Angry White Pyjamas: An Oxford Poet Trains with the Tokyo Riot Police by Robert Twigger, Indigo, $105 Western male drifters who came to Asia looking for easy pickings and ended up staying longer than they intended will recognise author Robert Twigger as one of their own. A dissipated Oxford arts graduate, he leads an empty existence with two friends in a tiny, cockroach-infested apartment in one of Tokyo's less salubrious areas. Like so many others he winds up on the dead-end street of teaching English in Japan. Realising he must do something with his life and inspired by the example of his hero Tesshu, a 19th-century samurai poet, he takes up aikido, one of the more refined 'soft' martial arts suited to his aesthete's temperament. Nevertheless, he finds himself in tough company, particularly when he becomes convinced that to master aikido he will have to join the year-long instructor's course for the Tokyo Riot Police. He soon discovers that the Japanese police are the spiritual descendants of the fanatics who precipitated Japan's entry into World War II, and that the founder of his aikido school was not only closely linked with the Japanese military, gangsters and other right-wing crazies, but also believed that 'moral laxity was the reason Japan lost the war'. Despite this, the riot police turn out to be relatively balanced individuals, compared with the foreigners who have decided to train with them. All are bent on cultivating 'Japanese spirit', a kind of voodoo through which one becomes, after enduring pain, punishment and humiliation, an almost invincible superman. Towards the end of the year, however, his experiment in cultural relativism falters as he becomes sickened by the sadism and macho brutality of the instructors. Despite their years of training they remain for the most part ignorant thugs. Ultimately it is Twigger's wry appreciation of his absurd predicament rather than an indomitable will that keeps him going and keeps the reader smiling. Perhaps that is the message of this book - moral rectitude and a fanatical fighting spirit are all very well, but you cannot beat a good sense of humour.