Sunday, October 17, 2010

Travel Reading: Tokyo Vice

Since I travel a lot, and follow my father's tradition of taking "junk reading" where I go, I often read to pass the time in Economy Class.  I heartily recommend "Tokyo Vice" by Jake Adelstein as an accurate snapshot of recent years in Japan, though, frankly, it's a Japan with which I am most decidedly not well acquainted.  I am no angel by a long shot.  But I never liked Roppongi (too much like Time Square before Mickey Mouse infested it), and as Adelstein notes, we foreigners aren't always welcomed in Kabukicho.

That said, it is an amazing read.  It follows the early career of Jake Adelstein, a Japanese language reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun, culminating in his standoff with yakuza boss  Goto Tadamasa,  head of the Goto-gumi, which was affiliated with the largest Yakuza group in Japan, the Yamaguchi-gumi.

This book has it all for someone who might write a blog like mine. It has organized crime (yes, I often quote Goodfellas and Christopher Walken parts to my co-workers). It has Buddhism (Adelstein evidently studied Zen Buddhism while in college, and  Goto Tadamasa has, according to the latest info, become an osho, at least to my knowledge).

It even has the "Burning House" parable from the Lotus Sutra.
What is most important to me is the sense of loss. You cannot read Adelstein's book without sympathizing with his sense of his own wrongdoing, and his taking the responsibility for it, without hope of a "Get out of jail for free card."  Jake Adelstein moved far and wide from the temple in which he used to stay, but wound up doing great good in exposing the very real issues of human trafficking in Japan while still managing to keep himself from being whacked by the Yakuza that was not widely known. And it's written by an American with Buddhist sentiments.

Anyway this book is a great read; it's part "subculture of Japan" you probably never heard about, (OK, maybe Brad Warner did) , it's part Raymond Chandler, and it's part the honest feelings of someone with a target on his back because he knew stuff about the Yakuza

I still have a very good post about the issues of Chan and Buddhism in general in China, and the amazing story of the people involved. 

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