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Thank You For The Kind Letters About TOKYO VICE (from Jake)


Dec 2, 2009

I’ve been heartened by a huge number of letters I’ve received in the last three weeks from people who read the book and were moved by it, inspired by it, appalled by it, and/or who felt they were wiser for reading it. I’ve tried to answer every letter I’ve gotten. If I haven’t answered yours, my apologies.

I also feel that I should say I am not a hero. I’ve also apparently broken most of the major rules of journalism that most journalists in the west follow so please don’t see me as an example to emulate, to all you budding journalists out there.

However, personally, I still feel that really the four most important things in journalism are 1) get the the story anyway you can 2) write the truth 3) try to write something that makes the world a better place 4) protect your sources and your friends. I’ve always considered the fourth one to be the most important of them all. I have not always been able to keep that rule.

I appreciate the compliments but I’m deeply flawed as a person, I’ve been a lousy husband, and I could be a better father to my children. I’ve made moral compromises that I’m not proud of but in my defense I’ve tried to do what’s right and protect my sources, my family and my friends and innocent people victimized by the predators of our society. I’ve done some dark things to make sure those people were protected. I’d hate to see my karma score.

A number of people who read the book have pledged money and/or time to the Polaris Project and Polaris Project Japan, both of which fight modern day slavery, and I’m very grateful for their efforts. Thank you. It’s nice to see some good come out of the book.

Below is one letter that particularly moved me and made me contemplate a lot about what has happened in the last two years. It’s representative of many of the letters I’ve gotten and I think it’s good food for thought.




Jake-san, (Though after finishing your book, perhaps sama would be
more appropriate)

You certainly weren’t exaggerating when you said the book got progressively darker. Here I was initially thanking you for the entertainment and information your story provided me, but then… at the end…the death of Sekiguchi, Helena’s disappearance, the strains placed on your friends and family… I found myself skipping ahead just because I wanted to know that everything would be okay. I guess it should be expected though that in a story filled with questions of the ends justifying the means and the gray area between the moral and immoral that there’s no such thing as a truly happy ending.

I don’t know if i could ever do what you did in writing about all this. You put everything on the line for a cause you believed in and there’s no telling the amount of good you did just in tearing down the Goto-gumi let alone your continued work in the Polaris Project as noted on the book flap. I get the sense that if I were to call you a hero, or define your actions as heroic, you’d likely point out the ambiguity of some actions you had to take, as noted in one of your latter conversations with “Alien Cop”. But risking your life for the greater good…God bless you man.

Though questions come to mind about some of your cases, I won’t take up your time with them. I did however want to offer up two thoughts. Firstly, in your epilogue when one of Goto’s mistresses compared you to Goto himself. I reflected back to a moment recently in my life. A couple months ago there was the national news story about the “Craigslist Killer” who mugged three women and killing one of them in the Massachusetts area. The alleged killer, Phil Markoff was a friend of mine through high school, and we were both very similar in personality. For a while I questioned what separates him from me, under what circumstances could I have become what he allegedly is? It took a good friend to remind me that I could never find happiness in hurting others, I’d only find guilt. And if the chips were really down, I’d rather suffer myself than inflict it upon others. So regardless of whatever you had to do, you apparently stuck to your efforts, and the world is a better place because of you. Thank you.

Second, and finally, in reading your epilogue, I too don’t know how much I believe in karma and reincarnation, (raised Baptist, now more spiritual than anything) but I do believe in the immortality of the human soul. From the experiences in my life and my studying of various religions I don’t believe the departed ever leave us entirely. So for what it’s worth, from one amateur theologian’s perspective, wherever Sekiguchi and Helena are, I’m sure they’re proud of what you have accomplished for the betterment of others. Keep on fighting the good fight; I’m already planning my donation to the Polaris Project.

