"The article's headline gives the impression that the accident was intentionally caused by a Soka Gakkai leader."
"The suspicion that the research [for the article] had been conducted in accordance with the predetermined course of the story cannot be removed."
"The content of the article unfairly damaged the plaintiff's reputation."
            --From the verdict of the Sapporo High Court [1]


Photo of Shukan Shincho tabloid ad with headline - Soka Gakkai Leader Kills Taiseki-ji Priest in Car Crash

Advertising of groundless Shukan Shincho tabloid article accuses an innocent accident victim of murder

In July 1994, a Soka Gakkai member in Hokkaido, Mr. Nobuyuki Shirayama, was accused of intentionally killing a Nichiren Shoshu priest in a premeditated traffic accident. Accusations were made in a tabloid article, in advertisements promoting the tabloid and even in a televised Japanese Diet session. It took Mr. Shirayama two years before he could clear his name after winning a libel suit against the publisher. [See Mainichi Shimbun story dated March 26, 1998.]

Article photo and English translation of Chugai Nippo newspaper

An article in the Sept. 21, 1995 Chugai Nippo, a Buddhist community newspaper, criticizes political ploy in which lower house diet member, Jiro Kawasaki, uses tabloid article to attack Soka Gakkai in a televised Japanese parliamentary session (October 11, 1994)

The Nichiren Shoshu priest was fatally injured when his car drifted into the opposing traffic lane and collided head-on with a truck driven by Mr. Shirayama, who happened to be a Soka Gakkai member.


In its September 1, 1994, issue, the weekly tabloid Shukan Shincho magazine claimed that the priest was murdered by a Soka Gakkai member. However the routine police investigation and the insurance company involved found that the priest had caused the collision and Mr. Shirayama was innocent.


At a time when Japan's ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was working with anti-Soka Gakkai journalist Masao Okkotsu and others to mount a politically-motivated smear campaign against Soka Gakkai, a supporter of then opposition party Komeito, an LDP Diet member raised the Shukan Shincho article in a televised parliamentary debate, causing great damage to Mr. Shirayama's reputation. Mr. Shirayama filed a libel suit against Shinchosha, publisher of the magazine and in December 1996 he was awarded 1.1 million yen (approx. US$10,000) in damages.

Photo of Nobuyuki Shirayama annoucing his victory in the Japanese High Court and Supreme Court fulings

Mr. Shirayama announces his court victory to his supporters after the Supreme Court rejected defendants' final appeal

The court criticized the way Shukan Shincho had researched this story, stating that its research had been conducted in accordance with the predetermined course of its story. The publisher's appeals to the High Court and Supreme Court were rejected.

[Note: May 20, 2004 exchange rate used throughout. Amounts have been rounded for ease of comprehension.]

[1] Judgment of the Sapporo High Court, Chief Judge Masayoshi Seto, in Case No. 1995-wa-1598; Claim for Damages; Nobuyuki Shirayama vs. Shinchosha; Decision delivered September 25, 1997.