100 books like Tokyo Vice

By Jake Adelstein,

Here are 100 books that Tokyo Vice fans have personally recommended if you like Tokyo Vice. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Roads to Sata: A 2000-mile walk through Japan

Jonathan DeHart Author Of Moon Japan: Plan Your Trip, Avoid the Crowds, and Experience the Real Japan

From my list on evoking a deep, personal discovery of Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Tokyo-based writer who first came to Japan during university to live with a host family and study the language. After a stint in Shanghai, Japan brought me back in 2012 and I’ve lived here ever since. I’ve cycled across remote Okinawan islands, wandered Kyoto’s cobblestone lanes, and trekked to mountaintop temples in heavy snow. But some of my best memories have happened over homemade plum wine at a friend’s dinner table. I’ve written two books published by Moon Travel Guides and countless articles on Asia, with some being chosen for “best of” lists by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and Real Clear World

Jonathan's book list on evoking a deep, personal discovery of Japan

Jonathan DeHart Why did Jonathan love this book?

This travelogue brilliantly narrates Alan Booth’s southward trek across Japan, end to end, from Cape Soya in Hokkaido to Cape Sata in Kyushu. The book’s subtitle, A 2,000 Mile Walk Through Japan, speaks volumes. The journey, which some would call masochistic, is practically measured in blisters. We see Booth, fluent in Japanese, trudge through rain and shine along backcountry roads, from greasy spoons to lonesome karaoke bars, collapsing into countless futons along the way. His journey comes to life with colorful characters, boozy local festivals, and pithy realizations about his adopted homeland, at turns entertaining, illuminating, and hilarious. For me, this book captures the joy of discovering the salty, unexpected side of Japan. It also cements Booth’s status as one of the (unsung) travel writing greats.  

By Alan Booth,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Roads to Sata as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A memorable, oddly beautiful book' Wall Street Journal

'A marvellous glimpse of the Japan that rarely peeks through the country's public image' Washington Post

One sunny spring morning in the 1970s, an unlikely Englishman set out on a pilgrimage that would take him across the entire length of Japan. Travelling only along small back roads, Alan Booth travelled on foot from Soya, the country's northernmost tip, to Sata in the extreme south, traversing three islands and some 2,000 miles of rural Japan. His mission: 'to come to grips with the business of living here,' after having spent most of his…


Book cover of Minka: My Farmhouse in Japan

Sam Baldwin Author Of For Fukui’s Sake: Two years In Rural Japan

From my list on life in Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sam Baldwin spent two years living in Ono, Fukui, a rural area of Japan. For Fukui's Sake is a true account of his adventures. He has written about travel for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent and has contributed to numerous magazines and guidebooks. After returning to his native UK, he relocated to Slovenia where he writes about the adventures of restoring a 300-year-old mountain cabin

Sam's book list on life in Japan

Sam Baldwin Why did Sam love this book?

Minka is the true story of an American AP correspondent who, reluctantly at first, fell into buying a 250 year-old traditional Japanese farmhouse for a pittance (it was in an area soon to be flooded by dam construction) had it disassembled, transported, and re-built in the rural outskirts of Tokyo.

It's an insight into two aspects of Japan; firstly the rural, artisan side as Roderick befriends a family from Gifu and uses many of the rural folk from the prefecture for their carpentry skills, and secondly it provides us with an interesting view on some of the high society that Roderick mixes with, being a well-connected ex-pat (Hilary Clinton once visits his house!).

Roderick writes with a good deal of humor, and his love and knowledge of Japan makes him a welcome guide as he takes us through the quirks and curios of Japan during the ‘60s and ‘70s. The…

By John Roderick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Minka as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1959 journalist John Roderick joined the Tokyo bureau of the Associated Press. There, he befriended a Japanese family, the Takishitas. After musing offhandedly that he would like to one day have his own house in Japan, the family unbeknownst to Johnset out to grant his wish. They found Roderick a 250-year-old minka, or hand-built farmhouse, with a thatched roof and held together entirely by wooden pegs and joinery. It was about to be washed away by flooding and was being offered for only fourteen dollars. Roderick graciously bought the house, but was privately dismayed at the prospect of living…


Book cover of Tonoharu: Part 1

Sam Baldwin Author Of For Fukui’s Sake: Two years In Rural Japan

From my list on life in Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sam Baldwin spent two years living in Ono, Fukui, a rural area of Japan. For Fukui's Sake is a true account of his adventures. He has written about travel for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent and has contributed to numerous magazines and guidebooks. After returning to his native UK, he relocated to Slovenia where he writes about the adventures of restoring a 300-year-old mountain cabin

Sam's book list on life in Japan

Sam Baldwin Why did Sam love this book?

