Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein

★ ★ ★

“All beings quiver before violence.
All beings fear death.
All beings love life.
Remember that you are like them.
As they are like you.
Then whom would you hurt?
What harm would you do?
He who seeks happiness
By hurting others who seek happiness
Will never find happiness.
Not in the sky,
Not in the depths of the sea,
Not in the deepest mountains,
Can you hide from your misdeeds.”
          [Passage from the Hokukyo, included in the epilogue.]

I started off really enjoying this book, but ended up struggling throughout. Only right in the last thirty pages did it pull me back in.

Tokyo Vice is a memoir of American journalist, Jake Adelstein’s time working as a crime reporter in Japan from the 1980’s and beyond. The book is filled with his recounts of adapting to the Japanese culture, making deals with the police in order to keep up with the latest news stories, and his findings as a result. The stories mainly include scoops on the Japanese yakuza (underbelly gangs), sex workers and the drug trade - not often things that come to mind when imagining Japan.

I am a huge true crime fan, and found most of the information in this book fascinating, which is why I have given it three stars. However, while reading you can tell that Adelstein is a journalist by trade, as the book is quite dense and lacks emotion. I often managed to get distracted and to be blunt, slightly bored. It was more purely informative than suspenseful.

In saying this, I reiterate that the content of the book was indeed gritty and interesting, and I would still recommend adding it to the mix for a fellow fan of true crime.


Reviewed by: @malireads
Sydney, Australia


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