We’ve talked before about the oddities of how Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, goes about collecting its fees from ordinary citizens. Rather than sending you an official bill in the mail, collectors will come to your door and ask you for a stack of cash to cover the 13,600 yen (US$133) Japanese residents are technically supposed to pay.
However, many people refuse to pony up the money, since there’s no official penalty for nonpayment, and many feel that NHK’s programming is sub-par and rarely watch it. However, should you make one particular NHK collector walk away empty-handed, he just might mark your house for all to see, as he apparently did to one person we talked to.
For the sake of protecting his privacy, we’re going to refer to the man we spoke with as Koichi Murai, instead of his real name. Not long ago, Murai was sitting at home one night when, around 10 p.m., his doorbell suddenly rang.
Not expecting company, he nonetheless went to the door to see who it could be.
▼ Because you never know when Domino’s might just preemptively bring you a large pepperoni.
Unfortunately, when Murai opened his front door, standing outside was not a pizza deliveryman, but a gentleman dressed in a suit. The man introduced himself and said he was from NHK.
“Here we go again,” Murai thought, realizing he was suddenly in store for a lengthy debate if he didn’t agree to pay the fess. “I told him I don’t own a TV, which is the truth, but he insisted I still had to pay. ‘These days, you can watch NHK programming on your PC or smartphone,’ he said.”
Be that as it may, whether or not people who don’t have a TV in their home are required to pay NHK fees is still a bit of a grey area, and after 10 minutes of discussion, Murai closed his door without handing over any money. “I could tell the collector was still standing around outside, though” he says.
Curious as to what was going on, Murai looked out the peephole, only to see that the man was still standing in the same spot directly in front of the door. “It was so creepy!” remembers Murai. “I thought, is he just going to stand there silently forever?”
As Murai watched, though, the man reached into his bag, pulled out an item, and rubbed it against the exterior wall of the house, next to the door frame. Startled, Murai waited until the unnerving individual had finally walked away, then opened his door and peered outside, where he saw this:
“Next to the door, there was a strange mark. It’s not that noticeable, but it really freaked me out. Marking my wall without permission, what’s up with that!? And it won’t come off.”
Murai contacted NHK, which was less than helpful in addressing his grievance. “We don’t tell our employees to do that sort of thing,” he was told. “You’re the only person to make this complaint, so it’s not like all the collectors are doing it.”
▼ So, where exactly does NHK draw the line on acceptable levels of employee vandalism?
Regardless of whether or not this is standard protocol at NHK though, between the late night shakedown and tagging of his house when he didn’t comply, the organization dealt with Murai less like a broadcaster and more like a straight-up street gang.