42 thoughts on “Thank You For The Kind Letters About TOKYO VICE (from Jake)”
  1. This is my second comment. Better people have left in-depth comments about what was said in the book, about Jake’s lifestyle, about Japanese society and the consequences of what you do or don’t do.
    For me, Tokyo Vice has left me upset, smiling and in a daze. It has made me reflect on my life and, made me do some deep introspection. It upset me not for what was written, but what it made me think about and how I led my life with my Japanese wife and with my Amerasian children.
    My blog tells a lot about me. I would never have revealed so much if it were not for Jake Adelstein. I blame him. I am now so reflective about what went on in my life that it is keeping me up at night. Some may find parts of my blog boring while others may find it interesting. Let me know.
    Add a comment to the blog or email.

    1. Larry,
      I really enjoyed your blog. My apologies for causing anyone deep introspection–a little introspection was my goal. (lol). Actually, your blog made me really think about a lot of things as well. I haven’t come to any conclusions.
      I hope that when I reflect back on my life when I’m where you are now, that I feel like I did the right thing.

  2. Just finished reading “Tokyo Vice”. Good job and a great read. Your experience in Japan was definitely not like my experience. Although I did live in the Okubo area of Shinjuku, all we noticed in 1981 were the plethora of love hotels. My how things change.

    Keep up the good fight.


  3. Hey Jake,
    Didn’t mean to freak you out yesterday. I was the fist-bump guy on the escalator in Roppongi last night. I had been talking about Tokyo Vice at dinner and then 30 minutes later, there you were. If I hadn’t had 200 drinks, I might have had something more heart-felt to say than “your book fuckin’ rocks, dude.”

    Anyway, apologies for catching you off guard.

  4. Hi Adelstein-san,
    Thanks for adding me on twitter!
    If you didn’t already know I’m a junior undergrad at Cornell getting ready to study abroad at Sophia at the end of March.
    I’ve been meaning to read your book since the end of last year, but I’ve been too lazy up until now. Or I think a more accurate, non-self-deprecating description would be, “I knew that it would contain mentally taxing material which would command my full attention and focus if I truly wanted to get something out of it, therefore I wanted to make sure I was in the right state of mind before tackling the immense task of diving into such a gripping and potentially life-changing read”. I was right— It probably would not have been a good idea to start reading Tokyo Vice in the middle of the 10 teary-eyed, sleep-deprived nights that Cornell refers to as “finals week”.
    The first I ever heard of you was during my job at the mail center while I idly flipped through a copy of Maxim and came across an article with an excerpt of your book. I’ll be honest, I did initially roll my eyes and brace myself for what I thought was just another cliché perspective about some obscure aspect of Japanese culture by some typical gaijin Japanophile who had nothing better to do than waste his parents’ money on college in Japan to satisfy his Asian fetish (come on now, it was in Maxim). After learning that you worked at the Yomiuri Shinbun though, I quickly became intrigued and had a change of heart. By the end of January your book finally won out the grand debate in my head on what to buy myself as a reward for not failing my econometrics class (the opponent was a Dior lipstick)! Although I personally don’t think you’ve completely redeemed yourself from the gaijin stereotype… a minor detail like that seems trivial in light of the eye-opening experiences of your work, and thus by extension yourself, that you have so graciously shared with us. Your good qualities and morals as a person really come through in your writing, and no matter how much guilt you still harbor about past mistakes or actions surely you must know this at the end of the day. I hope that I could demonstrate the sort of bravery and quick wit that you have if god forbid I were ever to find myself in such similar situations.
    I was actually going to write you a long, drawn-out email along the lines of a comprehensive relay of my life story, hopes, and dreams…but decided against it because: 1. I figured someone of your occupation has more important things to do than become some angsty 20 year old Asian girl’s involuntary shrink 2. This message has already several hours to write and I’m mentally drained 3. My tendency for being really really long-winded is starting to show and I really should spare you the suffering.
    Don’t get me wrong I might still write that email if ever I find myself in a temporary fit of insanity with a decent amount of free time, but for the time being I just wanted to get this off my chest because I feel rather silly having to rely on twitter to make my existence known to you. Thank you Jake-san for raising awareness in the public about the deplorable state of organized crime and the sex industry in Japan. Your passion about what you do and the causes you fight for is truly inspiring, and I hope to have the honor of meeting you in person someday!

    p.s. I would tell you to visit my blog, but please don’t go just yet! The reason is because there actually is no blog at the moment since I procrastinated too long in getting it set up and now I am in China where blogspot is blocked. It probably wouldn’t interest you anyway since I was planning on dedicating it to clothes and makeup and visual kei rock bands that I plan to encounter during my semester in Tokyo. Yes I am a little ashamed to say that I still cling to such decadence even after being schooled on dangers of too much excess in your book. The fantasy of a toxic Tokyo lifestyle was what drew me to Japan in the first place, and I am not ready to give it up yet.

  5. Jake,

    Your chapter on Mami Hamaya was intriguing to me. The sad irony is that Hamaya was finally suffering from mental illness herself (depression), after having reported on it for years. I am surprised this story is not more well-known in Japan. I did a search on her name (in kanji), and I only found two research sites having to do with mental health. I felt that this chapter could almost be longer. Did anyone know that Hamaya was depressed? You said that Kikuchi wasn’t responsible. Why not?



    1. Joe,
      I don’t think Kikuchi knew what effect his harsh words would have on her. Maybe he does bear some responsibility. I could have written more. I miss Hamaya. I didn’t know she was depressed and I wish I had seen the signs.

  6. Jake-san

    I literally just got finished reading your book. All I can say is wow. That was an unbeleivable read. I lived in Japan back in 2000 then came back home and became a cop here. I am utterly amazed at what you were able to accomplish through your hardwork and dedication especially because of the high personal cost that came with it. While I was reading your book I found myself identifying with what you did a great deal and understanding I think your reasons for doing so.

    I will say that I that the chapter about Hamaya was horribly sad to me which I found as odd since I deal with a lot of situations like this on a weekly basis. I am not sure what was different in that chapter but I could feel your remorse and the guilt you feel over what happened. It made me sad to read it, and a week later I still think about that chapter every day. Forgive me for asking this, but did you ever read her email to you?

    1. Scott-san,

      I should have followed in your footsteps, perhaps. 🙂 . Well, I would have been a lousy cop, never was good at following the rules. I’m glad, in a funny way, that there’s someone else grieving for her. I hope she’s made peace with her life as it was on earth and moved on the next realm–that she’s not trapped in the realm of hungry ghosts. Sometimes, I sort of believe that such a realm exists.

      No, I never read her email. I don’t think I ever will. I don’t think I could live with any more remorse than I have now. I’m just not that strong.

  7. Jake-san

    You would have been a great cop lol you have the insticts to do it and we are all far from saints. You were around them enough in Japan to know this. It’s funny when you say I am grieving for Hamaya and I guess I am in my own way. I am grieving for you as well, as the burden you are carrying around with you regarding her death I would not wish on anyone.
    As for the email I know I have no right to say this but it’s my two cents. In some ways I think reading the email will provide you with closure as painful as it would be to do so. I have had close friends commit suicide and you are left feeling hollow inside always wondering what you could have done differently and if you could have stopped it. I only learned this from work but those people that leave a message behind generally never do so blame the recipients. Every note I have read had always been to apologize to those around them and to make them understand why they did what they did. In the end it was Hamaya-sans good bye to you. I think she would have wanted you to read it.

    Sorry if that crossed a line Jake-san it’s just of all the things you had the courage to write about in your book that, and Helena seemed to be the two things you carry with you the most. It’s a heavy burden to have. Scott

