Civil disobedience in Japan? Conjures up images of anti-Vietnam War, anti-Narita Airport student demos in the 1960s and 1970s. However, it's been happening for years in a much milder way vis-à-vis the national broadcaster Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK) (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) and its monthly television fee that all TV owners in Japan are by law required to pay.
However, in spite of payment being compulsory, no penalties are stipulated for failure to pay. NHK therefore has relied on bluster and threats to try and get people to pay. NHK fee collectors are renowned for their persistence and aggressiveness. Once you open the door to them, they will put their foot in the door, making it impossible to close it, and whether or not you pay is the result of a raw battle of wills. I now live in an apartment which requires entry by buzzer. Even then, when I played dumb over the intercom last month to the collector, he bellowed "OPEN UP!" – genuinely steaming!
However, according to the latest news reports, NHK has got tough (news that, somehow or other, feels like a repetition of past episodes). NHK has targeted eight TV owners in Tokyo, Chiba, Osaka Hyogo (capital: Kobe), Aichi, Fukushima (home to Oze National Park), Okayama, and Kochi by sending them a notice that unless they pay by the deadline, they will be sent a payment order from the district court.
Refusal to pay the NHK fee has become an institution in Japan, with at least one blog devoted to promoting non-payment, and YouTube videos telling you how to avoid having to pay.
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Monday, May 17, 2010