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I bought this because it sounded like a really interesting insight into the dark side of a strange culture.
The main fault is the writer has a knack of making even very entertaining situations sound very flat & boring. A visit to a bar offering a glass toilet you can pay a girl to use is narrated in the style of "I bought a bottle of milk. & a snickers bar. It was a Tuesday." I read a lot of Carl Hiaasen's work - another journalist turned author, and the contrast is huge. Hiaasen is writing fiction, but he takes odd people doing strange things & lays it out in a hugely entertaining way. Adelstein in contrast lays it out in seemingly the least interesting way he can. I kept feeling there was a great entertaining read trapped in there desperately trying & failing to get out.
The second problem is Adelstein narrates his own book. This saved some cash & it helps with the Japanese names, but after so long in Japan he speaks English almost like a fluent Japanese speaker, words are rushed or compacted, often sentences are read in that Japanese way of almost hyphenating the whole sentence, - "Why-would-I-want-that-I-asked". A lot of the book is conversation but without "I said / He said". When reading this is easy, but when listening I find that 99% of voice actors use different voices to make it clear. Adelstein not only doesn't change his voice, his style of hyphenating an entire sentence can often mean you have to concentrate very hard just to figure out who is talking. And it adds to the overall blandness.
Last, again a by-product of not using a professional voice actor or possibly of his years of not speaking English, he pauses at strange moments sentences pause in the middle or they run straight over commas
I do get the feeling if he had told his stories to another reporter turned author (Hiaasen, Michael Lewis), had them write it & then had a voice actor narrate it, it could have been a five star effort. As it is, its a strange listen & a bit boring
4 of 6 people found this review helpful
Read the book a few year ago and found it gripping. Enjoyed hearing the story again, really interesting to hear about the Japanese under world and all the strange, sometime horrible things that go on. One point of the story in particular is quite touching and sad. Well worth a read / listen if you have any interest in moderne Japanese culture or crime.
Perhaps I am predisposed toward this author because I am also a Jewish guy from Missouri. However, I have nowhere near the temerity that the author has, who became so fluent in Japanese that he became a reporter in Japan and ultimately winds up taking on the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia.
This book has the elements of a confessional memoir, with crime stories woven within, and an in-depth look at Japanese life and culture, all in one package. On the latter, it centers mostly on the seamier side of Japanese life and culture in its criminal and sex trade arenas.
Unlike another review I recall that did not like the author reading the text, I found it a very authentic reading that added something a professional reader may not have accomplished.
It is a riveting read and I highly recommend it.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
This book is a full of surprises and wonders even for a Japanese like me, exposing the details of all the hidden aspects of Japanese underground cultures like sex industries, organized crimes, foreign workers, and so many others. These things you only hear from rumors, low profile weekly magazines or yellow evening news papers. Now they are all uncovered by a former prestigious Yomiuri reporter Jake Adelstein, who I would like to call "Henna gaijin (a weird foreigner)" with a sense of great respect as he dared to stick into the things that most Japaneses try to avoid even mentioning.
I have lived in/near Tokyo in most of 90's and 00's, and am kind of familiar with most of the news stories covered in this book through TVs and newspapers. But, I learned they are totally different from inside. For example, in the case with Saitama dog-lover serial murders, the connection between the breeder and an organized crime group was barely mentioned on Japanese TVs and major newspapers. Other things as well.
The narration by the author gives vividness to the scenes and to the tone of the voices of the people in the book. Although it is not of professional, I found I am kind of fond of it.
Great work, no doubt.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful