Thursday, December 30, 2010

A_Bookaholic Interviews Author of Tokyo Vice, Jake Adelstein

Once again, thanks to Pansing, I got a copy of Jake Adelstein's Tokyo Vice. It was an eye-opening read for me. If you're interested in knowing about the organized crime that are going on in Tokyo, you must go grab a copy. I'm honoured too, to be given the opportunity to 'interview' the author himself, via email. The interview briefly touches on his personal life, his persistence in seeking for justice and the lessons learnt from his experience.

Q: Just out of curiosity, who drew your Twitter portrait?
A: That was done by Mari Kurisato. She did several and I’m very happy with them all. This is my favorite.

Q: How much time do you spend writing everyday?
A: I spend about three to four hours writing every day. Sometimes more. I spend two hours a day reading about organized crime (yakuza) history and news and staying on top of current events in Japan.

Q: What do you do when you’re free?
A: I’m a workaholic so I don’t really have many hobbies. I take Aikido and would like to continue with Wing Chun. I spend time with the kids when I’m back in the United States, reading books with them, playing board games, drawing. I spend a lot of time socializing with cops and crooks and seedy journalists. I don’t know where my social life and private life end anymore.

Q: From the time you started till today, what do you think has changed in regards to the way human trafficking cases are handled in Japan?
A: The Japanese government enforces the human trafficking laws, the police are proactive and have even reached out to Polaris Project Japan to ask us for information on good cases. We worked together with the police shutting down a network of paedophiles and child porn producers this years and it was a successful collaborative effort. Immigration is better about checking visas and making sure women who are doomed to be trafficked don’t get into the country in the first place.

Still, Japan is very bad about sheltering or giving refugee status to HT victims and domestic human trafficking is swept under the table. Many Japanese young girls, often runaways end up as sexual slaves in the industry, through coercion, blackmail, or debt. The number of domestic cases where the human trafficking laws should be applied and aren’t are numerous and the number of domestic cases where those laws were used is about two or three in the last four years.

The “intern” system as it is now is being manipulated by anti-social forces, is a human trafficking operation, in the labor trafficking sense, not the sex trafficking. That system needs a massive rehaul or a real watch-dog.

Q: Please tell us a little bit more about your blog, JSRC.
A: Of Japan Subculture Research Center is a website focussing on the underbelly and hidden dangers of Japanese society. We’re trying to expand to cover popular Japanese culture a little more but we’re heavily focussed on illuminating the readers about the nature of organized crime in Japan and crime in general in the country and how it all work.

Q: Why do you still keep doing this? It can get so depressing.
A: Because at the end of the day, I feel that’s my civic duty. It’s also what I know best. If everyone runs away from the dark forces of the world, pretty soon the dark forces are running the world. I like Japan. I’m a permanent resident here. I want it to be a better place to live for everyone. “Better to light a single candle than curse the darkness a thousand times.”

Q: There were many survival tips given to you throughout your years as a crime reporter. Which ones do you find useful till today? How so?
A: Learn to know whom you can trust and who you can’t. Be paranoid but control it as well. When you can’t tell your friends from your enemies you’re lost. Keep your word but don’t expect people to keep theirs. Try and see how a course of action might end, and then plan backwards. Face the door when you sit down. Don’t walk down dark alleys on a rainy day.
You can’t make enemies out of everyone. Even in the yakuza, there are some people I would consider friends. There are some good guys in the group—they sort of stumbled their way in to that world and can’t get out.

The golden rules still apply: write the truth and protect your sources by any means possible. Protect your sources and they may someday repay the favor.

Q: What’s the toughest lesson learnt?
A: There are some things that can’t be ever fixed. One bad decision, made in a split-second can cost someone his or her entire life. You may have to spend the rest of your own life atoning for it.

The other equally tough lesson is that very often evil is rewarded and good is punished, lies triumph over truth, and justice is not served. The laws of karma don’t seem to apply in this world.

However, there is a certain peace of mind in knowing that you’ve kept your code of honour, as best you can, even when others do not reciprocate. However to be told that you are 義理堅い(girigatai) or honorable, is a good feeling. It’s good to be trusted by some people. It’s empowering when people have faith in you.

It’s hard to say really what the toughest lesson is after all. There have been many of them. I guess the toughest lesson to learn is that in order to protect the people you care about, sometime you have to do awful things and make deals with people you don’t like very much. Sometimes, the enemy of our enemy is indeed our friend.

Q: What would you have done differently if you were given a chance to change your past?
A: I would have called Hamaya-san and talked with her. I would never have asked Helena to help out on the human trafficking study. I just wouldn’t have brought it up with her. There’s not much else I would change. I should have found a way to fix my marriage but I can’t really imagine it working out any other way. At least my kids don’t hate me and their mother is beginning to forgive me.

Q: Is life better for you now that you and your family have moved to the U.S?
A: Better in many ways but still most of my research and work is in Japan. I’d like to bring them back here but can’t afford to do it and with some unresolved issues with a certain ex-crime boss and the people that followed him---I don’t feel it’s safe to bring them back. I live a nomad like existence.

Q: How do you seek solace?
A: I meditate. I take care of Mochizuki-san and his family. I watch out for my friends. I help when asked and even before I’m asked and I work for the Polaris Project pro bono and I give what I can to the people in my life who need something.

Q: What’s your next book about?
A: The Last Yakuza: A lifetime in the Japanese underworld is the biography of one yakuza boss, who’s mother was American, and through his life, I hope to trace the rise and fall of the yakuza in Japan over the last thirty years.

Thank you for your time, Jake.

You can find him on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

World Book Night 2011!!!

I really think this is suuuper cool! Saw this on the internet. Check this out:

World Book Night
represents the most ambitious and far-reaching celebration of adult books and reading ever attempted in the UK and Ireland.

