Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
Jake Adelstein. Pantheon Books, $26 (335pp) ISBN 978-0-307-37879-8
A young Japanese-schooled Jewish-American who worked as a journalist at Tokyo newspaper Yomiuri Shinbun during the 1990s, debut author Adelstein began with a routine, but never dull, police beat; before long, he was notorious worldwide for engaging the dirtiest, top-most villains of Japan's organized criminal underworld, the yakuza. A pragmatic but sensitive character, Adelstein's worldview takes quite a beating during his tour of duty; thanks to his immersive reporting, readers suffer with him through the choice between personal safety and a chance to confront the evil inhabiting his city. He learns that ""what matters is the purity of the information, not the person providing it,"" considers personal and societal theories behind Tokyo's illicit and semi-illicit pastimes like ""host and hostess clubs,"" where citizens pay for the illusion of intimacy: ""The rates are not unreasonable, but the cost in human terms are incredibly high."" Adelstein also examines the investigative reporter's tendency to withdraw into cynicism (""when a reporter starts to cool down, it's very hard... ever to warm up again"") but faithfully sidesteps that urge, producing a deeply thought-provoking book: equal parts cultural exposé, true crime, and hard-boiled noir.
Reviewed on: 10/12/2009