew. But good job. Lol
Just kidding. Great read!! Loved it!!!!!
Report- watch Can Play A Key role In Any Site administration
Nunca fui ao Japão e eu conheço a cultura japonesa, um pouco.
Ao ler o seu livro, aprendi muito sobre os yakuzas, Saitama, Kabukicho e Roppongi.
É um livro espetacular. Foi traduzido por Donaldson M Garschagen.
Gostaria de adquirir uma edição japonesa mas, não estou encontrando.
Este livro não está sendo vendido pelo Amazon?
Thank you: according to Google Translate you wrote:
Never went to Japan and I know Japanese culture, a bit.
When reading your book, learned much about the yakuzas, Saitama, Kabukicho and Roppongi.
It is a book spectacular. Was translated by Donaldson M Garschagen.
Would like to acquire a Japanese edition but,’m not finding.
This book is not being sold by Amazon?
ありがとう ござい ます
The book is translated into Japanese but no publisher will touch it. It steps on too many toes.
Jake, I finished listening to the audio book version of Tokyo Vice this morning and it has changed me. I lived and worked in Japan around the time of the events in the book. I routinely walked the streets of Kabukichou and Roppongi as a young American man. I seldom ventured into those “establishments”, and when I did it was never on my own. Hostess bars with clients and hanging out at Motown in Roppongi was about as deep as I got. I remember seeing Western hostesses in Roppongi and I can’t help but wonder if any of them was someone in your book. You have helped me comprehend much of what I saw there. You made a difference. You, Helena, Alien Cop, Sekiguchi-san, etc. Thank you for the book. Next time I’m in Roppongi, Shinjuku, or Shibuya, it won’t be the same. “Ima wakarimasu.”
Thank you very much for writing and the donation to the blog. We’ll put the money to good use, probably on a investigative piece about a particularly odious stalker and why he goes unpunished. Things have changed a lot since the book was written. Some for the better.
Thanks, Jake. I won’t mind if some of the donation goes to a carton of cigarettes for a source so you can bust Mr. Chikan. I told one of my friends in Japan about your book. Her name is Rika. She used to manage a club in Roppongi called “Roppongi Tamago”. I think she closed it down a few years ago. Celebrities frequented her club and she was pretty tight lipped about all that. Rika told me that she was always having trouble with the Yakuza, fights, etc. About your book, she just asked me, “この本は日本語の訳が無いのね？” I told her I’d ask you. I couldn’t find a Japanese language version online, but maybe it’s out there.
Just found your comment about finding a Japanese publisher with balls. I’m pretty sure I can translate that in Japanese for Rika. Damn! My wife, Mayumi, wants to read the book, too.
I’ve lived in Okinawa since 2004. As I read your book some lights started coming on. A few years ago the police starting hanging around the few red light districts that exist on the island. Eventually all of them closed. About the same time all the Filipinas that worked in the bars outside the bases all disappeared. The thing is, the girls I knew at the bars were not prostitutes (or they did it on their own time). They were in Japan on Entertainment Visa’s and many had come here a number of times. They knew what the job was – think Hostess Club – and chose to come. Now they are stuck in the Philippines and working for one tenth of what they made here. So, new brooms sweep clean don’t they? During your time in Japan did you see any example of the sex trade that you would consider acceptable. Human trafficking is deplorable, but is there a case to be made for those that choose to enter into “the worlds oldest profession”? As did your friend Helena.
Although some activists consider this a heresy to say, certainly there are women who become prostitutes by choice and some women who are able to work relatively safely. In Japan, many sexual services are legally provided. The problem is that since prostitution exists in a grey zone and foreign women (unless married or permanent residents) can’t work in the adult entertainment legally—they are often the subject of brutal exploitation. When women are coerced or duped into working in the sex industry, have no freedom to quit, and are not paid or extremely exploited, that’s human trafficking.
THe world’s oldest profession is that of a slaver: the world’s oldest victims are the slaves. Human trafficking includes labor exploitation as well as exploitation of women and children in the sex industry.
In short, hostess clubs and jobs where sex are not coerced are not human trafficking. Some women do become prostitutes by choice and get by. I don’t see those choices as crimes.
Hi Jake and team,
Any updates on the publication of the Last Yakuza? There seems to be very little current information about it on the web. It’s been 5 years since the amazing Tokyo Vice, it’s getting to be a painful wait for the next book!
It’s coming out next year. It’s still a work in progress.
I really enjoy examining on this internet site, it contains excellent articles. I appreciate your work.
I came across your book when reading Michael Woodford’s “Exposure”. Tokyo Vice was a fascinating read and I admire your resourcefulness and persistence in the face of great personal risk. I am doing some research into Japanese sub-culture in connection wth a screenplay I am writing and will be in Tokyo for 10 days from 22 May 2015. Would love the opportunity to discuss aspects of Tokyo’s underbelly with you or one of your colleagues. Please let me know if you might be available.
I have just finished your book in French (sorry for my bad english, maybe is as your Japanese when you are beginner :)).
Your book is very interesting and I read it so quickly. I learn about Yakusa and investigative journalism.
I buy your book because I eard you on French radio (France Inter), i’ll be curiose to discover it and i’m not disappointed.
Merci! Thank you very much for writing in. My French is atrocious but if the book made you interested in investigative journalism, than we are happy.
The French literature TV program “La Grande Librairie” (François Busnel) pointed out Tokyo Vice. I went to Aix-en-Provence and found a enthusiastic reader at the Librairie Goulard! Thank you very much indeed for the time I spent with your book! I admire your courage, your lucid curiosity and your long term commitment. I do hope you will have disciples out there doing the same quality investigation journalism.Take care, best greetings from Switzerland, Claudine
Thank you very much! I appreciate the kind words immensely.
Claudine, thank you very much for writing in! I have some wonderful disciples (?) who are following in my footsteps.
Hello Mr. Adelstein, greetings from Brazil!!!
I’m a journalism student and work at a book store. A week ago I was looking for something to read at the comunication corner, when I saw your book and thought “Why not?”. Well, I’m here to say that I just finished of reading your book, and it’s amazing. I don’t now how to say exactly what I was going to say, because of my poor english so I’ll just end it up here.
Greetings from Japan! We will tell Jake and thank you for writing in.
Hello Jake! Congrats for your book, I have read it and It is amazing.
I am trying to contact you, I would like to be helped by you in my thesis. Please, tell me how to talk with you. Thank you very much and congratulations.
Hello, Jake. It’s been a while since our last contact. Stil no one contacted me for the translation in Chinese. I hate to stay dumb without tempting to do the translation myself. will you approve? >.<
I don’t have the foreign rights, otherwise I would love to ask you.
Started and finished tokyo vice earlier today. I must say that I envy the life you have lived; it’s pretty rare for one person to make a significant contribution to justice as you have, and I hope you realize the importance of that despite the pain endured by yourself and your loved ones in the process. Much respect
Thank you. That’s a very kind thing to say. I do feel that I made a difference and a positive one.
Hello Jake, I do not recall where I found your name and your book, but it was online and I followed a link that led to an article about you and “Tokyo Vice: The book”. I read many of the comments and ordered the book directly.
I have been to Japan numerous times and traveled all over including Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, Osaka, Yokohama, Hokkaido as well as working in a shipyard (IHI Aichi-Works) outside Kobe-Osaka area and many other smaller cities in-between. Asian culture has always been fascinating to me, especially Japanese culture.
