Yokota base-noise hearings take off

Court hearings began Feb. 20 on a lawsuit brought by residents around the U.S. Yokota Air Base in Fussa, Tokyo, seeking a ban on night and early morning flights and damages for past jet noise.

Nobuyuki Enomoto, chief attorney for the plaintiffs, demanded during the opening hearing at the Hachioji branch of the Tokyo District Court that the suit’s documents be delivered to the U.S. government, which has refused to enter the legal battle. One of the plaintiffs, Yoshiro Yamaguchi, 60, addressed the court as a representative of all the residents. He said the suit is aimed at returning peaceful nights to the neighborhood.

The government asked the court to reject the lawsuit on the grounds that state control does not extend to third-party action and to reject the demand for damages for future jet noise. But the residents are demanding that flights to and from the base be banned from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., that across-the-board damages of 800,000 yen be awarded to residents affected by the noise, and that 22,000 yen a month be paid to residents until the noise is stopped.

The suit, filed last April, is the first to name the U.S. government as a defendant in a base noise dispute. An additional 2,800 residents filed a suit with the court on Feb. 14 to join in the action.