The yakuza, the glitzy nightlife, lots and lots of money and the hostess clubs, which gladly provided jobs for beautiful foreign girls without a visa to entertain their guests. The Tokyo Vice adventure story is only partly fictional. Showrunner JT Rogers and head manager Alan Poul told nlc about this.
when Jake Adelstein Based on the size of his resume Tokyo Vice The series was released in 2022, and many people have accused it that although it is talked about as a true story in many places, there are elements in Adelstein's story that are confusing and difficult to explain. The author/journalist became famous when he wrote that several Japanese Yakuza leaders were able to travel to the United States to undergo liver transplants, all done with the knowledge and approval of the American government. So organized crime leaders in return promised inside information about the organizations, only to then discover that they didn't actually say anything really useful, but got life-saving interventions out of line.
As a result of his articles, Adelstein gained a fame surpassed only by the fact that… Tokyo Vice – a journalist in the Japanese mafia network He wrote his own story into a novel titled and years later, it led to the hit HBO Max series, which will now continue with its second season in February. According to Adelstein, in the book at the story level Insist on the truthHe only changed the names and locations, but many people – especially in Japan – drew attention to the fact that the writer at least colored the events, painting a very positive picture of himself and his own abilities.
Welcome to Tokyo
Of course, Adelstein's story is interesting even without coloring. In the 1990s, Jake moved to Japan to study at a university there and was the first Westerner to get a job as a journalist at a leading Japanese newspaper. It is also true that during his years in Japan, he gained many connections in the world of Japanese organized crime, the Yakuza. However, unlike Adelstein, the series' creators don't even try to sell their story as fact.
GT Rogers The showrunner, an old high school classmate of Adelstein's, tells my question that they only used Jake's book as inspiration, with the author's blessing, they could deviate from it at any time and in any way, and they took advantage. That is, as he put it Tokyo Vicewe do not see a real story, just a story inspired by reality, but that is why they tried to show us the special world of Tokyo and the Yakuza as authentically as possible.
“I have some experience in Japan, I speak fluent Japanese, and I've made films there before, but Tokyo Vice was different. This was the first American production to be shot entirely in and around Tokyo. Our predecessors — I prefer not to name them — mostly produced films that were attractive.” For international audiences, but at the same time it was not interesting for Japanese audiences, because it falsely presented the country and culture. We filmed the first season during the peak period of the Coronavirus, where Japan was largely locked down, and we also had to follow many strict rules, e.g. Our loved ones couldn't come to visit us during filming.
We were seen as a group of foreigners who come here and want to produce a series about the yakuza. They didn't believe we wanted to show a true picture of this world, so they approached us with strong skepticism.
We had difficulty getting permission to use the sites, and it was difficult to convince people to join us and help us show a true image of Tokyo.
We suffered a lot because of it, but when we returned to film the second season, everything changed. We were suddenly a big hit as the first season was a huge hit in Japan. They appreciated that we invested time and energy into properly portraying their culture. Even the new US Ambassador to Japan held a reception in our honor, but we were also welcomed with great joy and openness by the authorities, who did their best to allow us to film around the city without hindrance. This opened up a lot of opportunities for us. Of course, it's still the same series, but I think it shows that we shot a lot of large-scale action scenes around the city. “We lived in caravans all the time, moving from place to place.”
After the black rain
Alan Ball The director who writes the final episode of the first season and the opening of the new season on an old motorcycle in Japan. He speaks the language fluently and was actually photographed in the country in the late 1980s Ridley Scott His action movie A Michael Douglas championship Black rainR. According to him, his two shooting experiences were heaven and earth. the Black rain At that time, there were no laws regulating filming in public places, and there were no film committees or offices to turn to for help. The authorities passed them one by one, and it was very difficult for them to force them to close the streets at will, and there were even places where they were regularly distracted.
As a result of the negative experience gained by the film Black Rain, it was spread in Hollywood that Tokyo is one of the worst cities in the world to film.
As a result of its notoriety in the world, the city later gathered its strength, and the necessary committees were formed: today a well-organized machine has ensured the smooth shooting of the film. Tokyo Vice His employees. From that, there are still a lot of things they have to pay attention to: for example, the fact that they can't talk to the yakuza.
