WHO IS OKKOTSU?
Several Japanese journalists make their living writing sensational articles critical of Soka Gakkai for Japan's tabloid magazines. Chief amongst them is Masao Okkotsu, a freelance journalist. Of the sixty-seven articles that Okkotsu had contributed to weeklies until 2002, sixty-five were articles criticizing Soka Gakkai. Moreover, Okkotsu then started his own magazine, Forum 21, with the express purpose of criticizing Soka Gakkai. Every issue carries articles attacking the organization.
Since 1999, Soka Gakkai has brought a number of libel cases against Okkotsu and the publishers of weekly tabloids to which he had contributed articles. Soka Gakkai has won almost every case in which a ruling has been made to date.
Okkotsu was initially a Soka Gakkai member and studied at Soka University. In 1977, he ran for chairman of the law students' executive committee. After twice failing to be elected, he renounced his Soka Gakkai membership and shortly afterwards began his career as a critic of the organization, working for Keimyo, a bulletin published by anti-Soka Gakkai priests within Nichiren Shoshu.
Okkotsu has been directly involved in all the major accusations brought against Soka Gakkai in recent years. He was the emcee at Nobuko Nobuhira's press conference, he helped devise the strategy for bringing up the Shirayama case during a televised Diet debate, and he continues to regularly provide critical comments about the organization to the tabloid media.
Shukan Shincho ran an article in July 1999 claiming that Soka Gakkai was involved in land speculation through a dummy company, related to the Tokyo municipality's redevelopment plans. In October of the same year, on the basis that the article was "completely groundless," Soka Gakkai filed a libel suit against Shukan Shincho's publisher, Shinchosha, and its then editor-in-chief, as well as against Okkotsu, who had contributed to the article.
On December 3, 2001, the Tokyo District Court concluded that the allegation made in the article was unfounded and ordered Shinchosha and its chief editor to pay 4 million yen (approx. US$36,000) in damages and publish an apology. The apology was subsequently published in the December 26, 2002, issue of Shukan Shincho. Okkotsu was ordered to pay jointly and severally one million yen [approx. US$9,000] of the damages awarded.
The court rebuked the defendants in its judgment: "There was an utter lack of journalistic investigation"; "Advertisements for the magazine (with notice of the article) appeared in trains and conveyed a damaging image of the plaintiff (Soka Gakkai) to a large number of people"; "Defendant Okkotsu's intent, or his recklessness, cannot be denied."
On November 22, 2002, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the defendants who lost the case in the Tokyo District Court and in their subsequent appeal to the Tokyo High Court.
OKKOTSU LOSES THREE DEFAMATION SUITS IN ONE YEAR (2003)
Okkotsu lost three libel lawsuits in 2003, two of which were filed by Soka Gakkai. On January 29, 2003, the Tokyo High Court dismissed Okkotsu's appeal and upheld the decision of the District Court in finding him liable for defamation in a case related to a lecture Okkotsu gave in Wakayama in which he made the groundless allegation that Soka Gakkai made use of bogus companies to reap illicit profits when it purchased land to build cemeteries. He was ordered to pay damages of 500,000 yen (approx US$4,500). Okkotsu decided not to appeal further.
In November 2003, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal Okkotsu had earlier filed with over an article in Forum 21 concerning an investigation carried out by Japan's tax office on a certain Buddhist temple for suspicion of tax evasion. The article suggested that Soka Gakkai had set the investigation in motion. Soka Gakkai instituted a libel suit against Forum 21's publisher, Forum, and Okkotsu in response to this article. The High Court's decision ordering Okkotsu to pay 500,000 yen (approx. US$4,500) in damages stands.
The May 18, 2006, issue of Shukan Shincho quoted Okkotsu at length in an article entitled "Rebellion in Kyushu." He insinuated that the leaders of Soka Gakkai in the Kyushu area had personally profited in connection with a Soka Gakkai cemetery and that "the top leader" of the organization in Kyushu had also created problems through inappropriate relationships with women. In addition, he alleged that local Soka Gakkai members who tried to expose these problems were excommunicated. The leader in question, Mr. Takeshi Yamamoto, filed a libel suit against Shinchosha, as the publisher of Shukan Shincho, the tabloid's editor-in-chief Kiyoshi Hayakawa, and Masao Okkotsu.
The Fukuoka District Court ruled on July 18, 2007, that the article was libelous and based on no factual evidence and ordered Shinchosha and Hayakawa to pay 2,300,000 yen (US$18,800*) in damages. Okkotsu was ordered to pay jointly and severally 550,000 yen (US$4,500*) of the amount awarded. Shinchosha and Hayakawa were also instructed to publish an apology in the Shukan Shincho.
[*Calculation based on July 2007 exchange rates.]
SHUKAN SHINCHO AND OKKOTSU LIBEL RULING
On January 31, 2008, the Fukuoka High Court upheld this judgment, clarifying that the sole source for the allegations in the article had admitted in writing that what he originally stated was not true. It condemned the malicious intent displayed by Shukan Shincho in continuing to fabricate stories about the Soka Gakkai despite having been repeatedly found liable in libel suits.
On November 4, 2008, following an appeal, the Supreme Court of Japan upheld the Fukuoka High Court's ruling, bringing this case to a close.
Mr. Tadayuki Kurokawa, lawyer for Mr. Yamamoto, commented: "It is clear that all the allegations directed at Mr. Yamamoto in order to damage his reputation have no factual basis. This judgment is very fair in that it exposes the truth about Shukan Shincho's journalistic practices that tend toward pure fiction."
In its issue dated November 20, 2008, the Shukan Shincho published an apology addressed to Takeshi Yamomoto, under the names of Takanobu Sato, president of Shinchosha Publishing. and Kiyoshi Hayakawa, chief editor of Shukan Shincho, expressing "sincere apologies" for the erroneous allegations contained in the May 18, 2006 article.
(Click [Documentation] for further reading.)
[Note: May 20, 2004 exchange rate used throughout. Amounts have been rounded for ease of comprehension.]
 Tokyo High Court Judge Hideichi Yazaki, from his May 29, 2003 judgment in Case No. 2002-wa-16789. [trans.]
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