Reporter discusses Japan’s dark side

America has created an image of Japan as a high-tech land with low crime rate; a world of shining cities where the word for clean is also the word for beautiful—and Japan is beautiful.

In Jake Adelstein’s new book however, Japan is exposed for its seedy side. In his true-life tale, “Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan,” Adelstein reveals in gruesome detail several shocking stories of suicide, murder and human trafficking, proving that the brightest cities have the darkest shadows.

Before graduating from Sophia University in Japan, Jake Adelstein takes a test to determine the outcome of the rest of his life—and passes. A little luck and a lot of hard work has earned him a place as a reporter on the police beat at the Yomiuri Shinbun, a top newspaper in Tokyo. So begins his investigations into the dark side of Japan, a journey that leaves the reader morbidly fascinated, sickened and glued to the pages.

It is Adelstein’s explanations of Japanese customs and culture that initially draw the reader in. In one chapter, he describes how the Japanese believe that there is a right way—a perfect way—of doing everything. Naturally, handbooks and manuals top the charts of highest selling books. Perhaps the oddest and most interesting of these chart toppers (number four on the list, in fact) is the “Perfect Manual of Suicide,” which not only explains the various different ways in which one can kill himself, but offers encouragement as well.

In some cases, little encouragement is needed. The yakuza, the Japanese mafia, comprised of nearly 88,000 members, offers encouragement enough to those that owe them money. People are driven to commit suicide when they are no longer able to pay. They often do so by throwing themselves in front of trains or setting themselves on fire. Sometimes the yakuza get to them before they have the chance to commit suicide or get their family members first.

One aspect of Japanese culture and society that is far more fascinating, equally frightening and sickening involves Japan’s sex industry.

While the openness of the Japanese in regards to sexuality is liberating, it is also very shocking. For those simply seeking pleasure, there are clubs that offer a myriad of sexual services. For those seeking companionship, there are hosts and hostess, good looking men and women who will flirt, console, date and (if you are lucky) sleep with you.

In Japan, money can buy you love. What’s more, one can earn a great deal of money selling it, making the job of host/hostess irresistible.

Oftentimes, this is a fatal attraction: foreign women are frequently tricked into the business and forced to work as sex slaves. Should they try to escape, they not only run the risk of serving time in jail and later being deported, but are at risk of being killed by the men who own them.

While the idea of going to a club to receive sexual services may be enticing, it comes at a hefty price that is paid in social currency.

Adelstein’s book provides an American reader with a new in-depth look at the darker side of life in Japan that they probably did not even know existed.

Andrea Aguirre can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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