Oprah Time: Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein

Tokyo Vice is the memoirs of an American who managed to get a job writing on domestic issues for Yomiuri Shinbun – one of Japan’s most prestigious and highest circulation newspaper.

The title of the book rests on its status exposing the yakuza groups, in particular the Yamaguchi-gumi and its former member panderer turned police informant Goto Tadamasa. The crime aspect of the book I found to be disappointing, not because Adelstein is a bad writer; but that the yakusa are disappointingly normal – just the same as the criminals I knew and grew up with back in Liverpool – but with better body art. Though Adelstein does a good job conveying the fear of retribution that he has from Goto through the book.

From my personal perspective Adelstein’s book comes into its own from my point of view was the descriptions of how ‘press clubs’ work and insight into the very different dynamic between the media and authority – this is a real eye-opener for western PR people.

But the thing I really liked was his effortless way of describing everyday Japanese life from eating pre-packed noodles, Japanese etiquette to the rituals with colleagues and interactions he has with Japanese friends. At the end of the book I was left with the impression that Tokyo and everyday Japanese living was Adelstein’s real vice.