I recommend this three-part series of graphic novels for their beautiful artwork and painstaking attention to detail. Illustrator Martinson has a superb knack for observing the smallest aspects of the Japanese environment, with every frame bursting with the minutiae of everyday Japan.

The story follows ‘Dan’ a downbeat American, working as an English teacher in Japan who is experiencing severe isolation in his host country. Dan’s attitude to his new life is at the very extreme end of the culture shock spectrum, whereas in my experience, most foreigners embrace life more than he does, and therefore enjoy a more balanced experience. However for the artwork alone, I recommend the three part Tōnoharu series which are truly beautiful works, and make a worthy addition to any Japanophile's library.

By Lars Martinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tonoharu as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Daniel Wells begins a new life as an assistant junior high school teacher in the rural Japanese village of Tonoharu. Isolated from those around him by cultural and language barriers, he leads a monastic existence, peppered only by his inept pursuit of the company of a fellow American who lives a couple towns over. But contrary to appearances, Dan isn't the only foreigner to call Tonoharu home. Across town, a group of wealthy European eccentrics are boarding in a one-time Buddhist temple, for reasons that remain obscure to their gossiping neighbors.


Book cover of Inaka: Portraits of Life in Rural Japan

Sam Baldwin Author Of For Fukui’s Sake: Two years In Rural Japan

From my list on life in Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sam Baldwin spent two years living in Ono, Fukui, a rural area of Japan. For Fukui's Sake is a true account of his adventures. He has written about travel for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent and has contributed to numerous magazines and guidebooks. After returning to his native UK, he relocated to Slovenia where he writes about the adventures of restoring a 300-year-old mountain cabin

Sam's book list on life in Japan

Sam Baldwin Why did Sam love this book?

This anthology contains a collection of 18 different accounts by non-Japanese authors who have all spent extended time living in rural Japan. Arranged geographically, from Okinawa to Hokkaido, the book offers a diverse view of pastoral Japan, allowing readers to get insight into some of the less commonly known aspects of the country.

The topics covered range from Buddhist pilgrimages, to pottery; abandoned Shinto shrines to record snowfalls; romance to ryokan. This is a great book for anyone who’s interested in learning about life outside of Japan’s megacities. Most of the authors included have written other works, so it’s a great taster to sample some different flavours of storytelling, to see which pique your interest for more.

By John Grant Ross,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inaka as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inaka: Portraits of Life in Rural Japan is an affectionate but unsentimental immersion into the Japanese countryside ("inaka"). In eighteen chapters we undertake an epic journey the length of Japan, from subtropical Okinawa, through the Japanese heartland, all the way to the wilds of Hokkaido. We visit gorgeous islands, walk an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage route, share a snow-lover's delight in the depths of record snowfall, solve the mystery of an abandoned Shinto shrine, and travel in the footsteps of a seventeenth-century haiku master. But above everything, Inaka answers the question of what it's like to be a foreigner living in…


Book cover of The White Tiger

Brian Klingborg Author Of Thief of Souls

From my list on international crime both fiction and nonfiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a small town in the days before the internet and cable television, so books were my escape, and through them, I traveled to faraway places and learned about different customs and cultures. Later, I studied Chinese cultural anthropology and lived and worked in Asia for many years. Now, I write a series about a Chinese police inspector in the brutally cold far north province of Heilongjiang and use mystery stories to unpack some of the more fascinating and essential aspects of Chinese society, politics, and religion.

Brian's book list on international crime both fiction and nonfiction

Brian Klingborg Why did Brian love this book?

The White Tiger is a witty and searing portrayal of a “self-made” man who has risen from the depths of abject poverty to a position of wealth and influence. 

The India portrayed is far from the glitz and romantic notions of Bollywood. It is a desperately poor place where the “haves” live like kings and the “have-nots" live like slaves.

In addition to shedding light on some of the harsh realities of class, economics, and corruption in India, The White Tiger somehow manages to subvert expectations and coax the reader into rooting for a murderer and thief who justifies his actions, not entirely convincingly, by describing himself as a sort of working-class hero.

In reality, he is more of a cautionary tale.

