The Grand Jury Prize and Kobayashi Audience Choice Award

The Grand Jury Prize is awarded to the feature selected as the best film among this year’s festival offerings. Films are reviewed by an Official Jury made up of film makers, film professionals, writers and educators. The winning film-maker is awarded with a certificate and a cash prize of 100,000 Japanese yen.

The Kobayashi Audience Choice Award is presented to the film chosen as the festival favorite by audiences based on ballots completed at the end of each screening.

The award is named in honour of Coby and Yone Kobayashi, a second-generation nikkei couple whose vision, generosity and tireless efforts over 50 years were essential to the creation and success of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. The Kobayashi Hall, in which this festival is held, is also named after Coby and Yone. Mr. and Mrs. Kobayashi’s community-mindedness and generosity of spirit supported and inspired the building of the Kobayashi Hall, the home of the Toronto Japanese Film Festival.

2022 Jury

  • KELLY FLECK is the editor of Nikkei Voice, a nationally-distributed Japanese-Canadian newspaper. Published 10 times a year, the newspaper is an important medium for Japanese-Canadian expression and communication—covering news, community, art, and culture. A graduate of Carleton University’s Bachelors of Journalism program, Kelly is interested in exploring stories about identity, culture, and community. A Yonsei, or fourth-generation Japanese Canadian, her goal is to write and share stories that connect and celebrate the Japanese Canadian community.
  • PHILBERT LUI is an interdisciplinary artist and multimedia producer based in Toronto. He currently works as the Program Officer of film and audiovisual programs at The Japan Foundation, Toronto. In 2021, Philbert worked as one of the commissioning editors that contributed to the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival’s 25th anniversary anthology publication, (re)Rites of Passage. Other than Reel Asian, he has also worked with the Canadian Film Centre, Kollaboration Toronto, and the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. In Philbert’s artistic practice, he continues to examine the intersections of speculative narratives, science fiction, genre fiction with Asian diasporic storytelling through mediums of film, zines, and poetry.
  • DR. MICHAEL RAINE is Associate Professor in Film Studies at Western University, Canada. His research interests include film studies, cultural studies, and Asian studies with a focus on Japan. His main areas of interest in Japanese cinema are the transition to recorded sound, wartime audiovisual culture, and the cinema of high economic growth. He has published on Ozu Yasujiro's late silent films (2018), Occupied Film Culture in Wartime Shanghai (2018), and Cold War Cinema in Japan (2019). He is co-editor (with Johan Nordström) of The Culture of the Sound Image in Prewar Japan, and co-editor (with Marcos Centeno) of Developments in the Japanese Documentary Mode. He is also co-editor of the Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema.
  • KERRI SAKAMOTO is the author of three novels exploring the experience of Japanese Canadians. Her books have been published internationally in multiple languages and earned multiple awards. These include the all-regions Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book, two Canada-Japan Literary Awards from the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Writers' Trust of Canada's Engel-Findley Award for "a remarkable body of work by a mid-career author." Kerri lives in Toronto with her family.
  • JIM SLOTEK is a former Toronto Sun columnist, TV critic, comedy beat reporter and founder of the highly influential film criticism blog ORIGINAL CIN.  He has been a scriptwriter for the NHL Awards, Gemini Awards and documentaries, and was nominated for a Gemini Award for comedy writing on a special (the NHL Awards). His work can also be read in Zoomer magazine. Jim was a TJFF juror in 2017.

2021 Jury

  • DR. SANDRA ANNETT is an associate professor of Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada, where she teaches courses on Japanese film and Japanese science fiction. She is the author of the book Anime Fan Communities: Transcultural Flows and Frictions (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), and has published articles in journals such as Transcultural Studies, The Journal of Postcolonial Writing, and Mechademia. Along with Frenchy Lunning, she is Editor-in-Chief of Mechademia: Second Arc, a journal of East Asian popular cultures. She is currently at work on her second book, The Flesh of Animation, under contract with the University of Minnesota Press.
  • KELLY FLECK is the editor of Nikkei Voice, a nationally-distributed Japanese-Canadian newspaper. Published 10 times a year, the newspaper is an important medium for Japanese-Canadian expression and communication—covering news, community, art, and culture. A graduate of Carleton University’s Bachelors of Journalism program, Kelly is interested in exploring stories about identity, culture, and community. A Yonsei or fourth-generation Japanese Canadian, her goal is to write and share stories that connect and celebrate the Japanese Canadian community.
  • PETER HOWELL is a founding member of the Toronto Film Critics Association and has been the movie critic for the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily newspaper, since 1996. Prior to this, he was The Star’s rock critic. He is a close observer of Canadian film, and was a jury member of TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten panel in 2012. Howell was one of the first journalists in North America to begin a regular Internet column, which debuted in January 1995, under its original title “CyberPop.” Howell is a voting member of the Los Angeles-based Broadcast Film Critics Association, which awards the annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.
  • YUKO SHIMIZU has been working at the Japan Foundation for 25 years. After having served in various cultural fields such as visual arts, film, Japanese language education and Japanese studies, at the headquarters in Tokyo as well as the office in Cologne, Germany, Yuko was appointed Executive Director of the Japan Foundation, Toronto (2017). During her career, Yuko’s passion for films deepened as she organized film screenings including Japanese classical masterpieces, documentaries, contemporary feature films, and invited and arranged talks with film makers.
  • K. F. WATANABE is the Deputy Director of Film at Japan Society in New York City where he oversees year-round film programming, including JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film, the largest festival of contemporary Japanese cinema in North America. His writing on film has appeared in Film Comment, The Brooklyn Rail, The Current (The Criterion Collection), and Notebook (MUBI), among other print and online publications.

