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Bothered by night flight racket from Futenma air base

by Angela Jeffs and Ken Joseph Jr.

Reader M.A. lives next to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa and is bothered by the noise from the airport.

“About two to three months ago planes started flying at night until about two in the morning. I would move but I have a contract with my housing agency that doesn’t allow me to. We would greatly appreciate any help you can offer.”

This is a common problem near any airport, but the issue of aircraft noise around Futenma has been a big story locally and nationally for years. In fact, the Japanese government chose not to appeal a ruling by the Fukuoka High Court’s Naha branch in July ordering the state to pay a total of ¥369 million to 390 plaintiffs living near the base to compensate them for the health hazards associated with low-frequency sound waves from helicopter noise (see search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100814a5.html ).

Of course, the contentious issue of how and where to relocate the Futenma base from its current location within the city of Ginowan helped bring down Yukio Hatoyama, the last prime minister, and has been a major thorn in the side of U.S.-Japan relations for years.

In cases such as M.A.’s across Japan, local governments provide assistance to reduce sound to a maximum acceptable level.

We spoke with the Ginowan City Office and they have a special section that provides just this kind of help.

Please contact the Base Liaison Section (Kichi Shogai Ka) by phone on (098) 893-4411 (extension 310), e-mail kichi02@city.ginowan.okinawa.jp or fax (098) 892-7022. A list of other Ginowan City facilities, along with their addresses and phone numbers, can be found at www.city.ginowan.okinawa.jp/2556/2735/2410.html.

There is an area around the airport that is designated as being affected by the flight path, and the first thing the city officials will do is check whether your address falls within this zone. If you are inside this area, officials will pay you a visit, evaluate the situation and, if you qualify, provide special windows, soundproof the walls and then ensure that the sound in your house has been reduced to an acceptable level.

They tend to be very good at this throughout Japan.

Before you seek assistance, it would be helpful to keep a diary of the times the planes pass over, a measure of the sound (if at all possible) and any information that can help demonstrate a pattern of interference in your everyday life.

You mention you have a contract that does not let you move. This is something you might like to check, as there are no contracts in Japan that legally do not allow you to move if you want to, as far as we know.

Remember that as a renter, you will need to meet with your landlord and get their agreement for work to be done on the property. Generally the landlord will be happy enough, as it should make it easier for him/her to rent out the property in the future. If for some reason they do not want you to make any changes, the city will meet with them and “encourage” them to do it. Their “encouragement” can be very, very helpful . . .

However, since this is a common problem in communities with airports nearby, getting approval for any kind of help should be pretty routine.

Angela Jeffs is a freelance writer and writing guide (www.thewriterwithin.net/). Ken Joseph directs the Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com and (0570) 000-911. Send queries, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp