The odds are against him: in Japanese courts, 99% of cases get guilty verdicts.
Speaking outside his office, Hironaka, 73, confirmed that he had been asked to join the legal team after consulting with the tycoon and his family.
"As we begin the trial phase, I have made a decision to engage Hironaka-sensei as my legal counsel", Ghosn said in a statement, referring to Mr Hironaka with the honorific for teacher, often used in Japan for lawyers. It was the latest twist in Ghosn's legal battle after he was arrested in November.
Motonari Ohtsuru, the lawyer who had initially headed his defence, resigned as of Wednesday.
Hironaka, Ghosn's new lawyer, is a veteran defense lawyer who was involved in the successful defense in 2012 of influential politician Ichiro Ozawa, a shrewd election strategist accused of playing a role in misreporting political funds.
A brief statement said only that "today Otsuru and (Masato) Oshikubo submitted letters of resignation to the court as the defence lawyers for the case of Mr. Ghosn".
He replaced former prosecutor Motonari Otsuru with hot-shot lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, who has a history of taking on high-profile cases and enjoys an enviable acquittal rate in a country where nearly every trial results in a guilty verdict. In Japan, lawyers who are former prosecutors, are reputed to be good because they know how prosecutors work.
It was unclear why Otsuru was no longer representing Ghosn.
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Ghosn has tried without success to gain release on bail, offering to wear an electronic monitoring device and hire security guards acceptable to the authorities.
In addition, the automaker booked $84 million in charges related to the costs of deferred compensation to former Chairman Carlos Ghosn.
The surprise shake-up came on the eve of an expected first meeting between the Tokyo District Court, prosecutors, and defense lawyers to discuss the outlines of Ghosn's eventual trial.
Trials in Japan take much preparation and the meeting does not mean it will start soon.
"2018 was clearly a challenging year in which we faced expected as well as unexpected difficulties", new Chief Executive Thierry Bollore said, adding that the results "demonstrate the group's resilience".
"The board unanimously notes that such condition is not met, thereby triggering the loss of Mr. Ghosn's rights".