. Govt & Education
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Paradoxically, while the Japanese hope and expect foreigners to conform to the mores of Japanese society, Tokyo is also one of the most tolerant cities on Earth for outsiders -- quite a number of whom, sad to say, take considerable advantage of that fact. The Western community in Tokyo -- Americans, Canadians, Britons and Australians for the most part -- is a small town within this city of 20 million. While it's not exactly "diverse," it can be broken down into a number of distinct categories -- distinguished most readily by income, which for most Westerners is relatively high. These range from the fly-by-night, ultratransient English conversation teacher to the semipermanent, corporate-subsidized executive with a 2 million yen ($20,000) apartment in Roppongi, Hiroo or some other upscale neighborhood.
The majority of Westerners, while doing all right for themselves, do not reside in Western-style splendor. For many, their first place of residence will be one of Tokyo's numerous "gaijin houses." These are communal living situations where roommate compatibility is not an issue. Most anyone who can pay the rent gets thrown into the mix by landlords who know they have these visaless, monolingual neophytes at a considerable disadvantage. The period of adjustment, however, is often surprisingly brief considering the cultural disparity. A common story among Westerners goes something like, "I planned to stay just six months, but now I've been here five years." Tokyo, for all its complexity and intensity, can quickly become a comfy little home.