A Japanese court ordered the government on Friday to pay damages to residents near the U.S. Yokota Air Base in the suburbs of Tokyo over past aircraft noise but dismissed the plaintiff's demand for a halt to future flights or compensation for future noise.
The Tachikawa branch of the Tokyo District Court ordered the government to pay a total of around 95.6 million yen ($844,000) to 144 residents around the Yokota base who filed the damages suit. The U.S. base is shared by Japan's Air Self-Defense Force.
The plaintiffs, who had sought the suspension of nighttime and early morning flights by both U.S. and ASDF aircraft, are planning to appeal the ruling to a higher court. "We see no progress in the decision. We need to keep fighting," said 69-year-old Michio Fukumoto, who heads the group of plaintiffs.
In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Tadashi Mikome acknowledged the public need for flights by the military aircraft. But he also said, "There is unfairness for nearby residents that cannot be overlooked. Noise insulation work by the state is insufficient for a countermeasure."
The compensation covers plaintiffs living in areas that experience noise at a level of 75 or higher on the Weighted Equivalent Continuous Perceived Noise Level index as in past judicial judgements.
Residents experiencing a level of 75 will be paid 4,000 yen per month, while people in areas of level 80 will receive 8,000 yen and those in areas of level 85 will get 12,000 yen per month.
In 2016, the Supreme Court said in a ruling over a similar trial that it cannot judge on whether to halt the flights by U.S. military planes. It also said compensation cannot be sought for noise pollution from future flights because it cannot be assessed properly.
Friday's ruling followed the top court's decision, saying the Japanese government has no jurisdiction over U.S. military flights.
The district court also dismissed the plaintiff's call for halting ASDF flights. On compensation for future damage, it said a judgment should be made when it actually occurs.
The plaintiffs had expressed concern that noise as well as the danger of accidents may increase with the deployment of five Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft at the Yokota base.
But the court said, "The risk of accident is abstract although worry and fear among the residents are understandable."
Ospreys, which take off and land like a helicopter but cruise like a plane, have a record of accidents and mishaps inside and outside the country. Yokota is the first to host the aircraft outside Okinawa Prefecture in southwestern Japan. Okinawa hosts the bulk of U.S. military forces in the country.