What kind of incident was it?
  On a freeway in Otaki-mura, Hokkaido, a car driving at high speed drifted into oncoming traffic and collided head-on with a truck. The driver of the car, a Nichiren Shoshu priest, was killed while the driver of the truck, a Soka Gakkai member, was injured.

Shukan Shincho subsequently published a defamatory article, placing undue emphasis on the fact that the truck’s driver was a Soka Gakkai member and the driver of the speeding car, a Nichiren Shoshu priest. Without evidence to support its claims, Shukan Shincho branded Nobuyuki Shirayama, the driver of the truck, a “murderer.”

Politicians and tabloids used the article to malign Shirayama, an innocent citizen. But he would later be vindicated by the courts. A little over two years after the article appeared in print, the Sapporo District Court found Shukan Shincho guilty of libel – a ruling upheld by Japan’s Supreme Court.

The Shukan Shincho article was libelous.
The interview was conducted to support the preconceived notion that Shirayama intentionally caused the accident.


July 21
The car accident occurs in Otaki-mura Hokkaido.

Nobuaki Ohashi, driver of the car (left)
Nobuyuki Shirayama’s truck after it was hit by Ohashi’s car (right)
August 22
Shukan Shincho reporter Mamoru Kadowaki interviews Nobuyuki Shirayama about the car accident, warning him that, “This is going to be a huge problem.” In a later court hearing, Kadowaki concedes that the headline was decided before the interview.

An advertisement for Shukan Shincho that ran in the Aug. 2, 1994 Asahi newspaper (left)
Reporter Mamoru Kadowaki of Shukan Shincho (right)

August 25
The article appears in the September 1st Shukan Shincho issue.
Mr. Nobuyuki Shirayama
October 5
Shirayama files a lawsuit against Shukan Shincho.
October 11
Politician Katsuhiko Shirakawa raises questions about the accident during a session of the Japanese Diet – a parliamentary body central to Japanese government –based solely on the Shukan Shincho article.

A letter Yamazaki wrote to Nikken Abe
Masatomo Yamazaki, a well-known antagonist of the Soka Gakkai, would later admit to conspiring with Shirakawa to bring attention to the article during the parliamentary session. In a letter to Nikken Abe, the Nichiren Shoshu chief priest, Yamazaki writes: “We will attack the Soka Gakkai in the Diet during the hours broadcast on TV … I am preparing for questions at the Diet with Okkotsu and Dan.”
The Sapporo District Court
December 20
Sapporo District Court condemns Shukan Shincho for libel and orders it to pay 1.1 million yen in damages.

September 25
Sapporo High Court condemns Shukan Shincho
March 26
The Supreme Court of Japan rejects the appeal made by Shukan Shincho.