Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Dreaded NHK Man

Hashi: "I am not watching NHK. Only YouTube videos!"

I feel like we were pretty prepared before moving to Japan. I'd read a lot of stuff, learned a little Japanese, and visited several times (well, once for 7 months, ha!). File this under "totally random stuff I had no idea about before I moved to Japan."

Anyway, I read Japan Today (Japanese news in English) on a daily basis to keep up with what's going on in Japan. Usually it's filled with stuff about crotchety old people and crimes that wouldn't even make the news in the U.S. Every once and a while an article about the NHK fees come up and there are a flood of comments from expats about "the dreaded NHK man." I thought well, that is strange, but it sounds like maybe we'll see someone eventually so I know what to expect.

NHK (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai or "Japan Broadcasting Corporation") is essentially the equivalent of PBS in Japan. PBS solicits funds in the U.S. through pledge drives, etc. while NHK requires anyone (per the latest court ruling) that has a TV-equipped device (TV, computer, smartphone, Nintendo DS) to pay the equivalent about $260 per year even if you don't watch NHK , no exceptions. Seriously? Seriously.

Domo is the NHK mascot...he's cute but tenacious. Grrrr!
However, the catch is that there is no way for them to force you to pay...and since we are here with the military (SOFA) and not residents of Japan we definitely don't have to pay the fees. Oh, but that didn't stop them from trying! I am so glad I was informed as one day a few months ago "the dreaded NHK man" in the form of a diminutive lady showed up at our doorstep from NHK trying to inform us that we needed to pay the fees. Saying "nihongo"(Japanese) crossing hands (meaning "no") and "gomen nasai" (sorry) didn't work. She had come prepared with a pamphlet in English (albeit wordy and confusing). Things were slowly starting to make more sense...I had read about this online. We needed to get rid of her before she saw the TV in our living room! Never mind that we only use it for streaming video of f the internet...

We called our realtor to help translate but the NHK woman refused to talk to her...I had also read about this. You have to verbally enter into this idiotic contract yourself. We kept stalling and pretending to be confused. She asked if we had smartphones and computers (I think) and I lied. Eventually after about 10 minutes of awkward interaction with the "baka gaijin" (stupid foreigners) she gave up trying to talk Japanese at us and left the pamphlet. I think we got off easy. I have read sometimes the NHK people are really rude and try to force their way into your house to find your TV while making (unenforceable) threats of legal action. Some people pay the fees and some people don't. We'll be some of the ones that don't!

At least now if someone comes back we have a killer attack dog--yeah right! :)

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