Community’s DMG on how he dealt with too much neighborhood construction noise

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  I have a series of letters here from DMG, writing for The Community, who tells us what he did (relatively successfully) to reduce construction noise in his neighborhood, which was affecting both his work and rest.  If you have a similar situation of neighborhood meiwaku, take it to the authorities, talk to the neighbors, and open a dialog with the meiwaku-ers, is the lesson.  In his case, it seems to have worked.  Good for him.  Passing this on as practical advice, Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Date: June 20, 2009 11:49:30 AM JST

Community, got a question:

Currently, right beside my apartment, they are building a new community centre. By “right beside”, I could not mean that more literally. In fact, as I write this, they are working on a wall, for which the foundations go underneath my building.

I live in a small building, it is only two floors with two apartments. My door opens in the direction facing the construction site. I am practically living in the middle of this construction.

They have been constructing since February, first demolishing the old building. Currently they are building the foundations that go into the ground. They will continue to construct until the end of next year.

When I was first given a schedule, I knew there would be noise. I have lived near constructions before. But never this close, and to one of this scale.

I tried to just suck it up, but as months go on, it becomes increasingly difficult. Part of the problem is that I do computer related work by contract, which I do at home. So this isn’t just a matter of me not getting sleep on Saturday mornings (they work 6 days a week), this is me not being able to work.

Let me impress upon you that this is not just some knocking and buzzing of hammers and drills. That is what I had erroneously imagined. The noise of their back hoes and 3 story tall drills reaches deafening proportions and vibrates my whole apartment. Work, sleep, or anything involving thought is impossible for much of the week.

I spoke to the manager of the construction site, and, as much as he tried to promise to be considerate of my presence, there really isn’t anything that can be done. The construction will continue, they have tasks that need doing, and I can’t afford to simply pick up and move.

I spoke to some Japanese friends, and they said that they have heard about situations like this before, and in the situations they cited, immediate neighbours were given compensation for the inconvenience.

For some reason, I feel somewhat emotionally resistant to asking for compensation. It feels like I am trying to scam them for easy money or something.

But, on the other hand, it has reached a point where I am at wits end, and if nothing can be done to actually limit the noise, I can’t help but feel it is fair to get some kind of recompense for this massive intrusion into my life.

So, that is my story. The question I am coming to the group is if anyone has similar experience, or in any way can offer points on how I might negotiate the matter.

It is Shibuya Ku’s community centre, so I imagine the city is footing the bill. I don’t know if they have paid out to a company to handle all matters, or what. But I will ask around and ultimately find who is responsible.

Also, financial compensation is not the only option that would satisfy me. If they were to move me, I suppose, that might also work. I’m not really sure, but anyway, the point is that I’m not hell bent on getting money. If something tangible can be done to actually stop me from going insane from this noise, that would be good. The compensation merely represents the only realistic option given the fixed issues.

Any advice or help would be much appreciated.



Date: July 13, 2009 5:00:34 PM JST


I would laugh were it not for the knowledge of how much my life is going to suck for the next little while.

Today I finally got a chance to go down to the kuyakusho and talk to the person in charge of the construction happening beside my place. No promises were made, but there was talk about at least trying to rectify the problem. One possibility was putting a wall on one side of my apartment that would help cut down noise.

I came home feeling good about having at least started a dialogue. What, if anything, can be done remains to be seen, but at least I’ve got a channel of communication going.

And then, literally right as I arrived home, there was a guy on my doorstep placing something in my mailbox. It was a notice informing me that there will be *another* construction right beside me. There is another empty lot adjacent to where I am, and they will begin laying foundations at the end of this month. I talked to the guy a bit, and he was saying he was sorry for the noise that will happen, but I told him that being sorry for the noise is not good enough. Neither is the giri-gift-towel he wanted to give me.

I did find out something interesting though. The person I spoke to at the city office mentioned that there have been complaints from other neighbours, and she even told me which buildings they were in.

This new construction has raised the stakes a bit, but now I know I also have potential allies. I also have some real estate lawyers I’ve worked with before. So I think I’m going to talk to my neighbours a bit and see if we can’t do something about this.



Date: July 31, 2009 2:35:43 PM JST


Just as an education in what happens when you negotiate with Japanese bureaucracies…

I’ve spoken to both the people building the community centre on one side, and the people building the apartment building on the other.

Both were very nice and not at all what I expected. I had expected somewhat gruff older men. The community centre person was a very professional woman about my age, and the apartment building representative was a young guy, about college age, in jeans and kind of hapless.

The city hall built sound proofing around my front entranceway. Of course, it doesn’t stop the noise, but, surprisingly, it helps cut out certain noises. Maybe more importantly, as the building rises, the construction workers are no longer looking directly into my front door.

The apartment building people agreed to constrain their working hours to be the same as the other construction, so at least I’m not facing any more hours of noise. And they also agreed to not have larger trucks pass in front of my building any earlier than 9 AM.

It makes a huge psychological difference to have spoken to someone, had my concerns heard, and at least some effort made to resolve the problem. In reality, the sound proofing is more of a gesture than a difference, but the gesture goes a long way.

In both cases I thanked them for their understanding, but also said we’ll see how it goes, to keep my options open.

The main lesson is one I learn over and over again. Dialogue helps. Assuming they would do nothing and be confrontational kept me at bay for too long. I should have spoken up earlier.


3 comments on “Community’s DMG on how he dealt with too much neighborhood construction noise

  • I had the same sort of thing going on to me this summer. A house was being built right next to my apartment during July and August. I live on the second floor of a 3 story building and my bedroom window looks out to this new construction. I understand that things need to be built… but do they need to built starting from 7am? and even on Saturday mornings? I’ve lost count on how many times the sound of hammering and drills have woken me up and not my alarm.

    Surely there must be some sort of noise by-law to limit this sort of thing early in the morning, especially on the weekends!

  • I recently had cause to complain about construction near my house (they were reinforcing a bridge that runs over my neighbourhood). At 3 in the morning, some guys were unloading and putting up scaffolding, resulting in these irregular ‘clang’ noises that reverberated through the whole area. I went to have a look, and found a sign with the number of the kokudo koutsushou on it. Feeling rather aggrieved at this point, I called it and was extremely surprised when someone actually answered. I complained, quite angrily at first and then less so as I realised that I was just talking to the night duty guy. He took my details and promised to pass them on.

    The next day a representative of the construction company came by to a) explain what the construction was, b) promise to be more careful, and c) beg us not to call the government offices any more but to address any concerns to them directly. All in all it was very effective, but maybe because it was a public works project commisssioned by the Ministry of Land and Infrastructure. I guess a private project would be less responsive to complaints.

  • louise pender says:

    A friend mentioned this topic to me…I’m very happy to see some discussion about it. I live near the Nakamozu area of Sakai-shi in Osaka-fu. For 4 years, there’s been almost non-stop construction – often heavy duty. The City government has been giving out building permits like candy. In my area of mostly small, single family “stand alone” houses, there was recently 4 major (commercial buildings/ apartment complexes) occurring within an area the size of one sports stadium. Work sometimes goes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. including Sundays and holidays. I sent letters in Japanese to the City and telephoned, but they said “we have commitments to the construction companies.” There is a federal law (which you can get from your city) that stipulates noise restrictions for construction, but it pertains primarily to vast, huge construction projects. I’ve used it with a bit of success on certain contractors, but virtually all residential construction is done is steps using sub-contractors so there’s a constant turnover. The neighbors I talk to complain, but I’ve had no luck – despite efforts including letters given to them & the neighborhood group supervisor – of getting them to organize. Always: “[complaint]… Sho ga nai.”

    Time to move, but my life is horribly busy and moving terribly complicated and expensive, so I just get crazier. All advice welcome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>