Inside the Yakuza
Meet Jake Adelstein, a Jewish reporter who thinks like a Japanese gangster.
Jake Adelstein is the author of Tokyo Vice, a new book that chronicles the author’s crazy adventures as a crime reporter for Japan’s largest newspaper. During his 12 years at Yomiuri Shimbun, Adelstein made deadly enemies — and some lifelong friends — in the yakuza, the organized crime underworld that quietly controls a large part of Japan’s political economy. The book (which I reviewed in January) chronicles his journey from naive young foreigner to one of the ballsiest reporters on the yakuza beat. Along the way, he discovered that one of the mob bosses, a guy named Goto Tadamasa, had made a deal with the FBI to go to the US and get a liver transplant at UCLA — an embarrassing scandal that Goto didn’t want anyone to know about. When Goto found out that Adelstein was investigating, he figured he should just kill him. “It was really terrifying,” he says. “I couldn’t even walk outside without my lovable ex-yakuza bodyguard next to me.”
Fortunately for Adelstein, he found himself still breathing when Goto lost power in October of 2008. Today, he walks the streets of Tokyo with a titanium core umbrella (“a baseball bat would probably make people uneasy”) and that keeps him safe… at least for now.