In Japan, a landlord really is a lord, and though laws exist to protect renters they are easily circumvented by property owners who don’t like them. The three classic no-nos of rental properties — no pets, no pianos, no employees of the “water trade” — have recently been augmented with “no old people.” If you’re a single woman, you’d also better be ready for a fight. And we’re talking about Japanese citizens here.

On this week’s “Sunday Big Variety” (TV Tokyo; Mar. 9, 7 p.m.), video crews tag along with various families as they try to secure new rental housing. The difficulties they encounter transcend the usual landlord meanness, but in all cases the problems are linked to an institutional ambivalence toward the needs and wants of renters.

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