The Noise Issue Continues to Trouble Residents Around Yokota US Base Even After Ospreys Depart | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The Noise Issue Continues to Trouble Residents Around Yokota US Base Even After Ospreys Depart

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Osprey flying over Yokota Air Base. (’23 April photo)

Yokota US Base boasts a vast site covering a total area of 7 square kilometers, facing five cities and one town in Tokyo.

According to information from the base’s public relations department, aircraft such as Super Hercules and Huron, tanker aircraft like Galaxy and Globemaster, and until last year transport aircraft like Osprey frequented Yokota Base. Nearby residents have long suffered from noise and vibrations. Particularly, the thunderous noise of Ospreys deployed in ’18 has been severe, prompting continued protests from local residents. Citizen groups sought to ban US military aircraft flights, but their request was denied, settling instead for compensation payments.

The author investigated flight routes over Fussa and Akishima cities facing Yokota Base. Since an Osprey crashed off Yakushima Island in November last year, flights around Yokota Base have reportedly ceased. However, after visiting the area several times and listening to residents’ voices, doubts have arisen: “Recently, I’ve become concerned about noise again. I wonder if Ospreys are flying.”

When speaking with the base’s public relations and external affairs contact in Fussa City, they stated, “As of now (early May), we haven’t received any reports of Osprey flights.” The official continued:

“Nevertheless, there are still noise concerns. The city receives numerous complaints and inquiries regarding aviation noise.”

However, walking around the vicinity of Fussa Base, I sensed a divided perception towards the noise issue. Some voiced, “The noise used to be louder in the past,” or “I don’t notice it much nowadays.” On the other hand, there were opinions like, “Currently, I feel strong stress from morning noise,” indicating ongoing concerns. Visiting a park where citizen groups are active, a man in his 60s, born and raised in Fussa, revealed his thoughts.

“In this area of Fussa (near National Route 16), I perceive it as relatively less noisy in terms of runway noise. Actually, around here, most houses are not owned but rented properties. Due to this background, both the apartments and houses in this area, supported by the government, have implemented nearly perfect soundproofing and noise reduction measures. Therefore, there are voices saying that it’s not a concern. The majority of those opposing activities are elderly people. There is a generation gap in how noise is perceived.”

We were also shown around a soundproofed house. Inside, the windows have double glass, and air conditioning is fully equipped. However, some inconvenience is still felt.

“Unlike in the past, we are no longer troubled by nighttime noise. However, there is noise from morning until daytime, and the rooms shake. So, we residents are not accustomed to opening windows. In summer, we rely on air conditioning. There is inevitably some difficulty in daily life.” (Male resident)


When checking the data on residential soundproofing construction subsidy projects around Yokota Air Base, it overwhelmingly shows that Akishima City has the highest number.  As of ’22, it recorded 9,789 cases, which is over 3,000 more than the second-place city, Hino City. It should be noted that in all these cities and towns, more than 90% of the construction took place between 1975 and 2010, and now, new construction projects amount to only a few per year.

Yokota Air Base is opened once a year for the Japan-US Friendship Festival.

In Akishima City, one of the places with particularly strong opposition to aircraft noise is Akishima Tanaka-cho Housing. Operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Housing Supply Corporation, this area is a large housing complex with 30 apartment buildings, each equipped with solid soundproofing measures. A woman in her 40s, who has lived in Akishima Tanaka-cho Housing for over 20 years, reveals:

“I never get used to the noise. The roar echoes through the room, making it impossible to hear the TV. It’s not every day, but sometimes from around 7 am to as late as 8 or even after 9 pm, there are loud noises. It feels like military exercises. Military planes circle near the apartments, so I even have to be careful when hanging laundry. While the rooms are tightly sealed, the impact on daily life is significant.”

A man in his 60s who has lived in Akishima for over 30 years compared the past and present like this:

“Maybe I’ve gotten used to it, but it was noisier in the old days. The planes like the Phantom and Galaxy that used to fly into Yokota had engines that made unbelievably loud noises before takeoff. It was around 7 in the morning, so it was tough for people who worked late and had afternoon shifts.”

Among the approximately 10 residents I asked, almost all of them unanimously said, “You can’t avoid the noise,” which left a strong impression.



A woman in her 60s living in Tanaka-cho Housing expressed her grievances like this:

“It’s not just about wishing the Ospreys wouldn’t come. Even when Ospreys aren’t flying, there’s still significant noise. That’s the reality. We have to face this situation.”

Since March, the phased resumption of Osprey operations has resumed without specific accident causes being disclosed. People living in the base town are increasingly concerned.

  • Reporting and writing Shimei Kurita, nonfiction writer Photo Afro

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