2020 Jury

  • JASON ANDERSON is a programmer, journalist and lecturer based in Toronto. He is the lead programmer for the Short Cuts programme at the Toronto International Film Festival. He is also the director of programming for Aspen Shortsfest and the Kingston Canadian Film Festival. A former film critic and columnist for Eye Weekly and The Grid in Toronto, he writes regularly for such publications as Uncut magazine, Cinema Scope, Sight & Sound and Movie Entertainment. He teaches at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University. Follow Jason at: and
  • EIKO K BROWN is a filmmaker and producer based in Toronto and a jury coordinator at the Toronto Japanese Film Festival since 2018. Alongside her good friend Alice Shin, Eiko has co-produced the award-winning Canadian short films Haru’s New Year (2018) and Signal Fire (2019). Recently, the two have filmed a short documentary about the artist Emma Nishimura for CBC Arts, and are grateful for the help they received from the Moriyama Nikkei Heritage Centre at JCCC. Eiko’s full credits are included on the website for Alice Shin Productions:
  • GORO KOYAMA is an internationally acclaimed foley artist who has contributed the soundscapes to films by Terrance Malik, Denis Villeneuve, Tim Burton, David O. Russell, Wes Anderson, David Cronenberg and the Coen Brothers. His over 200 film credits include: Blade Runner 2049, Bombshell, Ford vs Ferrari, Marriage Story, The Lighthouse; Japanese films including Unforgiven and Parasyte and popular series such as Vikings and A Handmaid’s Tale. Goro has received a number of sound awards including Canadian screen awards, Golden Reel Awards and a Prime Time Emmy Award. and
  • STEVE MORRIS is an independent filmmaker with 20 years of experience in producing, writing, directing and post production. He has worked on independent films, documentaries, shorts, sit-coms and music videos. Steve teaches directing at the New York Film Academy and is well-known as the host of the wildly popular Cine-Files podcast. Learn more about Steve at: and
  • TAKUMI SAITOH is a prolific actor, director and student of film. His recent work includes Hirugao (2017) A Gamblers Odyssey 2020 (2019), MANRIKI (2019) (producer, director, lead role), Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku (2020), Tapestry (2020), The 12 Days Tale Of The Monster That Died in 8 (2020) and Kodokuna Jukuji (2020). As a film director and black and white photographer, he directed his debut film blank 13 (2018) which received 8 awards domestically and internationally. In that same year, his black and white photography project received the bronze award at an exhibition at the Louvre Museum in Paris. For the past 2 years, he has worked and received various awards as the Japanese representative director on international projects for HBO Asia. The film COMPLY+-ANCE, on which he served as producer, director, cinematographer, actor, voice actor, screenplay and original story,was officially screened in the Panorama Section of the 23rd Shanghai International Film Festival. He also directed COMAPLY+-ANCE (2020). In 2021 he stars in Shin Ultraman and his next project as a director, Zokki will be released. Takumi’s professional career expands to many fields such as a founder of the Cinemabird, a project to deliver cinematic experiences to people living in remote areas of Japan, including the disaster-stricken areas by The Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