Japanese law is very clear: no contact or contact with organized crime is permitted. If we talk to the yakuza, they will ban us from entering the country. We can't risk that. Imagine that the authorities in Japan issued an official certificate to former yakuza members who were no longer connected with organized crime: everyone who received such a certificate was free to work with us. Finally, two former yakuza members worked with us as technical experts and consultants during the script writing phase and later during filming
– says showrunner JT Rogers.
The tempting world of hostess clubs
If their opportunities to obtain information from the yakuza were severely limited due to the legal ban, they worked hard in other areas to paint a more realistic picture of Tokyo. One of the important characters in the series Rachel Keller Played by Samantha, she is a product not of reality, but of creative imagination. The character was drawn together from several characters in the book Jake and the girls they met during their search, and was used to introduce Western viewers to the exciting world of hostess clubs in Tokyo.
Hostess clubs are an important pillar of Japanese nightlife, places where wealthy guests are entertained by beautiful and sociable hostesses, and although often illegal, these clubs are willing to hire young girls from the West. Contrary to popular belief, flight attendants are not prostitutes, and nudity, dancing and touching girls are prohibited in these clubs.
If the guest violates this, he or she must leave. The clubs live on guests' consumption (they also pay for the girls' drinks) and tips. Usually, a female boss, mamasan, is in charge, which is the Japanese answer to madam. Although the clubs care about adhering to the rules, there are still many problems since they no longer have an overview of whether the girls will meet guests outside the club, and there is also a problem since many girls' hostesses have changed jobs and become addicted to Alcohol.
Alan and I spent many hours in hostess clubs in Tokyo talking to various mothers about their work. How they keep refilling their guests' cups, how they treat the most demanding guests… There are many young Western women who come to Japan with the intention of joining a hostess club to earn money for half a year. He soon realizes that this is making him more money than he has ever made in his life, so he decides not to return home and stay there for many years. When I studied in Japan in the 1980s, I met many of these girls: they came from the American Midwest and suddenly found themselves in this glittering world that completely absorbed them. In the character of Samantha the stories of these girls are integrated.
When I inquire about the influence of Yakuza films on me Tokyo ViceThe two creators explain that Yakuza films are usually very stylized, but they were aiming for the exact opposite. He worked on their team, for example Kazuko Kurosawa Legendary fashion designer Akira Kurosawa His daughter, who has worked with all the great Japanese directors, and whose name you can see in the cast list of countless Yakuza films. This shooting was new even for him, because in Japanese movies he was expected to let his imagination run wild and dress up the bad guys in amazing outfits, whereas… Tokyo ViceRather, images of newspaper articles from the 1990s were the starting point.
Although they could film almost anywhere in Tokyo, the fact that the city had changed so much since the turn of the millennium was a serious problem. “While Tokyo's evening lights are mainly white in the digital age, yellow was more dominant back then. We found this mainly in Yokohama, where the architecture has changed less than in Tokyo. But we didn't want to limit ourselves to Yokohama, we also filmed in Tokyo's busiest areas, Shibuya and Shinjuku, where hiding the environment as it was 25 years ago was a serious logistical challenge.
Without Michael Mann
coming Michael Mann He wasn't back with them during the filming of Ferrari, but according to JT Rogers, the director had already done his job in the first season. He was expected to create a strong visual foundation for the series, which they could then follow, and to direct an opening episode that would captivate viewers.
The first season received a lot of praise, but not everyone liked the fact that it ended on a huge cliffhanger. According to JT Rogers, there's an explanation for this: Since they got the green light to continue while filming the first season, they knew there would definitely be a sequel, so they also approached the ending differently:
The first episode of the second season is actually the final episode of the first season. We finish what we started there, then jump forward three months, and that's where the story of Season 2 really begins.
When filming the second season, no one gave the green light for the third season, so now they followed a different principle. Season 2 ends with a full and rounded story, but in a way that could continue if it felt right.
But this will no longer be our decision. We all really enjoy doing it, and if given the opportunity, we would definitely be happy to do it.
The first part of the second season of Tokyo Vice is now available on HBO Max.