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Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan    by Jake Adelstein Amazon.com order for
Tokyo Vice
by Jake Adelstein
Order:  USA  Can
Pantheon, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Jake Adelstein was an unwelcome gaijin (foreigner) in Japan when he became a reporter for Yomiuri Shinbun, Japan's largest newspaper, working there from 1993 to 2005. His co-workers had to adapt to the American working side-by-side with them. He soon proved that he was serious about his chosen career, learning Japanese, marrying a Japanese woman, and having two children before he decided his investigative journalism was endangering both himself and his family.

From the tales Adelstein tells about his years in Japan, the country seems to be ruled by the yakuza (Japanese mafia) who could be identified by their missing little finger (cut off by themselves when becoming yakuza) and by their almost entire-body tattooing. They controlled most of the vice in Japan - money laundering, drugs, the sex trade (exploiting women for sex as well as kidnapping them to be sex slaves), extortion, and fraud ... the list is endless. If it is illegal, the yakuza have their dirty fingers in the pie.

Adelstein collected a group of informants whom he protected by never revealing their identities. Too dangerous for both them and him. They tipped him off about the who, where and why, and were paid most of the time from his own pocket. He learned how to cozy up to the police and became friends with them. They often were able to tell him the same as the informants.

The author is now considered one of the foremost experts on organized crime in Japan. From 2006 to 2007, he was the chief investigator for a U.S. State Department sponsored study of human trafficking in Japan. Today, he works as a writer and consultant in Japan and the United States. He is also public relations director for the Washington, D.C.-based Polaris Project Japan, which works against human trafficking and the exploitation of women and children in the sex trade.

Adelstein's Tokyo Vice held me in thrall from the first page to the last. It's hard to imagine the extent of crime controlled by so few people in Japan. This book is no walk in the park. Adelstein tells it like it is. If you are squeamish - even a little bit - this exposť is not for you. I live a gentle life and it appalls me to think such conditions exist. I acknowledge they do but I've never been exposed to such rapacious desire for power and control as is described in these searing pages.

It's a wonder the author survived his time in Japan - and still survives today. Tokyo Vice is a good book by a good man who has more than justified his existence on this earth.

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