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The Protection of Reputation in Japan: A Systematic Analysis of Defamation Cases


Noriko Kitajima (née Okamoto) is an Assistant Judge for the Fukui District Court in Fukui, Japan. JSM, Stanford Law School (2009); LLM, Harvard Law School (2008). This article was based on a thesis submitted for the Stanford Program for International Legal Studies at Stanford Law School in 2009. I gratefully acknowledge the comments and suggestions of Professor Lawrence M. Friedman of Stanford Law School, Professor Eric Feldman of Pennsylvania Law School, and Associate Professor Miyako Inoue of the Department of Anthropology of Stanford University. I also gratefully acknowledge the fellowship program administered by the National Personnel Authority in Japan. The views and opinions contained in this article are mine and should not be interpreted as representing the official views, either expressed or implied, of the Fukui District Court or any other court in Japan. Direct correspondence to


Although Japanese defamation law has been a subject of legal interest for scholars and judges, their main focus was the defamation rules that appeared in cases publicized by legal reporters. The following study coded 232 defamation cases against the media that were decided in district courts in Japan, according to the type of database that reported the cases. Statistical results reveal that newspapers are more likely to report defamation cases than other databases because stories about defamation cases may satisfy readers' interest or because the newspaper might have been informed by plaintiffs who won their cases. The results also show that the professional status of the plaintiff is a predictor of the case outcome. Politicians and officials are less likely to win in defamation cases than are executives and criminals, and they received lower damages than athletes and entertainers.