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TOKYO — The Japan Academy chairman Yusuke Okada used the announcement Wednesday of nominees for the Academy’s annual prizes to hit back at recent criticism by influential comedian and director Takeshi Kitano.

Speaking at a stage event at October’s Tokyo International Film Festival, Kitano claimed the Japan Academy awards were “passed around” among the three biggest studios: Toho, Toei and Shochiku.

Okada, who is Toei’s president and CEO, told reporters that the JA prizes “are the cleanest” among the many given out during Japan’s busy award season. One reason: nearly 3,900 film industry executives, if not critics or journalists, can vote on the nominees, making impossible the sort of collusion Kitano implied.

“I’m not asking for an apology,” Okada continued. “I’m just explaining the situation in hope that Kitano and his people will understand how I see it,” Okada said.
 
Among the films reaping the most nominations was Toho’s “The Eternal Zero,” the smash-hit WWII kamikaze drama,” which scooped nods in eleven categories including best picture and best actor for lead Junichi Okada — a pop singer/actor unrelated to the Japan Academy chairman. The most nominations, 13, went to Toei’s “Cape Nostalgia,” a weepy drama starring veteran Sayuri Yoshinaga that won a special grand prix at last year’s Montreal World Film Festival.
 
The awards ceremony will be held on Feb. 27 in Tokyo.