I just finished reading Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein after seeing a post on Tokyo Mango about it. I rate it up there with the classic The Enigma of Japanese Power by Karel Van Wolferen and my more recents favorites Dogs and Demons by Alex Kerr and Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan by Robert Whiting.

All of these books provide a thoughtful view of Japan from the perspective of a non-Japanese and I think are essential readings for anyone trying to understand modern Japanese history and culture. So much of the really important underlying context and culture isn't translated from Japanese into English and even if it were, it would be mostly incomprehensible without framing it in a Western context.

Jake Adelstein does a great job of making the book very fun to read, personal and accurate. His background as a professional Japanese journalist covering crime in Japan for the Japanese edition of Yomiuri, one of Japanese mammoth newspapers, adds a lot of credibility and cultural sensitivity that are lacking in most books about Japan that are written by non-Japanese.

I also liked the way that the book presented the perspective of the Japanese underground and Japanese culture through personal stories and narrative and didn't try to explain all of Japan. It's nearly impossible, even for Japanese, to understand why things are the way they are in Japan and it's only through experience and listening to stories like Jake's that you can begin to stitch together your version of Japan.

In The Way of Zen by Alan Watts, Watts describes that it is impossible to explain in English, all that is Zen. In fact, the Zen masters explain that Zen is beyond words. He describes how most Japanese Zen masters do not even try to "explain" Zen. He admits that although his Western background and his attempt to explain Zen in words by definition fails to capture the true core essence of Zen. However, he argues that because he lives between both worlds, he is able to describe Zen in words much more clearly than the masters might imagine.

That's what I think about the good books about Japan written by non-Japanese. Japanese often don't explain context or pretend that everyone knows what is going on. I think this leads to a lot of misunderstanding and the development of unspoken rules and culture shared only be small groups of people hidden in most part from the public. Publishers in Japan are also very sensitive about publishing books about taboo subjects in Japanese.

I highly recommend the book.

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Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed reading this "However, he argues that because he lives between both worlds, he is able to describe Zen in words much more clearly than the masters might imagine.

That's what I think about the good books about Japan written by non-Japanese. Japanese often don't explain context or pretend that everyone knows what is going on. I think this leads to a lot of misunderstanding and the development of unspoken rules and culture shared only be small groups of people hidden in most part from the public."

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