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Kadena air base neighbors awarded compensation for noise but the fight goes on

Lawyers stand outside the Naha District Court's Okinawa branch holding messages such as "Once again the court refused to ban flights," on Feb. 23. (Mainichi)

OKINAWA -- Residents of Kadena, who have been angered by the loud noise made by military aircraft at U.S. Kadena Air Base, were awarded a record sum in compensation in a lawsuit at Naha District Court on Feb 23.

In financial terms, the decision can be regarded as favorable. However, the plaintiffs are far from being satisfied with the result.

For instance, Hajime Ikehara -- who has a house approximately 150 meters away from the U.S. Kadena Air Base fence -- is frustrated with the decision because the money will not make up for the excessive noise that will continue to be present on a regular basis. "I will keep on fighting," vows a defiant Ikehara.

Kadena -- also known as "base town" -- is the town where Ikehara was born and grew up. The U.S. military base there makes up approximately 80 percent of the town's area. During the Vietnam War, trailers loaded with missiles would often drive into the base, and American aircraft, such as B-52 bombers headed toward Vietnam, would occasionally take off and land -- making an extremely loud noise in the process.

According to Kadena town hall, the Yara region of Kadena -- where Ikehara lives -- had a noise level exceeding 70 decibels on 23,996 occasions in fiscal 2015. That is an average of 65 times a day. Ikehara claims that, "The noise problem is becoming worse."

In response to the decision on Feb. 23 to award compensation, Ikehara argues that, "This issue is not about money. I just want us to get our quiet nights back."

He adds, "I will keep fighting until the noisy nights are no more. I don't want my children and grandchildren to assume that this kind of excessive noise is normal."

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