It's awards season. Many a film journalist, from those working at the trade papers to those at the major dailies, spend months speculating who'll get Oscar nods and, as we get closer to the March 4 ceremony, who'll win.

Japan has its own "Oscars." The Japan Academy Prizes, which have been awarded by the Japan Academy Film Prize Association since 1978, will be handed out March 2. Compared to the hype overseas, however, interest from the domestic media, critics and fans is mild and, on occasion, scathing.

Speaking at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2014, actor and director Takeshi Kitano said that the major studios — specifically Toho, Toei, Shochiku "and sometimes Nikkatsu" — "pass (the awards) around" among themselves, while mostly shutting out independents.