I was a Marine Refrigeration Engineer for a company based out of Oslo Norway and worked on large Main A/C and Refrigeration systems onboard ships and worked and traveled all over the world. I met a woman in Tokyo and ended up getting married in a Buddhist Temple in Yokohama. I was actually in Kobe 5 months after the big earthquake in 1995. It was quite interesting to discover the influence of the Yakuza at that time and their ever-increasing exposure and influence in Japanese politics. I had heard that emergency resources (i.e food, water, temporary shelter, etc….) after the earthquake were out and available to the public by alleged Yakuza sources quicker than any other government or humanitarian agency. I also have heard that they have also made significant progress relevant to their influence into ever-growing political circles of influence.
I will get back to you after I read your book.
One way or another, I have some interesting anecdotes about International trade-level work travel and the difficulties of a bi-cultural relationship and other observations should you be open and interested to share.
Very Best – Gary
I’m subbing for Jake while he’s doing TV stuff. Thank you very much for writing and I will pass this along. There is a certain measure of PR in yakuza response to crisis and they did the same after 3/11. https://www.thedailybeast.com/japanese-yakuza-aid-earthquake-relief-efforts
Thanks, Tanya Outlaw for japansubculture.com
I really want to say your book is very very very amazing!!!!!! 😀
I ‘m a senior high school student in China. This is my first time to read such a kind of book, I was totally immersed myself in it when I was reading. After finishing the book, I learned about that behind those visible Tokyo bright, it still exists those invisible Tokyo crime. I was shocked ! As a reporter, you are very brave and respectable, thank you very much for your book!!
(I’m sorry for my poor writing skills and grammar mistakes)
Best wishes to you!!!
Thank you very much!
After watching the series Tokyo Vice, I ran to my local library to borrow your book. I just finished it, and it was amazing !
I have one question, I’m a little bit curious : after all these years, did you finally opened and learn the email of your former colleague Hamaya ? This chapter, when you talk about yarusenai was deeply moving, for the words, the injustice she suffered.
Kind regards from France !
I never opened it. I think I will keep it that way.
Jake: I have just begun watching the HBO TV series “Tokyo Vice” here in Australia – on the national broadcaster – the ABC. That prompted me to purchase your book. Like just about everyone above in this response thread – no sooner had I dived into the story – than I had finished it. I’ve posted a review on Amazon:
“Difficult to find words enough to praise this book. In an entirely different kind of life but covering (more-or-less) the exact time frame – I was a thousand km south west of Tōkyō – a good – and safe – 20 years older than Jake! A reader about Japan and as observant as a student of the different and the familiar. And living through the edges of and knowledge about a number of the matters referenced here in this book. Jake’s moral code and honesty are to be respected and admired given the dangers through which he negotiated his journalist career and investigative reporting into and from the darker side of Japanese legal, political and underworld shenanigans. I shall watch the TV series (and episodes) bearing the title of this book – even more closely… outstanding! Bravo, Jake Adelstein. Stay safe.”
It brought many memories back to me, Jake – driving around Japan – all apart from Hokkaidō in fact – friendships – staying with friends at various of their temples and shrines – walking the 88-temple pilgrimage – my teaching – all those students who taught me good things of their country … contact with political figures, even …
[Brushes with Yakuza – no dangers; a mate who was PTA present of the Ikeda primary school at which his daughter was a pupil; being taken to snack bars; simply observing at bōnenkai parties – what was permitted in terms of behaviour at all kinds of other social functions, funerals, weddings, entrance and graduation ceremonies – at festival times – New Year and o-bon… – visiting, writing, sending nengojō – learning aspects of the cultural historical spiritual dimensions of the country, too – loving those things which made Japan the place it is – but also realising that like my own land – like all other lands – Japan, too, had its darker sides – Yakuza, Dōwa, its colonialist era – its heroic figures.] Jim
Thank you so much for the kind words. I’ve always wanted to do the 88 temple pilgrimage. Maybe someday! Japan has a definitely darker side, like any place. I’m enjoying living more in the sunny side these days. And nenga-jo–it’s that season. Yikes
sounds very interesting! hope to get my hands on an issue.