By Aravind Adiga,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The White Tiger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2008

Balram Halwai is the White Tiger - the smartest boy in his village. His family is too poor for him to afford for him to finish school and he has to work in a teashop, breaking coals and wiping tables. But Balram gets his break when a rich man hires him as a chauffeur, and takes him to live in Delhi. The city is a revelation. As he drives his master to shopping malls and call centres, Balram becomes increasingly aware of immense wealth and opportunity all around him, while knowing that he…


Book cover of In the Miso Soup

Brian Klingborg Author Of Thief of Souls

From my list on international crime both fiction and nonfiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a small town in the days before the internet and cable television, so books were my escape, and through them, I traveled to faraway places and learned about different customs and cultures. Later, I studied Chinese cultural anthropology and lived and worked in Asia for many years. Now, I write a series about a Chinese police inspector in the brutally cold far north province of Heilongjiang and use mystery stories to unpack some of the more fascinating and essential aspects of Chinese society, politics, and religion.

Brian's book list on international crime both fiction and nonfiction

Brian Klingborg Why did Brian love this book?

Ryu Murakami is a musician, writer, and film director. He deals in surrealism and the dark side of a rigid Japanese society – drugs, sex, alienation. 

In this book, Murakami relates the tale of Kenji, a young man who makes his living guiding foreigners through Tokyo’s red-light district. Kenji’s new client is an extremely odd American named Frank.

As Kenji leads Frank through a labyrinth of hostess bars and peep shows, he comes to suspect that Frank may be the serial killer who has been on a rampage, murdering and dismembering teenage girls.

By Ryu Murakami, Ralph McCarthy (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked In the Miso Soup as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From postmodern Renaissance man Ryu Murakami, master of the psychothriller and director of Tokyo Decadence, comes this hair-raising roller-coaster ride through the nefarious neon-lit world of Tokyo's sex industry. In the Miso Soup tells of Frank, an overweight American tourist who has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo's sleazy nightlife. But Frank's behavior is so strange that Kenji begins to entertain a horrible suspicion-that his new client is in fact the serial killer currently terrorizing the city. It is not until later, however, that Kenji learns exactly how much he has to fear and how…


Book cover of Bangkok 8: A Royal Thai Detective Novel

Andrew Pearson Author Of The Dead Chip Syndicate

From my list on that should be adapted into movies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the MD of a Hong Kong-based software and AI consulting company, keeping me on top of all the latest AI technological developments. Previously, I worked in Hollywood, writing scripts, adapting novels, and working in production. My scripts have won awards at several prestigious screenwriting festivals throughout the world. However, wanting to expand my creative horizon, I wrote my first novel, The Dead Chip Syndicate, and quickly found a traditional publisher for it in 2022. Release is set for July 2023. It's the first in my Exotics series, which follows the exploits of an ex-pat navigating the Asian gambling world as he gets embroiled in one scandal and scam after another.

Andrew's book list on that should be adapted into movies

Andrew Pearson Why did Andrew love this book?

Another darkly comic thriller that is stunningly original and filled with cinema-worthy characters.

The book opens when an African American Marine meets a ghastly end inside a bolted-shut Mercedes that is filled with deadly cobras. Two cops arrive at the scene, but only one survives the ordeal. Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a devout Buddhist, watches his partner die from a cobra bite and vows revenge.

He teams up with an American FBI agent brought in to work the case. They chase a killer through the atmospheric streets of Bangkok, navigating through a world of illicit drugs, colorful prostitutes, and infinite corruption. Sonchai is a complex protagonist, filled with wry humor and a dogged determination that the reader will admire all the way to its intriguing end.

By John Burdett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Bangkok 8 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In surreal Bangkok, city of temples and brothels, where Buddhist monks in saffron robes walk the same streets as world-class gangsters, a US marine sergeant is killed inside a locked Mercedes by a maddened python and a swarm of cobras. Two policemen - the only two in the city not on the take - arrive too late. Minutes later, only one is alive.

The cop left standing, Sonchai Jitpleecheep, is a devout Buddhist and swears to avenge the death of his partner and soul brother. To do so he must use the forensic techniques of the modern policing and his…


Book cover of God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre

Brian Klingborg Author Of Thief of Souls

From my list on international crime both fiction and nonfiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a small town in the days before the internet and cable television, so books were my escape, and through them, I traveled to faraway places and learned about different customs and cultures. Later, I studied Chinese cultural anthropology and lived and worked in Asia for many years. Now, I write a series about a Chinese police inspector in the brutally cold far north province of Heilongjiang and use mystery stories to unpack some of the more fascinating and essential aspects of Chinese society, politics, and religion.

Brian's book list on international crime both fiction and nonfiction

Brian Klingborg Why did Brian love this book?

