I finished reading this book within 48 hours after buying it at Kinokuniya. If world crime and underground economy are your kind of stuff, this is the book for you.
Add in idiosyncratic Japanese contexts, these make the book an more entertaining read than other similar crime books like Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah on Italian gangsters and Misha Glenny’s McMafia on organised crime at the international level.
To be fair, the two other two books are more informative as they deal with heavier material, jammed pack with facts and figures. These are not friendly for light reading though. Jack Adelstein‘s book on the other hand, reads like a pop-autobiography, documenting his transformation from a rookie foreigner crime reporter to someone bent on taking down a then yakuza top dog, Tadamasa Goto.
It also helps that the author himself had a pretty interesting life:
Via Random House. Jake Adelstein was a reporter for the Yomiuri Shinbun, Japan’s largest newspaper, from 1993 to 2005. From 2006 to 2007 he was the chief investigator for a U.S. State Department-sponsored study of human trafficking in Japan. Considered one of the foremost experts on organized crime in Japan, he works as a writer and consultant in Japan and the United States. He is also the public relations director for the Washington, D.C.-based Polaris Project Japan, which combats human trafficking and the exploitation of women and children in the sex trade.
The transformation came about when Adelstein received death threats on him and his family while pursuing a story related to Goto.
Tadamasa Goto, was then head of a group affiliated with the Yamaguchi-gumi crime syndicate and had offered the FBI information in return for a visa to the U.S. to undergo a life-saving liver transplant four years earlier.
Adelstein had trouble finding a Japanese publisher willing to run this story. Eventually, the Washington Post printed Adelstein’s story in May 2008.
Jake Adelstein’s radio interview:
[Jake Adelstein’s interview Q&A with BoingBoing.Net on the politics of yakuza]
[Japan Sub Culture Research Centre – Jake Adelstein’s own website on the Japanese underground]
Other than his feud with Goto, the first half of the book also covered on how Adelstein learn to integrate into the Japanese way of doing things as a reporter and more specifically as a crime reporter. I find these very informative on the nuances of Japanese culture. For instance, women reporter are the ones who pour beer for everyone, including male subordinates at social functions and that there’s clear demarcation of seniority among the reporters.
Jake Adelstein’s Tokyo Vice: Underground with the Yakuza is available at Kinokuniya bookstores in Singapore. It should be available at other major bookstores too. Go check it out. 🙂
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