On Saturday, 5 March 2011, two days after World Book Day, with the full support of the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, the Reading Agency with libraries, World Book Day, the BBC and RTE, one million books will be given away by an army of passionate readers to members of the public across the UK and Ireland.

The book give-away will comprise 40,000 copies of each of the 25 carefully selected titles, to be given away by 20,000 ‘givers’, who will each distribute 48 copies of their chosen title to whomever they choose on World Book Night. The remaining books will be distributed by World Book Night itself in places that might otherwise be difficult to reach, such as prisons and hospitals.

Read more here.

Want to be part of this great event?? Check out their website! :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's a Book by Lane Smith

Title/Author: It's a Book/Lane Smith
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
No. of pages: 26
ISBN 13: 978-1-59643-606-0

In a nutshell
With digital revolution carrying us forward, will our future generation recognise a book? In It's a Book, the jackass is a 'tech-freak' fella who couldn't recognise a book, and gets all curious when seeing the monkey holding one. He asks things like 'Can it text? Blog? Scroll? Wi-Fi? Tweet?' and annoyed the hell outta the monkey who he keeps telling the jackass 'It's a book' again and again.

What I liked
Two words. Sweet. Delightful. Arghhh...I must add another one. Funny! Another one. Wonderrrrful! In only 26 pages, it captured my heart. Loved the monkey and the jackass and oooh the little mouse! :D

I not only loved the very, simple, straight-forward, funny story, but also the beautiful illustrations. It says so much, so simply! I loved how the little changes in the monkey's facial expression made so much difference in his mood and feelings. Not to mention also the series of picture when the jackass was reading the book. Great choice of colours, font type and size too!

This book would make an almost-perfect children's book, if not for the word 'jackass' and how it's used.

Great for...
Anyone who loves reading! Probably a Christmas gift for a bookaholic? ;)

I'm still not sure if I'd recommend this book to children though. The last sentence, 'It's a book, Jackass' sounds kinda harsh...I mean, how are you going to read that to a child?

Oh yeah, it has a video too! I've posted it on my blog before. You can view it here or search it on youtube. It's just as entertaining. But nothing beats reading it from a book of course ;)

My verdict? Perfect 5!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein

Title/Author: Tokyo Vice/Jake Adelstein
Publisher: Pantheon Books
No. of pages: 328
ISBN 13: 978-0-307-37879-8

In a nutshell
(Edited from the book flap) At nineteen, Jake Adelstein started his life as a journalist at the prestigious Yomiuri Shinbun. For 12 years of 48-hour workweeks, he ventures deep into the Yakuza underworld where murder, corruption and human trafficking are as common as ramen noodles and sake. In Tokyo Vice, Adelstein tells his riveting journey that brought him from getting into a martial-arts battle with a senior editor to meeting face-to-face with Japan's most feared yakuza boss.

What I liked
Tokyo Vice is a very informative, engaging and enlightening read. It is definitely an eye opener for me. If I had read this before I go to Tokyo, I'd have viewed Roponggi differently.

Using his sense of humour and thoroughness Adelstein gives a detailed tour of the Japanese underworld, and introduces the ins and outs of the Yakuza's organised crimes. At times, I imagined myself being in his position; on one hand feeling damn cool to be able to have the experience of knowing some yakuza, high ranking officers and getting 'special' passes to some of the privileged clubs, while on the other hand, feeling helpless when knowing I'm only this tiny individual, risking my life, trying to make a difference when there's no one else I could possibly trust.

There are 3 parts in this book - his experience as a rookie in part 1, meeting yakuza in part 2, and finally learning and discovering how the police and yakuza work in part 3. I was drawn to particularly 2 chapters in this book - one is the chapter on Lucie Blackman in part 2 and the other on human traficking in part 3. It all started when Adelstein was working on the Lucie Blackman case (told in 'Whatever Happened to Lucie Blackman?') that he received a tip off from Helena, an Australian woman, who worked in a sex club, that there was alot of human traficking going on in Tokyo.

Being the dedicated and passionate journalist he is, he reports and researches everything he could to bring justice to the victims of human trafficking. Reading it, you could feel his frustration, anger and disappointment. 'I tried to convince the cops that they should be arresting the traffickers for kidnapping, rape, asssault, and any other charges that were possible, but the cops would tell me, "In order to do that we'd need evidence and these women are poor witnesses because they don't understand Japanese and can't give solid testimony. In addition to this, they have been working illegally in Japan, which is a crime, and they have to be deported. Once they're deported, it's hard to build a criminal case."'

Imagine, working on cases like that, then getting to know the victims, and knowing that the laws won't change no matter how hard you is and can be very depressing especially when there's no one you could talk to, no outlet for you to release your frustration...

I was also appalled when I read about the realities of the 'sex business' in 'Welcome to Kabukicho'. See if these details shock you:
1) As long as it's not straight intercourse, a store or shop can offer any kind of sexual service the customer wants. In other words, there is no punishment for being a prostitute or sleeping with one.
2) There are half-nude young women who prepare beef dishes at your table in a no-panty shabu-shabu restaurant. They'd flirt with you while you eat.
3) It's illegal to sell pornography, but it's legal to get an actual blow job.
and...there are more...

There are many other chapters which got me close to tearing my hair out such as The Perfect Manual of Suicide, The Emperor of Loan Sharks, and the final three chapters. You got to read it to find out why. Hint: It's about the Goto-gumi. Yeah, it's all over the internet on what happened, but to know the details, you gotta read it. Trust me, you won't regret it.

Tokyo is not much of a wonderland after all huh. Well, maybe depends how you view 'Wonderland'.

My verdict? 4/5

Great job, Adelstein!


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