Photo/IllutrationA sign at the entrance to the U.S. military's Negishi housing complex (Naoto Iizuka)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

YOKOHAMA--The district court here April 19 ruled against a centenarian seeking compensation from the central government for inconveniences associated with living in a home surrounded by U.S. military housing.

Kaheiji Yamamoto, 104, and his family purchased the plot in Naka Ward before World War II. But the surrounding land was quickly taken over by the U.S. military after the conflict and became what is now known as the Negishi housing complex.

Because his land sits in an enclave amid that housing, Yamamoto needs to show photo ID to reach his home. Only family members are, in principle, allowed in, which makes it very difficult for the Yamamotos to invite friends for any gathering.

Yamamoto filed the lawsuit seeking about 420 million yen ($3.8 million) in damages, but the Yokohama District Court ruled against him, saying "the disadvantages experienced by the plaintiff and the restrictions on his daily life cannot said to have exceeded a tolerable level."

Lawyers for Yamamoto said at a news conference after the ruling that they were disappointed as they had felt sure the court would accept some of their arguments in light of the issues Yamamoto faces.

For example, in March 2003 when the Iraq war was raging, even Yamamoto was prohibited from returning home because the entire area around the Negishi housing complex was declared off-limits to everyone except military personnel.

That same year, Yamamoto called for an ambulance because he was unwell, but the vehicle could not approach his home, meaning he had to be carried out by stretcher to be rushed to a hospital.

Fearing another health emergency, Yamamoto moved to a retirement home where he currently resides.

The district court ruling said that a certain level of restrictions on passing through the complex to reach the Yamamoto home was unavoidable, given security considerations against terrorist or other attacks. The court also recognized that the Negishi housing complex had been provided to the U.S. military based on the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

The Negishi housing complex sits on about 43 hectares of land that straddles the three Yokohama wards of Naka, Minami and Isogo.

In 2004, Japan and the United States reached an agreement on the return of the land, but as yet, this has not materialized.

Another landowner who lives in the area also filed a lawsuit in 2013 to seek compensation from the central government.

(This article was written by Naoto Iizuka and Masashi Kubota.)