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Japanese court says residents near Yokota AB should be compensated for aircraft noise

Thousands of visitors crowd the flightline during the 2012 Japanese-American Friendship Festival at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Aug. 19, 2012. Yokota welcomed approximately 178,000 visitors for the festival from across Japan. (Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse/U.S. Air Force)

A Japanese court has awarded $842,000 to people living near the home of U.S. Forces Japan as compensation for aircraft noise, according to the leader of a residents group.

Tokyo District Court in Tachikawa ruled Friday that aircraft noise from Yokota is impacting 144 residents living near the western Tokyo base, Michio Fukumoto said Monday.

Residents sued the Japanese government in 2012 seeking compensation for past and future noise complaints and suspension of flights between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. The residents in their lawsuit complained that aircraft noise interrupted their sleep and, at times, even their conversations.

The court awarded compensation for past noise but rejected other demands, Fukumoto said. The plaintiffs are unlikely to see any payments from the Japanese government anytime soon.

“We have been raising our voices for more than 40 years,” he said. “It is extremely disappointing that the court didn’t go beyond the past rulings.”

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In 2016, Japan’s Supreme Court ruled that future noise damage can’t be properly assessed, and that the Japanese government has no jurisdiction over operations by a foreign military, Kyodo News reported.

Fukumoto said the noise problem has worsened since CV-22 Ospreys began operations out of Yokota this year with the aircraft often flying around 9 p.m.

“The damage has clearly increased since CV-22 Ospreys were deployed but it is regrettable that the court didn’t closely look at the current situation,” he said. “The noise is tremendous near the base. This is not reflected in the court decision at all.”

The residents plan to appeal the latest decision, Fukumoto said.

In previous lawsuits by residents living near other U.S. bases in Japan, courts have also ruled against awarding future noise damages and suspending late-night or early-morning flights.

Last year, 1,000 residents living near Yokota were awarded $5.4 million after a court said noise from the base was above the “tolerable limit” but rejected future compensation or banning flights between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

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