Landowner suing Osaka City for bomb disposal fees


A landowner in Osaka is fighting the city over the disposal costs of an unexploded ordnance (UXO) unearthed during construction. The property owner filed a civil suit in the Osaka District Court seeking the reimbursement of the 5,760,000 Yen in bomb removal fees.

In March 2015, a 1.8 meter long American-made bomb weighing 1,000kg was found buried two meters underground in an apartment construction site in the Namba area. A 300-meter evacuation radius was established while the Self-Defense Forces removed the bomb. As many as 2,200 residents had to temporarily evacuate, and the nearby Nankai Main Train Line had to stop operations for a three hour period. 

Namba 2

The city spent 1,900,000 Yen on leaflets informing neighbours of the planned disruption to traffic, however, the city requested that the landowner to pay the 5,760,000 Yen in removal and related neighbourhood security costs. The landowner is arguing that the process of removing ordnances leftover from the war and post-war reconstruction efforts should be the responsibility of local governments and not individual landowners.

Air raids during WWII have left thousands of UXOs across Japan, including Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and Kobe. In 2015, 1,392 shells and bombs weighing 43 tonnes were recovered across the country. Over 40% of those were in Okinawa. Since 1955, 87 UXOs have been recovered in Osaka City.

There is no clear legal definition for who is responsible for the removal costs, and the burden will vary depending on city rules. A representative from Osaka City’s Crisis Management Department said they have no precise rules or regulations regarding the financial burden, but said it is customary that the landowner bears the costs of removal. Kobe City shares a similar custom.

In 2013, Takasaki City in Gunma Prefecture decided to cover the entire 5,000,000 Yen cost of removing an unexploded bomb located on private property. The city determined it was a matter of protecting the safety of residents.

In Okinawa, the national, prefectural and local governments cooperate to split the cost of removal, with the national government shouldering approximately 90% of the costs. Approximately 500 UXOs are removed in Okinawa each year.

The Tokyo Shimbun, June 1, 2016.
The Mainichi Shimbun, May 26, 2016.
The Asahi Shimbun, May 26, 2016.