Monday, May 10, 2010

Read: "Tokyo Vice" by Jake Adelstein

Read: Tokyo Vice: an American reporter on the police beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein, 2009, 9780307378798.

Good book. A real interesting look at Japanese culture, especially sex and crime. Adelstein attended college in Japan at Sophia Univ. Adelstein applied for a job with the major newspaper in Japan and got hired. He starts out as a cub reporter covering the police beat and stays with that path - with a few detours - his whole career with the newspaper. Adelstein hangs out with reporters, cops, whores, hostesses, criminals, other lowlifes and night-time workers. Adelstein scopes out scoops. Adelstein tells several stories of the stories he covered and people he met and befriended - or angered. Adelstein ends up angering a yakuza boss and quits his regular job. Adelstein ends up writing the Yakuza boss story. Yakuza are lowlife trash but sometimes regarded as popular heroes.

Comments:
1. To me the core of the story is all about sex: Adelstein's own sexual (mis)behavior, Japanese treatment of sex crimes, Japanese sex trade, women and men working in the sex trade.
2. Japanese crime stats are always low. But, Adelstein points out that much crime is ignored or downgraded by police depending on the victims status in society. Crimes against foreign women in the sex trade and common yakuza are not taken seriously. Crimes against women are taken more seriously now (2009-2010) but still not treated as seriously as they should be.
3. Yakuza are pervasive across society and even have fans and fan magazines.
4. I used to visit an online store based out of Japan that sold kitschy things like sock glue and Hello Kitty candy. I think their best-selling products were Japanese porn and erotica though. The website, I think it was called j-place, had neat essays by the American business owner on the differences he noticed between Japan and the U.S. Either the website disappeared, the business was sold, or the yakuza forcibly took over. (EDIT: a commenter listed the correct address of the website. I prefer to think the yakuza took over anyway.)
5. No surprise that Adelstein burns out in his reporter job. He works all damn day and night. He has to spend bucks on gifts, drinks, lap dances, etc. as he works his sources. He never gets to see his wife or kids. He is surrounded by casual sex and his own views on sex gradually erode away.
6.a. How much is bullshit? His article on the yakuza boss was printed in the Washington Post and, according to Adelstein, was thoroughly vetted. But, it is still just Adelstein telling the whole story about everything else.
6.b. Adelstein
, you must have googled your way over here. I am inclined to believe you, but how do you respond when people are incredulous or outright disbelieving of your stories?
7. For that matter, did your wife leave you? Your side of the story made you sound somewhat insufferable. The acknowledgements at the end are unclear.

9 comments:

jake.adelstein said...

Thanks for the review. I'm not sure the book is all about sex but that's one take on it. 6a and 6b: my response is: study Japanese for five years, do the research, hit the Nikkei Net database.
7. Sunao, the woman I married has been great over all. I've been a jerk. We're talking. Yes, I would agree that I've been "insufferable."

CheapyD said...

thinking of http://www.jlist.com/ ?

CheapyD said...

talking about jlist.com?

Gerard Saylor said...

That's it! I'll have to check out that dude's essays again.

Gerard Saylor said...

Adelstein, thanks for the comments, and the book. Barry Eisler already vouches for you and he is a solid dude.

After reading Eisler's novels and your book I should find a book on the political parties of Japan.

Sundog said...

About Japanese politics, I suggest reading the chapter on Japan in Tim Weiner's "Legacy of Ashes" to whet your whistle. The connections among organized crime, rightist politics, and the US government make Japan an interesting case to study.

Two hundred years from now, I wonder how the period we're living through today will be viewed in relation to the Cold War. IMHO a lot of bad seeds were sown in those days.

Click my name for an American finance guy's take on the conflict between money and people in Greece today.

Anonymous said...

Check the acknowledgements. His 24/7 editor Boting Zhang was a Yale grad he was having sex with. Doesn't say much for Boting Zhang either. The acknowledgement was a slap in the face to his wife.

Mari Kurisato said...

The murdered woman Helena in Tokyo Vice real name is Olivia Stelcer. Met her once or twice she was quite attractive. She at times worked as an escort and as a stripper in Roppongi. Had she lived she would have been 44 this year. Jake Adelstein's assistant Nathalie outed her name on Twitter May 27th 2013.

Anonymous said...

Olivia stelcer arrived in Japan in 1992 from windsor ontario.