Tokyo Vice

According to numerous studies that track this sort of thing, the crime rate in Tokyo is the lowest of any large city in the world, particularly when it comes to violent crimes. By and large, the Japanese are peaceful folks, and arguments rarely seem to escalate into fisticuffs or worse. That said, when something does happen, it can often be worthy of the front page of lurid tabloids worldwide. For example:

WOMAN SLAYS HUSBAND
Chops Into Bite-Size Pieces
Feeds to Bears in Ueno Zoo

Perhaps it is that, as a society, the Japanese are somewhat regimented, so when they do step out, they do so in grand style. Very few Westerners get to see any of this firsthand; in fact, the only American journalist ever to be admitted to the prestigious Tokyo Metropolitan Police Press Club is one Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice; An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan.

Adelstein’s bio sheet relates that he went to Japan at age nineteen, in search of peace and tranquility, but instead found a job as crime reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun, one of Tokyo’s largest newspapers. He worked 80-hour weeks, just like his Japanese counterparts, covering the infamous Chichibu Snack-Mama Murder Case, the Saitama Dog-Lover Serial Disappearances (in case you’re wondering, unlike the tongue-in-cheek “woman slays husband” headline above, these are actual cases), as well as numerous yakuza-related incidents of extortion, corruption, and even human-trafficking. In fact, after leaving the newspaper, Adelstein went on to become chief investigator for the US State Department study on human-trafficking in Japan. (Follow-up note: I got an email from the author, and as it turns out, he was chief investigator for a State Department-sponsored study, not directly employed by the State Department, so I wanted to clear that up.)

Tokyo Vice is a compelling look at a city of contradictions, by turns funny, grisly, and sobering, but always riveting and entertaining.

Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
Jake Adelstein
Pantheon Books
ISBN 9780507378798
352pp
$26.00

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One Response to Tokyo Vice

  1. Jake Adelstein says:

    Thank you very much for writing about the book so eloquently.
    I should clarify that the US State Department funded the study of human trafficking in Japan but I didn’t work for them directly, although I have happily provided them with relavent materials over the years. There were many reasons why the research was done that way.

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