  8. Jake,

    Unlike Scott, I’m not a cop. But I did live in Tokyo for ten years from ’85 to ’95. I was in my 20’s and 30’s, so I can sympathize with a lot of what you went through. But let me say this — you have done an amazing thing, becoming a reporter and going into the seedier side of Tokyo. For all us gaijin who spent years in Tokyo, so many parts of your book bring back so many memories. But on the other hand, many of us steered clear of places like Roppongi and Kabuki-cho (as you did until you were assigned to go there). We wanted to get to know the real Japan, not other foreigners in Roppongi (or the Japanese who were attracted to the foreign-like Roppongi). I was in high-tech business in Tokyo, not newspaper reporting, so I had no need to spend lots of time in Roppongi. For the sake of your wife and kids, I hope you’ve stopped smoking. A real irony I find in your book is that you purposely sought out the most criminal aspects of the G7 country with by far the lowest crime rate. For many of us gaijin who stayed on the clean side of the law, the inner workings of the Japanese police were quite a mystery; your book really enlightens in this area. Finally, congrats on getting the 60 Minutes segment. As a California taxpayer, I feel angered that my tax dollars (UCLA) went towards a liver transplant for one of those scum-bag yakuza. Shame on UCLA!

    Anyway, you’ve done an amazing thing with this book. Will you now follow in the footsteps of Robert Whiting, writing more books about Japan? Or maybe time to find some peace by going back to being a monk? Best wishes to you, Sunao and the kids. (I’m also married to a Japanese and we have a son and daughter.)


    1. Joe-san,
      You did right to steer clear of those areas. Well-done. Please let UCLA know how you feel. 🙂 .
      I stopped smoking about two weeks ago. I’m still on the nicotine patch and I’m puffing on a fake cigarette that actually burns crystallized vitamin C and makes a nice healthy mist to breathe in. I have two more books I’m writing about yakuza, one a biography of sorts and another a more scholarly tome, like McMafia, to be titled “The Nine-Fingered Economy.”
      As for being a monk, this year I hope to get my priest credentials. I’m close. Not that I plan to make that my profession but somehow it would be nice to complete the training. Plus, it would be nice to offer to do free funerals for the families of my friends. Cops, reporters, and yakuza tend to die early in life.
      Sometimes, I feel like I’m 70 years old. It seems like every couple of weeks or months, another person I knew on the beat passes away. It’s morbid but true.
      I’ll communicate your best wishes to Sunao and the kids. Thanks for writing.

  9. I just finished reading Tokyo Vice. Read it over a period of two days. It was on my radar for a few months before I finally ordered it and it arrived last week. I live in NEPA and would have made the trip down to Philly for the event at Temple had I known about.

    Great work. It takes a lot to expose the truth when your life could hang in the balance. There’s not too many who would do the right thing. Your book also exposed a darker side of Tokyo that I was unaware of. I knew of the sex clubs and Yakuza but had no idea the extent of human trafficing and the I-could-care-less-about-some-foreign-whore that many in power seem to have. Sad. But I’m glad there’s people fighting the good fight.

    1. Thanks for taking two days to read it one fell swoop. That’s dedication. :). Actually, the talk was at the Temple University Campus in Tokyo, so you didn’t really miss it. I have to confess, I didn’t plan on putting myself in harm’s way. It just sort of worked out that way. And once you’re on the chess board, you have to play until you reach the end game. (Best metaphor I can come up with at the moment.) The cops are coming around. They’re really putting an effort into understanding the problem and doing something about it. Japan has made tremendous improvements in cutting down the flow of the traffic into the country and putting out of business those profiting on the slavery of others. But the traffickers themselves keep getting smarter as well. Still, things are much better than they were in 2006, 2007.

  10. Heh, a friend just posted to me the Jon Stewart interview from last November… You should point it out again…

  11. I just finished reading the book and had to visit the website to read more. I found the book very engrossing and informative, although it does leave me with a tinge of the melancholy, particularly the passages regarding Hamaya and human trafficking. I do some work with human trafficking victims in the U.S., and I am often disgusted by the large number of actors involved at the periphery, the ordinary people doing legal things while turning a blind eye to the likely ends. While it’s easy to demonize the criminals at the center, it’s harder to reconcile the actions (and consequences) of the others. I’m trying not to let the greyness and obscurity of people’s actions and motivations feed my cynicism.

