By Jake Adelstein
Setting & details: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Authenticity of Japanese characters & dialogue: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Translation quality: N/A
Entertainment value: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
My recommendation: Investigative reporter Jake Adelstein covered the yakuza beat for a Japanese newspaper like a boss, and his first person account will make your hair stand on end.
In the world of organized crime, the yakuza are nearly as legendary as the mafia (but harder to quit, on account of there being no easy undo for full body tattoos and missing fingers). The silver screen portrays them as stylish bad boys with a code of honor all their own, but the real gangsters these anti-heros are based on are no joke. With fingers in every pie from extortion to human trafficking, they protect their businesses ruthlessly, including slamming the lid on any information that might damage them if it becomes public.
Which is why newspapers seldom report on their doings—if at all—without approval from the mob bosses. Reporters fear for their lives and those of their families, which is why the yakuza were always treated with kid gloves until Jake Adelstein went to work for the Yomiuri Shimbun and took on the crime beat.
This first-person account of how an American investigative journalist cultivated sources within the Japanese mob and brought down major crime figures is as gripping as any thriller, except it’s true. Tokyo Vice is a true classic—narrative nonfiction at its finest.
Did you enjoy this? Subscribe! It’s free!
Reviews of more Japan-centric books are in the JAPANAGRAM ARCHIVE
If you think your friends might enjoy The Last Tea Bowl Thief, get together with a Book Zoom!
Fun get-together ideas and step-by-step how-tos here
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist