HIROSHIMA – A high court on Friday upheld a lower court ruling that ordered the government to compensate residents near U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture for aircraft noise, raising the damages to ¥735 million ($6.8 million).
The Hiroshima High Court, however, dismissed plaintiffs’ demand to have nighttime and early morning flights by the U.S. military and the Self-Defense Forces at the base halted, preserving the ruling of the lower court, which ordered the state to pay ¥558 million in damages four years ago.
The 654 residents filed the suit with the Iwakuni branch of the Yamaguchi District Court in 2009, seeking ¥1.8 billion in compensation for the past noise damage, ¥23,000 a month each for future damages, and the suspension of said flights.
Presiding Judge Kazutake Mori of the high court acknowledged that some steps taken by the government, such as moving the base’s runway offshore, mitigated the noise.
Yet the plaintiffs are still “suffering from damage that cannot be overlooked,” Mori said.
In October 2015, the district court recognized that the plaintiffs “suffered psychological and sustained health damage,” and that their conversations and sleep had been disrupted by the aircraft noise.
Both courts limited the scope of compensation to past damage and rejected the request for banning nighttime and early morning flights.
The 2015 ruling was the first over noise at the base, which is shared by the U.S. military and the SDF. Both the plaintiffs and the government appealed the ruling to the high court.
Iwakuni became one of the largest air stations in East Asia in March last year when planes for U.S. carriers were relocated from the U.S. Navy’s Atsugi air base in Kanagawa Prefecture as part of a realignment of American forces.
In the appeal hearings, the residents argued that the noise damage had been worsening due to the relocation of the U.S. planes, an allegation rejected by the high court, citing a lack of evidence.