From time to time I do this sort of interview in the streets of Yokohama.
You may ask: "Do these interviews represent the tip of the iceberg or just exceptional phenomena confined to the city of Yokohama?" My answer will be, "Yes, you can say it's the tip of the iceberg, only on the premise that you can visualize a huge iceberg that stretches from one end of the Japanese archipelago to the other."
People are untiringly saying we are short-handed because of the declining birthrate and the resultant shrinkage in population. But the truth is that the entire nation has now been unionized, sort of, since the postwar morbid labor movement was gone, and as a result the legacy of the lifetime employment system has started taking a tragic toll on the health of both public and private sectors.
In Yokohama, as in many other cities, it's prohibited to light up in the street. The City Hall says smoking outdoors is subject to a fine of 10,000 yen. If you walk down a street with a cigarette stuck between your lips, a person or two (see above photos) comes over to warn you to stop it while offering you a special "portable ashtray".
I normally refuse to accept the warning and the ashtray, and ask them nasty questions while at the same time taking pictures with my digital camera. This always works. They run away from me as if to evade a 10,000-yen fine themselves.
My ad hoc street interview most typically goes like this:
Zombie 1: "Please stop smoking, mister."
Me: (Keep coming closer to them without uttering a word.)
Zombie 2: "Stop it, please."
Me: "Who is it that told you to do all this?"
Zombie 2: "Yokohama Municipal Office."
Me: "And what's your employment status?"
Zombie 1: "We are all shokutaku shokuin (part-time contractors.)"
Me: "Then, you get paid by us taxpayers, is that right?"
Zombie 1: (With a wry grin) "Maybe, you can say so."
Me: "Not maybe. You get paid by us, period."
Me: "Just suppose that I soon died of lung cancer. And suppose other citizens woke up one morning and made up their minds to behave."
Zombie 2: "That's what we all wish to see."
Zombie 1: "Not that we want you to die, though, you know."
Me: "Never mind that, and mind yourself. You'd all be out of work, then, right? How would you support your kids and spouses?"
This is enough to make the municipal zombies scram, leaving an embarrassed smile. Every time I do this, I renew my resolve to remain a tax evader and defy municipal ordinances. I won't really care if I'm persecuted by this monolithic union named Japan, in the way Henry David Thoreau, the civil disobedience advocate, was some 160 years ago.