    I was surprised to learn that ethnic Koreans are prominent in criminal organizations in Japan, because at the same time, it seems like one of the most common justifications (whether accurate or not) given by yakuza fans is that they promote traditional ways and values. I had always thought that “tradition” in Japan excludes Koreans, but I guess that the popular perception of ethnic Koreans is more complex than that, and evolving still with the influx of Korean pop culture.

    I appreciate the candor of your writing, and look forward to reading more.

    1. Criminal organizations were one of the few outfits in Japan willing to employ ethnic Koreans for many years in Japan. The current leader of the Inagawakai, Kiyota Jiro, is allegedly of Korean descent. As is Takayama Kiyoshi, the acting chief of the Yamaguchi-gumi. However, many ethnic Koreans later become Japanese nationals and try to keep their ethnic origins very quiet. Everyone might know it in the organization, but it’s not openly discussed. And like converts to a new religion, some ethnic Koreans who become Japanese nationals, become very nationalistic and proud to be Japanese.

  12. A good friend of mine recommended your book to me. I just finished Tokyo Vice. At first I thought you were spending too much time on the beginnings of your career. For the first few chapters I was thinking, “Where are the Yakuza?!”

    But as I continued reading those first few chapters, it gave me a good introduction to your life as a journalist. Those lengthy chapters transported me into your shoes and into your life in Japan.

    As I kept reading the level of detail that you went to describe the Yakuza underworld was amazing.

    It was sad to see that the “honor” aspects of the Yakuza gave way to “greed”.

    Battles Without Honor and Humanity was a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed growing up, and that was pretty much most of what I knew about the Yakuza. (Yes…from movies)

    When one glorifies an organization due to their immense power it’s easy to overlook the human suffering that comes along with that power.

    Thanks to your book it made me think much differently of what really goes on.

    While reading I had so many questions about what happened, particularly about your good friends. How you felt about everything and you answered everything that I wanted to know.

    If I was in your position for the sake of my family and friends I probably would not have had the same determination as you. Although you’ve battled many demons I think you’re on the right path. Wish you and your family all the best.

    1. I hesitate to compare my book to a video game, but after having played through the very-well scripted and thought out “Yakuza 3” (The original Japanese title 龍が如く3)–it made me think that it was important the book started where it did. To understand anything or anyone, you have to take the time to know where they came from and where they want to go. I think so.
      One of the interesting choices the makers of Yakuza 3 do is force you to spend time running an orphanage as an ex-yakuza and getting to know the kids and locals. In that way, they make you emotionally invested in the dilemma the protagonist (and you the player) will face later in the game.
      I wasn’t aiming for the same thing but I did want to make the reader understand Japan the way I learned to understand Japan. It wasn’t easy to remember what I used not to know.
      I’m glad that the suffering the seedier factions of the yakuza inflict on the world came through in the pages. I feel that I may have glorified certain aspects of their society without sufficiently communicating the harm and mayhem they produce as well.
      If the book made you feel like you were in my shoes and walking around Japan, than I’m honored. I was hoping it would do that for some people. I also hope that you learned something from the book that stays with you.
      That book may be the best thing I will ever write. I’m perfectly content with that, if that’s the case.

  13. I finished Tokyo Vice in about the span of three days. My first thought was “Wow, what a great book!” , it was a very entertaining and thought provoking read. My favorite sections of the book were your interactions with “Alien Cop”. I could imagine that you had plenty of deep conversations with him aside from what was mentioned in the book.

    Thanks a lot Jake, as someone who plans to visit Japan eventually it was a great book.

    Follow me on twitter, @Gahzi

  14. As I am writing this I am on a bus on my way home from work thinking about my day and what I’ve just finished reading. What really amazes me about your memoirs is the sheer differences between our two lives. At 23, I’m working nonstop crunching data for hours for a heartless company. I’m expending all my energy doing work that I could care less about for some money all the while mustering focus to acquire new skills I can add to my resume. Repetition here is key. This job in no way has a lasting impact on my community or society so I often think about quitting and pursuing a career path not unlike your own – exciting, proactive, and impacting. But Mr. Adeltstein, I am a cautious guy, of course your memoirs captures months worth of events within a brief number of pages; so I’d like to ask, was your day-to-day experiences as exciting as your reflections of these events after they’ve completely transpired?

    Also, since you are a professional writer with a mastery of both Japanese and English languages, based on my comment, do you think I’m a ways to go before my writing is good enough to be submitted to a national news website/paper. I take criticism well =P.

    By the way, not trying to shoot you hollow praises here, but I loved your book.

    1. “Find a job that you love and you will never work again”–quote tributed to Mencius, Chinese philosopher

      You’ve written a very honest well-thought out letter and it merits a real reply. I can visualize you on that bus, and I understand how that feels. At 24, I was working for the Yomiuri Shinbun, and even though the early days were extremely rough—I was happy because I was doing something that I wanted to do. It wasn’t easy getting there. I studied Japanese very hard in college, and I didn’t have an aptitude for it. Even before getting hired, I spent a year preparing for the entrance examinations to the newspaper and that involved hours of study every day and every night. Between working weird jobs.

      The thing about a memoir and also about movies is that it compacts all the exciting stuff into a tight-fitting package. The day to day experiences of the job were grueling, difficult, and often boring. In the early days as a reporter, we were over-loaded with meinial tasks, the most horrible being typing up local sports results–which had to be done in a very complicated pattern to be processed by our archaic work terminals and which I felt few people ever read. I once spent three days following around a monkey in a high-yen neighborhood in Tokyo because that had become “the story” of the moment. I was once told to stand in front of a hospital where a relative of the emperor was ill and keep a look out for “something unusual” and left there for almost eighteen hours.

      Figuring out how Goto Tadamasa got past Customs and into the United States for his liver transplant involved wading through a gigabyte of leaked police materials–one page at a time. I’m working on a second book now about Yakuza in the business world, “The Nine Fingered Economy” and a great deal of it involves looking at real estate deeds, company registration, cross-referencing newspaper articles, and typing in data to make connections. The interviewing people part is the exciting part and fun but there is some seriously brain-numbingly boring work involved. But at the end of the day, I’m still doing work that I enjoy and means something to me, so it doesn’t really feel like work. My work is my life, my hobby, my reason for existing. Of course, friends and loved ones are a huge part of that life as well. Finding a balance isn’t easy.

      Sometimes, we all have to endure a lot of crap to get where we want to be in life. Academic life seems like an elaborate form of hazing at times because most of what you really need to know is learned on the job. I couldn’t tell you if your writing is good enough for a national newspaper. Getting a job as a reporter is difficult, surving on the terribly salary even more difficult, and not getting burnt out as you watch your workload increase while your pay decreases is almost impossible. Its almost impossible but not if you believe in what you’re doing and you have the support of some good friends. (What exactly is a good friend–that’s another question in and of itself). Most of what we do at any job means nothing, is rarely helpful, and often even damaging to the world. I think the Buddhist idea of Right Livelihood is certainly something to consider–it’s why it’s part of the eightfold noble path, but it’s also something everyone should consider. If you’re not doing any harm to the world by your work, that’s not so bad. However, if you don’t enjoy it–if it’s not what you really want to do, then I’d encourage you to take the risk of failing and try to do what it is that you want to do. And you need to ask yourself why you want to do that. “I want to write because I like writing and communicating” isn’t a bad reason. Follow your bliss.

      However, if you want to write because you want to become famous then you have to ask yourself, “Why do I want to become famous? Why do I need recognition and approval from the world?” But back to your question. If you want to be a writer, remember the three rules of writing that Robert Heinlein once stated, and I’m paraphrasing: 1. You must write (and write often until you improve). 2. You must finish what you write. 3. You must sell what you write.

      We all have to work. Crunching data for a heartless company sounds hellish. I might suggest you read a good book about Zen Buddhism and try to turn it into a meditational exercise. In any event, if its not a job you love, start planning a way to find the work you’d like to do, that would be meaningful for you. You may fail at this the first time around but persist. Work is 70%-90% of our adult lives. It should be a good experience and the ideal is as Mencius says, to find a job that you love so you never really “work” again.
      Good luck.

