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The Japan Times Reviews TOKYO VICE "classic newsprint noir"


Oct 17, 2009

Mark Schreiber, long time chronicler of Japan’s seamy side, weighs in on the book.  Shrieber has authored several books about crime in Japan and has been a denizen of  Kabukicho, Tokyo’s formerly glorious red-light district and adult entertainment paradise,  for over three decades.

The Fortune Telling Machine Print-Out mentioned in the review
The Fortune Telling Machine Print-Out mentioned in the review

Crime journalist exposes Tokyo’s darkest, seamiest, most entertaining corners and characters after 12 years on the job

By  Mark Schreiber

While a senior at Tokyo’s Sophia University, 23-year-old Missouri native Jake Adelstein was heading home from a Shinjuku cinema when, on a whim, he dropped into a game arcade and popped ¥100 into the slot of a fortunetelling robot for some mystical career advice.

“The job you are best suited for is . . . something involving writing,” read the Tarot card chosen by “Madame Tantra.” “If you always keep your antenna out probing for information and nurture your morbid curiosity in a good way, fate will be on your side.”

This unlikely advice turned out to be spot on: Soon afterward, Adelstein breezed through a battery of interviews and in 1993 found himself a rookie reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun, which assigned him to its bureau in tacky Saitama (“the New Jersey of Japan”).

“Tokyo Vice” is the American’s gritty, true-to-life account of 12 years on the news beat as a staffer for a Japanese daily — and it is exceptional. Its classic atmospherics rekindle memories of Walter Winchell and Eliot Ness. It’s a tale of adrenalin-depleting 80-hour weeks, full ashtrays, uncooperative sources, green tea, hard liquor, and forays into the commercialized depravity of Shinjuku’s “adult entertainment zone,” Kabukicho.

Adelstein, the “morbidly curious” observer, presents his stories with a newsman’s objectivity, using self-deprecatory humor, pathos and occasional horror. He does not refrain from harsh criticism, but his writing never condescends.

“Tokyo Vice” is at its best when Adelstein lays bare the cozy, you-rub-my-back-and-I’ll-rub-yours relationship that exists between crime beat reporters and the cops, whom the hacks constantly badger for off-the-record nuggets of news with which to scoop the competition.

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