The HBO Max crime-drama series ‘Tokyo Vice’ tells the story of Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort), an American expatriate who becomes a beat reporter for the Meicho Shimbun, one of the leading Japanese language newspapers. Initially, he struggles to adapt to the hectic Japanese work culture but later garners the attention of both the police and the yakuza. The show is the web adaptation of the 2009 memoir ‘Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan’ by the real Jake Adelstein.
Jake Adelstein is a renowned investigative journalist and has been reporting on the criminal underworld of Japan for the past three decades. In the show, Adelstein meets Hiroto Katagiri (Ken Watanabe), a detective working in the organized crime division, and begins working with him closely. If you are wondering whether Katagiri is based on a real police detective, here is what you need to know. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Is Hiroto Katagiri a Real Tokyo Police Detective?
Yes, Hiroto Katagiri is based on a real police officer associated with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. The real police officer’s name is Chiaki Sekiguchi, which was changed during the adaptation process. Over the years, Adelstein has written and spoken extensively about the world of crime in Japan and often mentioned Sekiguchi, who was a mentor and father figure to him. Sekiguchi worked at the Saitama Police Department in particular, with Saitama being one part of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area.
In 2012, during a TEDx Talk in Kyoto, Adelstein mentioned some of the morsels of wisdom he received from the older man. Sekiguchi instructed him to really know the difference between hearing and listening and learn to listen to people. This helped Adelstein in his approach to both the yakuza and the police. Sekiguchi also apparently stated, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend. You can tell more about a man by his enemies than you can by his friends. A man with no enemies is worthless.”
While these are admittedly quite generic, one can’t deny the ingrained earnestness and realism present in them. In the early 1990s, Sekiguchi suggested that Adelstein should read the autobiography of Takahiko Inoue, an alleged yakuza supremo and Buddhist priest, as the detective believed that the book would give the reporter “a good introduction to the yakuza, how they used to be, why they are tolerated, and how they will never be again.”
Sekiguchi passed away in the late 2000s (in 2007, according to The New York Times, but Adelstein himself wrote that the death of his mentor occurred in 2008) due to cancer. While preparing for his role, Watanabe spoke to Adelstein. “Apparently he (Sekiguchi) was a mild-mannered and sweet man, but when he dealt with the yakuza, his brutal side came out,” Watanabe said to The New York Times. “I tried to capture that duality.”
Read More: Is Tokyo Vice a True Story?