Meet Jake Adelstein, a Jewish reporter who thinks like a Japanese gangster


30 Responses to “Meet Jake Adelstein, a Jewish reporter who thinks like a Japanese gangster”

  1. Tasty Delicious Spam says:

    I still haven’t gotten past the photo yet. I thought it was Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode).

  2. Six Trees McCoy says:

    The yakuza are scary dudes. I remember reading in the JT about when this one yakuza guy shot 2 death the mayor of Hiroshima. And I saw them beat the crap out of this college student in Roppongi once. I don’t know what the dude did but man did they wallop on him. The cops came pretty quickly but the yaks were way gone.
    i haven’t read the whole book but i did read the excerpt in Metropolis, which was about the first yakuza boss Adelstein ever met. And it was pretty interesting, scary stuff. So, yeah, I understand why the guy would have trouble relaxing.
    I think he’s a little crazy for sticking around but he’s probably one of those true believer types…i mean its not like it’s his country. But it’s kind of cool to see someone stick up for what they believe in. Even if they r crazy.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The Hebrew Hammer meets the Kosher Kabuki

  4. TT says:

    Oh the melodrama and heroism of Adelstein. I feel his imagination is pushing beyond the bounds of authenticity. Having read a serious number of books regarding Yakuza out of pure fascination I find his account of Yakuza and his dealings somewhat over inflated, rhetorical and suspect. Im no authority just suspicious. Beating gangsters in the knees with golf clubs? On a televised interview he said something to the tune of im afraid to leave the house on rainy days Yakuza like to kill on rainy days because it washes away the blood. How romantic. He also claimed to closing the blinds to his apartment window for fear of sniper rifle fire. I guess this is no longer the case. The product of too much Rising Sun – Black Rain etc movies. All this could make a great book found on the fiction shelf perhaps. If youre interested in some serious documentation on Yakuza try authors Kaplan and Dubro or Whitings Tokyo Underworld. If you prefer Jerry Bruckheimer drama try Yakuza Diary by Seymour or Speed Tribes.

  5. Anonymous says:

    anon #23: “Here he comes off as cocky with his epic regaling of physical fights, bodyguards, and titanium umbrellas”.

    He just told it like it is to make a point of how the tough attacker just kept on coming, even with a broken knee. When hearing a person talk about a fight they were in, weak scaredy-cat people always think that that person comes off as cocky with epic regaling of physical fights.

  6. Jacqvb29 says:

    Some months ago I watched the Daily Show with Jake Adelstein as a guest (nov. 16th) I laughed a lot and kept the episode on my laptop to watch it again when I need some comedy in my life… The interview here seems more serious, but still fascinating!

  7. Anonymous says:

    How did you know that Goto Tadamasa wanted to kill you?

    Am I really going to be the first one to say “Goto considered harmful”?

  8. Grey Devil says:

    I remember Jake’s interview about his first Yakuza book on The Daily Show. He seemed like a very interesting guy, though this blog post really illustrates his struggles and how passionate he is about his job. I was mildly interested in his book before, but now i really understand his background better and why he’s doing what he’s doing.

    Will be really looking forward to more of the blog posts about him, and perhaps i shall pick up his book whenever i get the chance.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I enjoyed the book but think he is wrong about most Americans being untrustworthy. In my central US world people keep their word. You also have to know when people are just saying something to be nice. If I took everything Japanese say quite literally I would be disillusioned with them. But I don’t. Same in US.

  10. Church says:

    More importantly: Where do I get a titanium-core umbrella?

    • moop2000 says:

      Yes, but does that one have a titanium core? Cause we all know that titanium makes everything better! :)

  11. Anonymous says:

    A great interview. Check out Jake’s latest article at:

  12. Davie-O says:

    Have you actually read the book? Did you read the Washington Post article or the LA TIMES? Do you think the Post didn’t vet the article first? I read the book and I also read Japanese well and everything he writes checks out. Look up Itami Juzo or Mizoguchi Atsushi and see what happens to journalists and directors that anger the yakuza in this country. If read the book you’ll notice that the author you mention, Robert Whiting of TOKYO UNDERWORLD, who does serious documentation of the yakuza, has considerable praise for Adelstein’s book–and not as fiction. He’s also listed in the acknowledgments.The dubious nature of SPEED TRIBES is well-known. Hopefully, you’re not recommending it.
    Or look at Adelstein’s website and see the supporting materials. Opinions are opinions, but before criticizing what you don’t know and apparently haven’t read, try reading it.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Anon #23