  15. I honestly have to say that that this book (Tokyo Vice) was more depressing to me than anything else. It was interesting, informative, and had the occasional comic relief, but more or less made me think. But what can you expect from an autobiography that deals with crime? Overall, it was a kind of play; borderline tragedy, but not.

    So hats off to you, Jake. You are now one of my favorite writers, and I hope that other people find a similar kind of enjoyment in Tokyo Vice as I did. I would love to find a copy of the Yomiuri with one of your articles as well. A long shot, but something to think about the next time I go to Japan.

  16. Amazing book Jake. I’ve been obsessed with japanese culture for some time, and your book intrigued me to no end.
    I just wanted to say that throughout all the characters you met and engaged with, Helena really broke my heart. Although I feel as though we never gained absolute closure despite the photos, her disappearance was enough. Her occupation was always going to place her in the face of danger, but that never meant she didn’t deserve to be happy. I hope she just packed her and bags and found something better too, there’s nothing wrong with believing that.

    1. Thanks. I’ve been meaning to reply to this for a long time but I never find the right words. It’s strange how many years have gone by and how memories of that time or her do not seem to fade. The past feels just as real as the present. There’s no closure. Some things have changed but Goto remains free and the last chance for the police to convict him of murder died in Thailand this year when his former subordinate was assassinated. I’d like to believe that she moved on. I don’t know what to think anymore. The underworld is aptly called that. It has layers of darkness that no light can pierce.

  17. I tweeted to you; that may have been the wrong way to go about asking the question. I don’t really expect to get a response at all, but I really would like to.

    My first question is about your marriage: Are you still with Sunao? One day, I’d like to be married, and have kids of my own. I’m young though, so that’s hardly just a dream, it’s a rite of passage I’ll go through. Still. Your book left it fuzzy, and I found myself reading the afterwords and the thanks, something I rarely ever do in a book. I find myself enjoying love stories (often of Japanese origin, I watch a lot of Anime), and your love life is no different; I’m interested.

    Second question is how you learned Japanese so well. Was it just excessive studying? I really love the language; I taught myself Hiragana and Katakana, and learned a few Kanji. But my vocabulary totally suffers. I’m sure it’s speech first, vocabulary second, but it’s hard when you live in Ohio and you don’t have much exposure to the language, if at all. Was it just classes in college, or something?

    And third, I’d like to praise your book. I really loved reading it, from beginning to end. It was vividly written, the emotion truly expressed. You are truly a remarkable man. You stand by what you stand for, and wouldn’t let anything get in your way. You worked hard to get your results. That’s simply amazing, and absolutely something to respect. You are a man, through and through to the end. There were some things I found myself cringing at, especially the sex stories, but that came with the territory of being a Vice reporter. I’m sure you hated doing those things yourself, but I’m not you, and I personally don’t care to know your true feelings, because you said something respectable: you would do anything for your information. That shows hard work and dedication, and if you apply it in one aspect of life, it’s applied everywhere. As despicable as some may find it, that you basically did cheat on your wife, I’m sure your love for her was unwavering. The written word is powerful, and every bit of writing you wrote really struck a chord with me. I found myself nearly crying when I read that short bit about Hamaya, and I find myself feeling the emotion while writing this comment. And Helena? I truly feel for women who are prostitutes; some may find them as just being whores, but that is not true. These are women who are troubled and truly have no other place to go, they can’t find any other work…it’s an honestly sad life. I am sure, as you already know, that Helena is happy for what you’ve done. You’ve avenged her well. She did not die in vain. Your writing really did well for her, and so did taking out that bastard from his seat of power.

    The book conveyed true emotion; I really felt it, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone, regardless of whether or not they’re an “american otaku”, “Japanophile”, or even disinterested in Japanese culture. It truly brought the workings of the Japanese way of life into light; the way you’re supposed to behave, and the way the country really is. I found myself surprised at some of the things I read. They were interesting. I was happy to have read your book.

