A high court upheld Friday a lower court ruling ordering the Japanese government to pay compensation over aircraft noise to residents living near an air base in western Japan, increasing the damages to 735 million yen ($6.8 million).
But the Hiroshima High Court dismissed the plaintiffs’ demand for nighttime and early morning flights by the U.S. military and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces at Air Station Iwakuni to be halted, maintaining the decision of the lower court which ordered the state to pay 558 million yen in damages four years ago.
The high court increased the damages for residents living in areas near the base who have been exposed to extreme noise pollution. It is also meant as compensation for those who have had to continue struggling with the problem since the last ruling in 2015.
The 654 residents filed the suit with the Iwakuni branch of the Yamaguchi District Court in 2009, seeking compensation totaling 1.8 billion yen for the past noise damage and 23,000 yen a month for each plaintiff for future damage as well as suspension of the flights.
Presiding Judge Kazutake Mori of the high court acknowledged that some steps taken by the government, such as moving the runway offshore from inside the Iwakuni base, mitigated the noise.
However, the plaintiffs are still “suffering from damage that cannot be overlooked,” Mori said.
In October 2015, the district court recognized that the plaintiffs “suffered psychologically and sustained health damage,” and their conversations and sleep had been disrupted by the noise.
Both the lower court and high court limited the scope of the compensation to past damage and turned down the request for banning nighttime and early morning flights.
The 2015 ruling was the first over noise at the base, shared by the U.S. military and Japan’s SDF. Both the plaintiffs and the government appealed the ruling to the high court.
The Iwakuni base became one of the largest air stations in the Far East in March last year when U.S. carrier planes finished being transferred there from the U.S. Navy’s Atsugi base in Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, as part of a U.S. forces’ realignment.
In 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 lack of evidence.