Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on The Police Beat In Japan was released in Australia this month with a wonderfully bizarre cover–dead fish in an icebox. The title was also changed from An American Reporter to A Western Reporter On The Police Beat In Japan. I imagine the Hebrew edition, if it comes out in Israel will be, A Jewish American Reporter On The Police Beat in Japan. The Down Under publisher, Scribe Publications, arranged for me to do about ten radio interviews for the book launch. Of them, this was one of the better interviews, even though I had been up for 36 hours by the time the interview took place. If I sound drunk, I’m not–I’m just sleep deprived.
If you have a few minutes and are interested in some of what didn’t make the book and some of what happened afterwords, give the interview a listen. Thanks to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for asking some good questions. Thanks to Scribe Publications for that wonderfully “unique” cover. Ahem.
The accompanying article is below:
Tokyo Vice – a journalist in a crime underworld
By Robbie Buck
Imagine how tough it is to go to another country and try to eke out a career for yourself, especially if it’s a country with a different language and a vastly different culture, and then imagine if your job involved immersing yourself in the seediest and most crime-ridden parts of that country, only to have your life threatened on many occasion.
This picture is what American journalist Jake Adelstein’s life was like after having become the only reporter from the US to be admitted to the insular Tokyo metropolitan police press club and his harrowing experiences have been catalogues in his book Tokyo Vice: A Western reporter on the police beat in Japan.
He relates his relationship with yakuza bosses, including an ex-yakuza who is Adelstein’s bodyguard and driver so, “it’s kind of nice not having to drive, [so] there’s a good thing about having people want to kill you, sometimes,” he jokes.
Seriously, though, he points out that he had protection but, “the most scary thing is wondering who will they go after next.”
Things certainly do work differently in Japan and Adelstein notes that a key part of being a reporter on his round was visiting police at their homes, “you knock on the door, bring some Japanese sweets and have a chat over tea – that kind of give and take between police and reporters is part of information exchange [and] when you become a better reporter you bring the cops information they want and if it turns into a good case, you get the scoop.”
Adelstein had various sources for his book, though, and, “I don’t know how much of what some of my sources had told me were true,” but all he has been told makes for a murky picture of a dangerous world.
In fact, “there were some positive aspects of the reporting,” he modestly admits, as some of his work helped the Japanese Government look at human trafficking in that country.
He is now involved with a non-profit organisation that combats human trafficking in Japan and he is writing a new book called The Last Yakuza, a kind of biography of his bodyguard.