Thursday, 7 August 2014

Welcome to the NHK

It is a rarely-proclaimed truth that you haven't really been accepted in a country until quasi-governmental agencies are subjecting you to the same hassle that has lifelong residents complaining in the local Daily Mail equivalent. It's quite long, so you can see why nobody proclaims it much.

Anyway, I just had my first intercom buzz, and foolishly responded to it, thinking it might be my landlord. I ended up coming downstairs and finding an NHK collector. What joy.

For those who don't know, the NHK are... a kind of rough BBC equivalent in Japan, except apparently not as beloved. And instead of demanding a licence fee by sending you aggressive letters, they send people round to knock on your door. Now, I'd heard about the NHK before, and to be honest if I'd had any sense I would have simply stayed in my room to avoid the hassle. But I'm a straightforward soul and hey, a chance to talk Japanese. This was my second mistake.

If I'd been alert enough to just shrug like an ignorant foreigner, I'm pretty sure the bloke would have given up shortly. Instead, I basically spoke just enough Japanese to keep the conversation going, but with lots of explanations required. I realised a little way into the conversation that he was here to try and extract a licence payment from me. Now, I was confused here, because I'd assumed that the landlord would have paid the fee since I'm only living here short-term and it's a furnished place. The UK doesn't do short-term licences so I assumed it was all above-board. Apparently not. They wanted my money.

Anyway, I did eventually start trying to suggest that he could give me the paperwork he was waving and I'd get the people at school to explain it to me. This was not an acceptable option, apparently. I begrudgingly confessed my name (didn't see many options), which he would have been able to write down, but thankfully he was finally defeated when I pointed out that I didn't actually know my address.

Truth time: I carry my address in my wallet at all times, because it'd be really dim not to. I was absolutely not going to tell him that. I really, really dislike hard sellers. I don't care if it's his job. He took that job. To be clear, NHK people apparently are agents paid by commission, not employees. Bailiffs, of a sort.

Anyway, I ended up with a handwritten note from him, with his phone number, to take to school and ask for an explanation. I will probably do that, although my Japanese is actually good enough that I'm pretty clear on what he wants (my name and address written out in Japanese) and could probably have filled in the form myself. Except, I'm not sure I want to do this.

Much like the license fee, NHK is payable if you can receive TV. Now, I can receive TV, fair enough, and I've watched a small amount. It's... terrible, to be honest. Occasionally diverting, and I sometimes put it on just to expose myself to spoken Japanese, but I can't really understand any of it and most of it seems truly dire. This is not something I want to pay several hundred pounds for the privilege of occasionally watching for ten minutes. No. If I really want exposure to Japanese, I have the entire internet, thanks.

From some browsing around, a lot of people are simply suggesting pointing out that you're a foreigner and don't watch TV. Technically this isn't an excuse, but presumably some agents will interpret that as meaning you don't have a TV. I can see why people would do that in a situation like mine.

I'll have to discuss options with the school, but I'm seriously considering just asking my landlord to take the wretched TV set away. It would resolve the issue neatly, but it's a lot of faff.

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