    Thank you for the time in reading this comment. You are a man to respect, and I shall do just that.

  18. Mr Adelstein,

    I’m a 23 year old WNY native currently living in Honolulu. I got your book on Tuesday and finished it Wednesday night. Your book moved me because I too have lost a close friend to suicide, and dealt with watching a person who has been a mentor to me struggle with cancer. I hope you never underestimate the power you have to influence and change the lives of other people for the better.

    I picked Tokyo Vice to satisfy my curiousity about the Japanese underworld, and I appreciate that rather than glorify their dealings you spoke the truth about how some of these fortunes are made from the horrible sacrifices and comprimises by women. These are global problems, perhaps exacerbated in places where income inequality and gender bias are at their highest.

    Best wishes for You & Your Family
    Sincerely, Vince

    1. Vince-san,
      I really appreciate letters like this. Well, Tokyo Vice isn’t a perfect book but I wanted to capture some universal truths about life and better ways to muddle through it. The loss of one loved one is devastating to the people who knew them. It’s a sobering thing to realized that everyone we love will eventually be taken away from us or we from them. Everything that has a beginning has an ending. It’s not always easy to make peace with that.
      I’d like to believe that karma exists in this world or the next because it certainly seems that justice does not prevail. Maybe all we can hope to do is set the balance a little better and take care of and try to contribute to the happiness of the people in our lives.
      I’ve had some positive influence in the world, some, and there’s solace in that. The good deeds we have done and the memories others have us are all we really get to leave behind.
      Best wishes to you as well.


  19. Just a quick question about something that confused me a little in the book. When we first meet ‘Helena’, on p. 239, you mention that isn’t her real name, but after she has disappeared, Alien Cop says ‘There’s no record of anyone named Helena leaving the country. Maybe she had a different name?’ and you say ‘Don’t think so.’

    I can only assume this is some kind of editing lapse – a conflation of two names? Obviously by that point you would have known her real name and that’s what’s being referred to, rather than her ‘working name’, even though ‘Helena’ is used in both cases? Or have I missed something?

    I know this is a minor point, but it’s been bugging me. If you don’t mind clarifying what is meant here, I would appreciate it.

    In any case, thanks very much for the book, the work and sacrifice behind it, and the insight into this side of Japan. I lived there for a couple of years in the 80s, but my exposure to yakuza was limited to the odd double-take at the punch-permed types floating around the Gifu neighbourhood where I lived. We saw them as faintly ridiculous rather than dangerous, though Japanese friend warned me to take them seriously. I have friends who have had rather more difficult experiences working in the mizu shobai in Tokyo and anything that shines a light on the complexities and contradictions of what goes on in that economy, particularly with regard to societal attitudes towards, and the legal standing of, foreign workers, can only be a very good thing.

    Okay, that was a quick question followed by a long comment. Apologies. And thanks again.

    1. jeni,
      i never wrote her name anywhere and I’m still not sure I knew here real name. so that carries into the conversation with alien cop. i could have found a better narrative device perhaps in that conversation. it wasn’t really an editing lapse.
      i’m not comfortable ever writing her real name because it would identify some women who have gone on to live new lives. having been a prostitute or a human trafficking victims carries a social stigma.
      As for the Gifu guys: some yakuza appear comical until you cross them. then they aren’t very amusing.
      no apologies necessary. and thank you for writing in.

  20. Well, like everyone said, it’s a great book, very informative and wisely written — just wanted to add that it will be a wonderful resource for my fiction and you’ll be the first to know when I dedicate a novel to you!

    Seriously, you’ve given me a lot of food for thought, especially as a genre author. And now I’m even more interested in visiting Japan than ever before!

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  23. Hello, I’ve just finished Tokyo Vice. One of my comments is that The Japanese government should stop prostitution to avoid death like Helena. one more would be that journalism is a harsh and hard job. Those are my own opinion.

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