In Japan, landlords have the right to refuse anybody based on nationality and ethnicity.

Looking for a place to live in Tokyo, like in many other big cities, can be a grueling process.

Looking for a place to live in Tokyo, like in many other big cities, can be a grueling process.

Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP / Getty Images

Foreigners face rampant discrimination in Japan’s housing market, where landlords can legally reject prospective tenants on the basis of their citizenship and ethnicity.

My parents are both American and I’m a US citizen, but I was born in Aichi prefecture and raised in Yamagata prefecture in the north of Japan. I went to local Japanese schools all my life, and I am completely bilingual in English and Japanese. Japan only grants citizenship to people with a Japanese parent, but I did get permanent residency when I was in elementary school.

The only time I’ve lived outside of Japan was when I spent a year abroad in college.

The only time I’ve lived outside of Japan was when I spent a year abroad in college.

Me performing on a traditional Japanese instrument called the shamisen in my hometown of Yamagata.

Kyla Ryan / BuzzFeed

The agent presented me with a long stack of listings, and I meticulously went through and chose around 10 of them. Then he started calling the landlords to see if these apartments were still available.

"Just one thing, the person interested is a foreign national," the agent said. "... I see, Thank you."

His voice grew apologetic as he hung up the phone. He didn’t need to explain: I knew instantly that the owner didn’t accept foreigners and the apartment was for "Japanese only."

This is so common that when you search for apartments online in Japan, there’s a filter for “foreigners allowed” alongside the ones for “accepts pets” and “newly renovated.” Checking it will drastically reduce your options.


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