NHK Fee Collectors

NHK is the national public broadcasting station in Japan. They send subscription fee collectors to seemingly every front door in the nation on a semi-regular basis, and in my experience, get turned away more often than not.
1.17 mil. households refuse to pay NHK subscription fees
People usually try to get out of paying by saying that they either do not own a TV, or do not watch NHK. The latter isn’t an excuse at all; you’re supposed to pay anyway. I always used to use the former until a few years ago when the NHK guy pointed out my newly-purchased satellite dish and I had to explain it wasn’t for a TV, it was for my global mind control experiments, and used the following lull in conversation as a chance to slam the door on his face.
In a similar way, most newbies to Japan initially think they can get away with a verbal Gaijin Smash (ala Azrael), but after years of verbal abuse from everyone the collectors are quite crafty and usually come prepared with laminated English phrase cards (Pay up you dirty, lying foreigner! GIVE ME MONEY!). Most recently, I tried acting like a member from the local Mormon church (there really is a Sumoto branch of the Church of LDS) and I like to think I came pretty close to converting the guy – I tried to give him a copy of the Book of Mormon that the real Mormons had left on my doorstep a few months before, but his formidable training eventually kicked back in and before you know it I was resorting back to door-slamming again.
If you DO actually pay the subscription fees, you are issued an NHK sticker to post above your doorway. I have known people who peeled these stickers off of vacant houses to post on their own, figuring it would show they had already paid, but ultimately, the joke was on them because NHK actually targets houses with the sticker (I suspect it is much easier to shame Japanese people into paying a second time than it is the first time, since it implies cheapness rather than moral belief as a reason for not paying the “mandatory” subscription fees).
The most hardcore NHK collector I ever met came knocking one day when we were living in the slums of Osaka, in Nishinari. I tried every excuse and gambit in the book, but this guy was firm and wanted the money, no excuses. When I tried slamming the door, he blocked it with his foot!!! He started cussing me out in gutteral Osaka-ben, which was a uniquely surreal experience – being cussed out by an NHK fee collector! Eventually, I tricked him into moving his foot and successfully slammed the door in his face, which infuriated him even more, and he started pounding on it from the outside and yelled at us to open it… At that point, the yakuza living upstairs opened his front door, leaned over the railing, and demanded to know what the fuck was going on, and “did he need to come down and kill some urusai motherfuckers?”
The NHK guy got spooked and left the apartment complex entirely. We laughed as we watched him walking away down the road – he heard us laughing and shook his fist up at us, mumbling and swearing to himself, kicking at a crumpled soda can on the street.

3 thoughts on “NHK Fee Collectors

  1. It doesn’t help that a lot of the collectors are pretty scuzzy looking characters. One of them who used to come around looked like he was trying to get into Guinness for the longest pinky fingernails. (I’m talking evil movie Mandarin here.) Concurrent with the “most crud under them” record. Made my skin crawl every time he showed up.
    The last time they bothered me (over a year ago now) was during a typhoon. Guy wanted to step into the genkan out of the deluge but I wasn’t having any of it. We did the “Ain’t paying! -It’s the LAW!” duet, to a draw. Finally he broke down with a plaintive, bedraggled “But I’ve come ALL THE WAY from Kohriyama!” (A drive of an hour or more.)
    To which I replied “Gokurosan!” and slammed the door.
    (The Dark Side can be so seductive!)

  2. Back in the 80’s, an NHK collector came when I was at home with my girlfriend. I took the “me no speakee Japanese” route–at which time my girlfriend came to the door and helpfully offered to translate! We had a little chat afterwards.
    More recently, the collectors come prepared in English as you mentioned, speaking the language in my case. But I just steadfastly refused–in fact, since I screen solicitors via my peephole and intercom system, I didn’t even open the door (easier to dismiss them that way).
    But the truth is, I don’t watch NHK, and for good reason: they’re a political arm of the government, and I’ve noted bias in their programming. Additionally, I don’t like any of their programming at all.
    And I refuse to pay for something I don’t use.
    I have a satellite dish, but if the NHK person ever tries to use that, I’ll simply note that it’s not pointed at the BS satellite, rather at the SkyPerfect satellite. And yes, NHK terrestrial is available on the building’s basic TV circuit, but I don’t use that, either.
    Add to that the fact that more than a million Japanese refuse to pay, and I see no reason why I should be different.
    If they claim it’s against the law to not pay (which they attempt to do), I’ll point out that racial discrimination is also illegal here, and start listing the many rather blatant examples of such that I’ve experienced. And racial discrimination has the exact same penalty as not paying your NHK fees: namely, none.

  3. It’s Christmas day, 2006, and the NHK company called our house via the telephone today, demanding the $680 we owe for NHK TV.
    Naturally, I told him he could go whistle.
    When the collector came two months ago, I asked him why I should pay considering that no one at NHK has gone to prison for stealing millions of yen. He couldn’t answer.
    Add to that, the fact that I don’t use NHK, and NHK’s ruling that if you own a TV set, then you are agreeing to a contract with NHK to pay them a fee is totally biased, why should I pay them?
    I never agreed to any such thing with NHK but I do have the right to own a TV set, for which I can watch over 300 other channels, albeit I choose only 34 of them (and yes, I do pay for those). Why should I pay NHK if I do not use it?
    Interestingly, NHK law (lol, see that? NOT government law, but NHK law), states that if you have another device that is capapble of picking up radio signals and other viewable signals, you do not have to pay them. They made this ruling before they realised that watching movies or programming on your PC would prove popular. They are now trying to change that ruling too. They want to have anyone buying a computer with internet connection, to pay their fees too. However, it will take many many years before this ruling would be even considered by any legal body.
    NHK provides some of the most boring and dullest programming ever.
    Add to this that they are merely trying to copy the BBC, they are not acting in the best interests of their people.
    NHK could further stop losing revenue, by adding advertising to their channels.
    It is my belief, after 7 years living here in Japan, that they do get paid billions of yen through advertising in their programmes. (A coca-cola can here, a Pepsi can there, etc…)
    The day they take us to court, which is what the guy on the phone threatened us with today, I will state my case, of which I’m certain (who let Frank Sinatra in here?). My case will be that I speak English and so does NHK, therefore, they owe me 7 year’s worth of fees for English lessons. When they say they don’t use me for English lessons, I’ll reiterate with the fact that I don’t use them for watching TV either!
    Even when my wife and I lived in temporary housing when we were in the process of moving, the fee for the apartment included NHK’s fee. But still, the NHK guy came around demanding money from us. He was met with the wrath of my wife!
    As far as I’m concerned, NHK is indeed an arm for the government (recently the government ORDERED NHK to show certain programming), and they are trying to suppress the rights of citizens with unjust rulings.
    See you in court NHK.

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