The civil case made headlines in Japan and abroad, as it is rare for rape victims to report the crime to the police — according to a 2017 government survey, only four percent of women come forward.
Ito, 30, has become an outspoken symbol for #MeToo in Japan, where the movement against sexual harassment and abuse has struggled to take hold.
She had sought 11 million yen ($100,000) in compensation from Noriyuki Yamaguchi, a former TV reporter with close links to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, alleging he raped her after inviting her to dinner to discuss a job opportunity in 2015.
Yamaguchi denies any wrongdoing and had filed a counter-suit against Ito, seeking 130 million yen in compensation.
“We won. The counter-suit was turned down,” said Ito outside the court, holding up a banner that read “victory” as supporters cheered and clapped.
“Honestly I still don’t know how I feel,” she told reporters, struggling to hold back the tears. “However, winning this case doesn’t mean this (sexual assault) didn’t happen… This is not the end,” she added.
She said she hoped the case would change what she called the “under-developed” legal and social environment surrounding rape in Japan.
Japan hiked minimum jail terms for rapists from three to five years and widened the definition of sexual assault victims to include men for the first time in 2017.
Lawmakers decided unanimously to update the 1907 statute to impose tougher penalties on sex attackers and make prosecutions easier, as they look to boost Japan’s low number of convictions.
The latest World Economic Forum report on the gender gap published on the eve of the case ranked Japan 121st out of 153 countries, slipping even further down the list from 110th the previous year.
Ahead of the ruling, Ito went before the cameras and said she had received widespread support.
“Since I woke up this morning, I have seen several messages from around the world that they are with me no matter how this turns out because my action has been meaningful,” she told reporters.