Roller-coaster screams spark battle over Tokyo Dome noise pollution

When amusement park owners made up plans for a new roller coaster in crowded central Tokyo, they were careful to make sure the ride was built to meet acceptable noise pollution specifications.

But they forgot to figure in the screams of the passengers. Now the neighbors are making a loud fuss as well, claiming the incessant shrieking is unbearable.

The trouble began on May 1, when a 17 billion yen amusement and resort park, LaQua, featuring the Thunder Dolphin roller coaster, opened next to the Tokyo Dome stadium.

Since opening, 1 million people have visited the park, Tokyo Dome Co. spokesman Atsushi Yokozuka said Thursday.

The Thunder Dolphin, one of the park’s main attractions, goes as fast as 130 kph. It starts operating at 10 a.m., and the two-minute rides keep rolling until 10 at night.

“I didn’t expect the screaming from the rides to be so noisy,” said Tsutomu Tanaka, an official at the Adachi Ward Office, which is just blocks away from the park. “Noise reduction measures must be taken as soon as possible.”

Neighbors expressed concern about the probable noise problem while the park was still under construction, but the operator told them the structure was designed to keep noise levels below Tokyo’s daytime limit of 60 decibels and nighttime limit of 55 decibels.

Screaming from the riders, however, was not factored in.

“The question is whether people’s voices should be considered noise pollution,” Yokozuka said. “Does that mean we should tell them not to scream? They are having fun.”

That argument hasn’t swayed the neighbors.

Demanding further noise-reduction measures, a group of about 110 residents and tenants of a nearby apartment building are seeking mediation by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s pollution screening committee.

A Tokyo city official, Kazuhisa Yamauchi, said mediation over screaming from an amusement facility is unprecedented.

A recent test by the ward found the noise level just outside the park at 79 decibels, far exceeding the legal limit, said Adachi Ward official Tanaka.

“The level is comparable to riding on a train. It’s quite unpleasant,” he said.

Ward officials notified Tokyo Dome of the results and asked them to take additional measures.

Possible steps include building a wall around the facility or installing double windows at nearby houses and apartments, officials said.

Yokozuka said Tokyo Dome had already replaced the coaster’s tires with softer ones to reduce mechanical noise.