Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein

Title/Author: Tokyo Vice/Jake Adelstein
Publisher: Pantheon Books
No. of pages: 328
ISBN 13: 978-0-307-37879-8

In a nutshell
(Edited from the book flap) At nineteen, Jake Adelstein started his life as a journalist at the prestigious Yomiuri Shinbun. For 12 years of 48-hour workweeks, he ventures deep into the Yakuza underworld where murder, corruption and human trafficking are as common as ramen noodles and sake. In Tokyo Vice, Adelstein tells his riveting journey that brought him from getting into a martial-arts battle with a senior editor to meeting face-to-face with Japan’s most feared yakuza boss.

What I liked
Tokyo Vice is a very informative, engaging and enlightening read. It is definitely an eye opener for me. If I had read this before I go to Tokyo, I’d have viewed Roponggi differently.

Using his sense of humour and thoroughness Adelstein gives a detailed tour of the Japanese underworld, and introduces the ins and outs of the Yakuza’s organised crimes. At times, I imagined myself being in his position; on one hand feeling damn cool to be able to have the experience of knowing some yakuza, high ranking officers and getting ‘special’ passes to some of the privileged clubs, while on the other hand, feeling helpless when knowing I’m only this tiny individual, risking my life, trying to make a difference when there’s no one else I could possibly trust.

There are 3 parts in this book – his experience as a rookie in part 1, meeting yakuza in part 2, and finally learning and discovering how the police and yakuza work in part 3. I was drawn to particularly 2 chapters in this book – one is the chapter on Lucie Blackman in part 2 and the other on human traficking in part 3. It all started when Adelstein was working on the Lucie Blackman case (told in ‘Whatever Happened to Lucie Blackman?’) that he received a tip off from Helena, an Australian woman, who worked in a sex club, that there was alot of human traficking going on in Tokyo.

Being the dedicated and passionate journalist he is, he reports and researches everything he could to bring justice to the victims of human trafficking. Reading it, you could feel his frustration, anger and disappointment. ‘I tried to convince the cops that they should be arresting the traffickers for kidnapping, rape, asssault, and any other charges that were possible, but the cops would tell me, “In order to do that we’d need evidence and these women are poor witnesses because they don’t understand Japanese and can’t give solid testimony. In addition to this, they have been working illegally in Japan, which is a crime, and they have to be deported. Once they’re deported, it’s hard to build a criminal case.”‘

Imagine, working on cases like that, then getting to know the victims, and knowing that the laws won’t change no matter how hard you try…it is and can be very depressing especially when there’s no one you could talk to, no outlet for you to release your frustration…

I was also appalled when I read about the realities of the ‘sex business’ in ‘Welcome to Kabukicho’. See if these details shock you:
1) As long as it’s not straight intercourse, a store or shop can offer any kind of sexual service the customer wants. In other words, there is no punishment for being a prostitute or sleeping with one.
2) There are half-nude young women who prepare beef dishes at your table in a no-panty shabu-shabu restaurant. They’d flirt with you while you eat.
3) It’s illegal to sell pornography, but it’s legal to get an actual blow job.
and…there are more...

There are many other chapters which got me close to tearing my hair out such as The Perfect Manual of Suicide, The Emperor of Loan Sharks, and the final three chapters. You got to read it to find out why. Hint: It’s about the Goto-gumi. Yeah, it’s all over the internet on what happened, but to know the details, you gotta read it. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Tokyo is not much of a wonderland after all huh. Well, maybe depends how you view ‘Wonderland’.

My verdict? 4/5

Great job, Adelstein!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. The human trafficking situation sounds just like Malaysia.


  2. photojoy says:

    This is usually neglected by the common citizens including me——It sounds very informative. There are many reporters who write about this issue but it attracts me that it is written by a non-Japanese writer.


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