How not to not speak Japanese

Sometimes not understanding Japanese has its uses.

Ignorance is bliss

I was reminded of this fact recently as I was paid a visit by the NHK man. For the uninitiated, NHK is Japan’s public broadcaster and, much like the universally beloved BBC, charges an ‘obligatory’ license fee to anyone who owns a TV. Unlike the BBC however, you cannot be prosecuted or fined for refusing to pay. This is where the NHK man comes in. Essentially, he is a nice person in a suit who comes to your house and guilt trips you into paying for something you never use by being all friendly and polite and everything.

But why rely on the unadulterated facts when you can read real-life testimony from real-life people? I present to you my own personal experience, accurately translated from the original Japanese.


SCENE : My flat. A seemingly normal Thursday evening.

Doorbell rings

Me: I wonder who that could be?

Looks at door monitor

Me: Oh it’s a man in a suit, wonderful.

Opens door. Enter man in suit with large bag, NHK clipboard and smile.

NHK Man: Good evening! I am an employee of NHK.

[ At this point I somehow ascertain this has something to do with NHK.]

Me: Good evening.

NHK Man: Ah, is Japanese OK?

[I realise that he has come to ask for money. I decide that feigning total ignorance of Japanese is a good way to deal with the situation.]

Me: Errrrrrr……

NHK Man: Do you have a television?

Me: Te-le-vi-shun?

NHK Man: This is a Leopalace apartment right? [It is] So you have a television right? [I do]

I realise this is the crucial moment. I pull the blankest of fake blank looks.

The NHK man pulls out a leaflet. On the leaflet is a picture of a person watching a TV. He points to the person and  then to me. Big smile, awkward silence. I’m getting a little embarrassed, I can’t keep up this charade. I crack.

Me: Ah, television!

NHK Man: Yes! Television! That’s right. So, I am from NHK. You owe us money for the last two months. Is that OK?

Me: Err, television is it?

NHK Man: Yes, that’s right. Your Japanese is very good. Please, have this leaflet. Please, look at this price. So, this is the price.

Me: Hmmmm.

NHK Man: So, do you have the money now?

[My strategy of feigning total ignorance of Japanese has failed. Luckily, I think of another savvy way of avoiding the fee.]

Me: I don’t have money.

NHK Man: Ok, well do you have this amount?

Points to a smaller figure. Another big smile and awkward moment.

Me: Oh, actually I have money. Wait a moment, please.

Returns with many small coins.

NHK Man: OK so please fill out this form. I’ll need your name, address and phone number.

Me: Roman letters OK?

NHK Man: Kanji is good. My face drops. Can you write?

Me: Maybe I write a little yes. Or maybe you write?

NHK Man: Of course, is that OK?

Me: Yes.

NHK Man: So, I will write the address, OK?

Me: Yes.

NHK Man: Prints receipt. So, this amount is only enough to cover your viewing until today. I can scan your bank card through this machine. Hands me leaflet with picture of a portable card reader on it. Is that OK?

Me: Yes.

NHK Man: Thank you. Pulls out card reader. This is OK?

Me: Yes.

NHK Man: Your card please.

Me: Yes.

NHK Man: So, I will send this to the bank. Points over his shoulder. I guess there’s a bank in that direction. OK?

Me: Yes.

NHK Man: This is your bill, you take this to a bank.

Me: Ah, I understand [I don’t.]

NHK Man: OK?

Me: Yes, very OK.

NHK Man: Any questions?

Me: Yes, very OK good.

NHK Man: Thank you very much. Goodbye.

Me: Yes.



If you have enjoyed the above post then please show your appreciation by paying the (obligatory) landoftherisiblepun license fee. A cheque for 2, 690 yen should cover it.

In fact, it doesn’t matter if you enjoyed it or not, if you own a computer and have internet access than you owe me money. I mean it. Don’t make me come round to your house and be all smiley and polite and everything.


We’ll have a great time, trust me.

This entry was posted in All. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>