    I too have yet to read the book but have my suspicions as well. I know of the interview that TT mentions and the author himself truly does paint a different picture than what he states in his interview above. Here he comes off as cocky with his epic regaling of physical fights, bodyguards, and titanium umbrellas. It’s as if he’s tooting his own horn and putting himself on a pedestal, possibly one above the reach of the Yakuza? You might say he was more like a scared opossum in his TV interview, all holed up inside a dark apartment fearing for his life. It’s fairly obvious and might I add, comical, that his current defiant and undaunted attitude is in such stark contrast to his pre-Tokyo Vice demeanor. Such inconsistency makes me question what his real deal is and, frankly, makes me wonder if he is more spotlight hungry than someone simply trying to get the truth out.

    Whether I want to read a book or not is based on how I feel about it – what I might know about the author or even the behind-story on the content. If the author seems somewhat questionable – nevermind the authenticity and fact-checking of the actual content – I may be persuaded not to read the book based on sheer eye-rolling and disgust over his selfglorification. Or, I may be inclined to read it just to see if his material is indeed solid enough to back such bravado. Whatever the case may be, I think we’re all entitled to formulate our own opinions and criticize if we so wish. Like you said, opinions are opinions.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Brings a new meaning to “Goto considered harmful”

  15. Anonymous says:

    I met Jake by chance 7 years ago on a weeknight in downtown San Diego. I had a Japanese girlfriend at the time, who by accidentally bumping into him on an escalator, found out that he spoke native-like Japanese and worked for the Yomiuri Newspaper. I was excited to meet him and kept in touch with him on a loose basis. I’m glad to see he’s safer than before and that he finished his book–I didn’t even know that all of these events were taking place in his life! I wish him good luck and above all safety.

  16. shiftdelete says:

    Wow. Took a “look inside” on Amazon, and couldn’t stop reading! Bought it instantly. Love his writing / story-telling style.

  17. Anonymous says:

    So I guess Adelstein is divorced now? Doesn’t surprise me after reading both this interview and Tokyo Vice. He claims to be hyper-protective of women frequently, and yet throughout the book he talks of numerous inappropriate situations with women other than his wife that would put most men in the dog house at the very least. I like his story and his style, but whenever he talks about women now I take it with a big grain of salt because it’s obvious he very much wants to be widely perceived as The Mighty Woman Protector, when it’s clear from his own stories and interviews that’s a selective act for him. Great interview, though. Looking forward to Part 2.

  18. Pipenta says:

    I’m trying to figure out who is living the more dangerous life. Is it Adelstein who has made a career reporting on, rubbing elbows with, and sometimes angering these dangerous criminals?

    Or is it you and me and the rest of us poor schmucks who have no health insurance and live in a land without public health care?

    • Trent Hawkins says:

      “I’m trying to figure out who is living the more dangerous life. Is it Adelstein who has made a career reporting on, rubbing elbows with, and sometimes angering these dangerous criminals?

      Or is it you and me and the rest of us poor schmucks who have no health insurance and live in a land without public health care?”

      Well, with that logic, you should join the military. You can have the best health insurance in the world and only be in mildly more danger then Adelstein.

      • Bill Albertson says:

        Military service would be safer. You get body armor, an automatic weapon, a secured base, and 50k homies to back you up. Adelstein gets a nifty umbrella, a sometime bodyguard, and some assurances that his family won’t get killed.

  19. bshock says:

    Coincidentally, I just finished reading Adelstein’s book “Tokyo Vice” last night. As a dedicated Japanophile, I thought it was amazing, but even someone with just a casual interest in Japan or organized crime would probably find it a great read.

  20. mkultra says:

    Is it just me, or are there some strong parallels between this guy and Isaac Adamson’s novel Toyko Suckerpunch? (which is apparently being made into a movie, I just learned.) The main character is “Billy Chaka, ace reporter for Youth in Asia, Cleveland’s hottest selling Asian teen-rag.”

    It’s a 4-book series and awesomely hilarious.

  21. Anonymous says:

    His Twitter handle is, unsurprisingly, @JakeAdelstein

  22. Anonymous says:

    i would love to follow Mr. Adelstein on twitter. what handle does he go by?

  23. Anonymous says:

    I have to wonder. On one hand, maybe this guy is totally the real deal. He certainly seems to have the chops to prove it. On the other hand, maybe he exaggerates a bit because he loves the Yakuza; one of those guys who is always talking about how tight he is with gangsters, and how dangerous his life is. I don’t know.

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