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As Japan looks for river of foreign talent, landlords erect a dam

Discrimination could hinder companies hiring more from overseas

A real estate agency in Tokyo's Shin-Okubo district displays apartment listings, many with notes welcoming foreign tenants. (Photo by Tsubasa Suruga)

TOKYO -- Samith Hilmy, a 26-year-old student from Sri Lanka, was waiting anxiously at a real estate office in Tokyo as an agent went through the procedure of ringing the Japanese landlord of an apartment the student was interested in renting.

Following a brief exchange, which lasted no more than 10 seconds, Hilmy said, the agent hung up the phone and uttered the same three-word phrase he had heard from a dozen or so agents over a month of home hunting: "Sorry, no foreigners."

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