Things were going well for Patrick after a year in Japan. He had found a job he liked, met a girl he planned to marry and was ready to move out of the small room his older brother, a longtime resident, was letting him use.

Patrick's fiancee had found an apartment in a good location and they hoped to move in together and marry later. The happy couple then ran into a problem: Japan's guarantor system.

Guarantors — or co-signers — are usually required of renters in Japan. Guarantors are required to pay the rent if tenants fall behind or for any damage they may cause. Landlords prefer relatives as guarantors, especially parents who are still working.