Is BBC One drama Tokyo Vice a true story?

Tokyo Vice begins airing on BBC One on Tuesday night, a compelling crime drama that delves into the gritty criminal underworld of 90s Japan.

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While viewers get stuck into the enthralling plot, they may be wondering if the series is based on a true story. Find out here…

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Is Tokyo Vice a true story?

Yes, Tokyo Vice is loosely based on a true story. It follows real-life American journalist Jake Adelstein (played by Ansel Elgort), who built a career as the first Westerner hired as a crime reporter at one of Japan’s most prominent newspapers, the Yomiuri Shinbun.

His story is told in the 2009 memoir, Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan, which was originally meant to be adapted for the big screen with Daniel Radcliffe starring in the main role, but was later transformed into a crime series which first premiered on HBO Max earlier this year.

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Following the drama's initial release in April, a report from The Hollywood Reporter claimed that insiders have questioned the truthfulness of Adelstein's memoir. "I don’t think half of that stuff in the book happened, it's just in his imagination. It's fiction," said filmmaker Philip Day, who met the journalist back in 2010 while working on a documentary called Crime Lords of Tokyo for National Geographic.

Ansel Elgort in Tokyo Vice
Ansel Elgort in Tokyo Vice

Ansel Elgort stars in the series

After THR published the article, Adelstein took to Twitter to publish a folder of source materials used in his work, writing: "So you can decide what's credible. It also has some files related to unscrupulous journalists. Because it’s true, a man without enemies is no man at all."

For those unfamiliar with the story, the official synopsis for the drama reads: "Determined to make it in Tokyo, Jake becomes the first foreigner to be hired by Tokyo newspaper Meicho Shimbun. Assigned to the crime desk and tasked with covering a stabbing, Jake becomes convinced the case is connected to something much bigger - but he discovers that in Tokyo, journalists don't ask too many questions - if they know what's good for them.

"After embedding himself into the Tokyo Metro PD alongside Detective Hiroto Katagiri (Ken Watanabe), Adelstein is thrust into a seedy, fast-paced world of corruption, crime, and deception where nothing is what it seems."

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