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As Japan gropes for solutions to the imminent labor shortage amid the rapidly graying population, the failure of a private-sector project to import nurses is a bitter reminder of the hurdles involved in attracting and keeping foreign professionals here.

In 1990, Mototsugu Arao, chairman of the Hyogo Prefecture-based hospital group Senreikai, embarked on a bold experiment to bring in Filipino nurses, as immigration laws were revised to open Japan’s heavily protected medical sector to foreigners — albeit only for four years in the case of nurses.

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