Do children's voices equal noise?

Do children's voices equal noise?

While the Tokyo metropolitan government has recently presented a plan to exclude children's voices from an ordinance that regulates noise, the pros and cons of the ordinance have been stirring debate among municipalities and residents in Tokyo.

The Tokyo government administration submitted a bill to revise the ordinance to the Tokyo metropolitan assembly on Feb. 18, aimed at excluding voices of children younger than primary school age from noise regulations specified in the ordinance.

Some people are opposed to the revision, but there is also a strong call for expanding the range of ages that should be excluded from the noise regulations to voices of middle and high school students, so that the sounds of their voices during club activities will not be treated as a noise.

The issue of whether children's voices are noise or not likely will spark controversy.

"Should we be so intolerant of the voices of children?" Setagaya Mayor Nobuto Hosaka said at a regular press conference on Jan. 8, and revealed that he had made a request to the Tokyo metropolitan government to exclude the voices of children aged 18 and younger from the noise regulations provided in the ordinance.

A principal of a public middle school in the ward said: "Even if one resident around the school makes a complaint that we are noisy, we have no choice but to pay attention. Before holding our sports festival, which is accompanied by loud voices or sounds, we distribute letters to nearby residents to call for their understanding of the event."

A middle school in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, has received a complaint that the voices of students who are doing early-morning practice for their club activities are noisy.

At a swimming pool of a middle school in Ota Ward, Tokyo, where there is a distance of less than a meter from a house next to the facility, 2.5-meter-tall soundproof walls are now under construction.

One official at the Meguro ward government said, "We've recently received a complaint that the voices of teachers instructing students are noisy."

Problem resolved through dialogue

The Tokyo Metropolitan Environmental Security Ordinance, which was enacted in 2000, stipulates that no person should generate noise that exceeds volume limits specified in the ordinance and other relevant laws.

Environmental quality standards are set depending on different locations and times, and if a business operator does not comply with the standards, Tokyo and the relevant ward or city can issue a recommendation to the operator.

The Tokyo metropolitan government is in charge of issues that occur in towns and villages.

However, in Nerima Ward, residents around a day care centre filed a complaint against it, claiming that children's voices should be treated as noise based on the 2012 ordinance.

As some members of the Tokyo metropolitan assembly pointed out that it was strange that children's voices were treated in the same way as noises generated at plants and other facilities, the Tokyo government started reviewing the ordinance in March last year.

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