Monday, March 19, 2012


If you have lived in Japan for a few years you have probably met an NHK bill collector. NHK is Japan's one and only public broadcasting company.  Apparently, most people, both foreign and Japanese, try to avoid the bill collector at all costs. We have been blessed by two such visits in our time here.

The first visit was only a few months after we arrived in Japan and early (9 AM) on a Saturday morning... 

 NHK man: “Ah. Gaikokujin. Wakanai” (“Ah. A foreigner. I don't know”) while 
shaking his head. 

For a very awkward 30 seconds we failed to communicate and he left. 

The second visit was not as pleasant. I opened 
the door and the bill collector quickly came inside and stood in the genkan.

While this representative also spoke no English, our Japanese had improved
Here is what happened...

NHK Man: TV?

Daniel:  Yes.

NHK Man: Ok. Something something something something NHK something. 
Something something something something 3000 yen something pay 
something something. 

Like I said, our Japanese had improved, but I was still not understanding.  
He told me to wait while he contacted someone who spoke English. I was 
slowly resigning to the fact that I might have to pay this man to go away. And
 then I got on the phone with the English representative...

NHK English Man:  Hello. So you have a TV so you need to pay the NHK fee. 

Daniel:  Why?

NHK English Man:  (laughing) is something that you use and is 
provided free for people. It is your duty to pay. 

Daniel:  But I don't use it. We don't understand Japanese television so we 
don't watch it.

NHK English Man:  (laughing) It doesn't matter. You have to pay. There is
 no choice. Everyone pays. Plus, we help people with medicine and other things.
Everyone pays so it can be free.

Daniel:  Yes. I understand the concept of public television. We have the same 
thing in America, but we don't force people to pay for it. So I don't understand 
why I have to pay for something I don't use. 

NHK English Man:  (still laughing) So you don't want to pay? Are you sure?

Daniel:  No I really don't.

NHK English Man:  (suddenly serious) Ok. Put the other man back on the phone. 

The NHK man even came into our apartment to verify that we did not use cable
and could not access their channel on our TV. I realize the NHK man was just doing his
job, but I'm not paying and I will see you in Kyoto in August...end of post!