This is a non-fiction travelogue deep into the heart of Mexican narco country.

Journalist Richard Grant’s borderline insane self-inflicted quest was to travel through the Sierra Madre mountains, some of the world’s toughest and most dangerous terrain, home to bandits, drug smugglers, opium cultivators, cowboys, folk healers, and hermits.

His adventures are fascinating, entertaining, and hair-raising. One episode in particular, when he was hunted through the night by a couple of Mexicans who seemed bent on killing him for sport, sent chills down my spine.

I recommend this for anyone interested in the outlaws, outcasts, shamans, and the realities of narco-economics.

By Richard Grant,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked God's Middle Finger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the acclaimed author of Dispatches From Pluto and Deepest South of All, a harrowing travelogue into Mexico’s lawless Sierra Madre mountains.

Twenty miles south of the Arizona-Mexico border, the rugged, beautiful Sierra Madre mountains begin their dramatic ascent. Almost 900 miles long, the range climbs to nearly 11,000 feet and boasts several canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon. The rules of law and society have never taken hold in the Sierra Madre, which is home to bandits, drug smugglers, Mormons, cave-dwelling Tarahumara Indians, opium farmers, cowboys, and other assorted outcasts. Outsiders are not welcome; drugs are the primary source…


Book cover of Confessions of a Yakuza: A Life in Japan's Underworld

Howard Sounes Author Of This Woman: Myra Hindley’s Prison Love Affair and Escape Attempt

From my list on biographies to put you in the mind of a criminal.

Why am I passionate about this?

The author of biographies, histories, and true crime books, Howard Sounes is best-known for Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, now in an updated edition; Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life; and Fred & Rose, the bestselling story of married English serial killers Fred and Rose West. Other books include Amy, 27, Seventies, Heist, and biographies of Paul McCartney and Lou Reed.

Howard's book list on biographies to put you in the mind of a criminal

Howard Sounes Why did Howard love this book?

A doctor interviews an elderly Japanese yakuza (gangster) as he recalls his life. Adhering to his own criminal code, the yakuza exudes a wayward nobility as he discusses the choices he made. Bob Dylan saw romance in this and quoted from the yakuza’s dialogue on his album, Love and Theft.

By Junichi Saga, John Bester (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Confessions of a Yakuza as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the true story, as told to the doctor who looked after him just before he died, of the life of one of the last traditional yakuza in Japan. It wasn't a good' life, in either sense of the word, but it was an adventurous one; and the tale he has to tell presents an honest and oddly attractive picture of an insider in that separate, unofficial world.
In his low, hoarse voice, he describes the random events that led the son of a prosperous country shopkeeper to become a member, and ultimately the leader, of a gang organizing…


Book cover of Tokyo, Form and Spirit

Jilly Traganou Author Of The Tôkaidô Road: Travelling and Representation in EDO and Meiji Japan

From my list on travel in premodern and modern Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an architect from Greece who traveled to Japan in the 1990s as an exchange student. Visiting Japan in the early 1990s was a transformative experience. It led me to a career at the intersection of Japanese studies and spatial inquiry and expanded my architectural professional background. I did my PhD on the Tokaido road and published it as a book in 2004. Since then I have written several other books on subjects that vary from the Olympic Games to social movements. In the last 16 years, I've taught at Parsons School of Design in New York where I am a professor of architecture and urbanism. My current project is researching the role of space and design in prefigurative political movements.

Jilly's book list on travel in premodern and modern Japan

Jilly Traganou Why did Jilly love this book?

Tokyo, Form and Spirit was the catalogue for an exhibition at the Walker Center in 1986 with contributions of the most important Japanese urban writers of the 1990s: Henry Smith, Kenneth Frampton, Donald Richie, Marc Treib, Chris Fawcett to name but a few. While I never saw the exhibition, the perspective of the authors created a mental scaffolding that shaped my understanding of the transition from the feudal to modern Japan. Henry

Smith is reading the city of Edo through a bipartite scheme characterized by the sky and the water, or how the city was viewed differently from above, as incarnated by the gaze of the samurai and other authorities, and from below, typically by the commoners who enjoyed life across the city’s waterways. He then searches for this structure in today’s Tokyo where the city’s skyline is dominated by wirescape and high-rise edifices, and the water has almost evaded.…

By Mildred S. Brandon, James R. Walker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tokyo, Form and Spirit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Essays discuss the evolution of Tokyo's art and architecture from the seventeenth century to the present and the coexistence of technology and tradition


5 book lists we think you will like!

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