2019 Jury

  • Thom Ernst is a film writer and broadcaster and member of the Toronto Film Critic’s Association. His reviews can be seen every Friday night on CTV National News. Thom has written for the Toronto Star, Playback Magazine, and The National Post. He is also a frequent voice on CBC Radio Fresh Air, CBC Radio Syndication, Metro Morning, CFRB’s Entertainment Extra, Extra with Richard Crouse and The Pay Chen Show. Thom was formerly host and producer of TVO’s Saturday Night at the Movies. You can also read and watch Thom’s reviews at
  • Dr. Sharon Hayashi specializes in Japanese cinema and media studies at York University. Her research focuses on the intersection of visual culture and history. Professor Hayashi’s teaching and research areas include: film history, historiography and criticism; critical theory; gender and media; digital activism; digital mapping; transnationalism and globalization; colonial, postcolonial and diasporic cinemas; travelling and regional cinemas; and East Asian cinema and media. She has published articles on Japanese pink cinema and the travel films of Shimizu Hiroshi, and is currently creating Mapping Protest Tokyo, a historical mapping website that analyzes the new media work of artistic collectives and new social movements in relation to artistic performance and political protest in Japan and globally.
  • Mark Schilling is a Japan-based journalist, translator and film critic for The Japan Times, Variety and Screen International. He is the author of The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture, Contemporary Japanese Film, The Yakuza Movie Book: A Guide to Japanese Gangster Films, and No Borders, No Limits: Nikkatsu Action Cinema. Mark is also the Japanese program advisor to the Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy. 
  • Alice Shin is a Korean-born filmmaker who received her formal film training at Nihon University, Japan and began her career with NHK Broadcasting. Since then, she has worked in Japan, Korea, and the USA as a director, producer and editor. Her work has screened at international film festivals, including Cine Rail International Film Festival (France) and Jeonju International Film Festival (Korea), Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (Canada) and has been showcased on major networks like Fuji TV (Japan). Currently, Ms. Shin lives in Canada making independent films. Her most recent film, Haru’s New Year follows a young immigrant living in Toronto.
  • Robin Smith is the owner and President of KinoSmith Inc. – Canada’s premiere boutique distribution and film marketing company - and CEO of the newly founded company Blue Ice Docs – a new distribution and equity funding company dedicated to non-fiction work from around the world. Robin also acts as the Cinema Programmer for the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto that is operate

2018 Jury

  • Sean Buckley is a film and television veteran, and the founder/CEO of Buck Productions, a leading content creation company successful in feature films, television, branded content, documentaries, and commercials including Milton’s Secret, Another Wolfcop, Wolfcop, Defendor, Pretend We’re Kissing and upcoming features Astronaut and Making Monsters.
  • Cellin Gluck is a Japanese-American filmmaker born and raised in Japan. He was assistant director/production manager for such Hollywood hits as Black Rain, Contact, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Godzilla. His directing credits include Saidoweizu (2009), Oba: The Last Samurai (2011), and Chiune Sugihara: Persona Non Grata which screened at the Toronto Japanese Film Festival in 2016.
  • Professor Ted Goossen teaches Japanese literature and film at York University. He is the co-editor of Monkey Business International, the general editor of The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories, and has published translations of works by Haruki Murakami (including his recently published story collection, Men Without Women), Hiromi Kawakami, Yukio Mishima and Yoko Ogawa among others.
  • Adrian Love is the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Acquisitions at Elevation Pictures managing all aspects of theatrical distribution. Previously he served as the VP of Distribution and Operations at Entertainment One Films and the VP of Marketing and Acquisitions at Alliance Films. Adrian has released hundreds of Canadian, international & Academy Award winning films and overseen the Canadian release of films such as The Imitation Game, Room, Moonlight, and Lady Bird.
  • Alice Shih is a Toronto-based film journalist, and a member of the Toronto Film Critic Association. She is also an advisory board member and programmer of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, and a regular contributor for Swedish Press. Her critique on films can also be heard on Fairchild Radio, the national Chinese radio broadcaster in Canada Her written works also include translation of the book Jia Zhangke Speaks Out, published by Bridge21 Publication.
  • Robin Smith is the owner and President of KinoSmith Inc. – Canada’s premiere boutique distribution and film marketing company – and CEO of the newly founded company Blue Ice Docs – a new distribution and equity funding company dedicated
    to non-fiction work from around the world. Robin also acts as the Cinema Programmer for the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto that is operated by the Hot Docs international Documentary Festival.
  • Katsura Sunshine (桂 三輝 Katsura Sanshain) was born in Toronto and is currently a highly popular traditional Japanese rakugo comic storyteller and television personality in Japan. He is also known in Toronto for his musical version of Aristophanes’ Clouds, Lysistrata, Assemblywomen, The Tokyo Affair, as well as children’s operas Allegra’s Magic Flute, and Orphea and the Golden Harp.

2017 Jury

  • Todd Brown founded ScreenAnarchy (originally TwitchFilm) in 2004 and the site quickly established itself as the online world’s leading source for international, independent, cult, arthouse and genre film news, review and discussion. Todd is also Director of International Programming at Fantastic Fest, a partner at XYZ Films and father to “a remarkably geeky child.”
  • Jim Slotek is a movie and TV critic, who wrote for the Toronto Sun for more than three decades. He has several critical writing awards, a Gemini nomination for comedy writing and has interviewed literally thousands of celebrities. He was the co-writer of El Dia, La Noche y los Muertos, a documentary on the Mexican Day Of The Dead that played in film festivals internationally. He will soon be teaching courses in critical writing and the craft of writing as part of Centennial College’s Arts Journalism program.
  • Dr. Michael Raine is a professor of Japanese Cinema at the University of Western Ontario. He has written and lectured extensively on Japanese Film. He is currently working on The Cinema of High Economic Growth: New Japanese Cinemas, 1955-1964, on the Japanese New Wave in the context of the youth-oriented program pictures of the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Katsura Sunshine (桂 三輝 Katsura Sanshain) was born in Toronto and is currently a highly popular traditional Japanese rakugo comic storyteller and television personality in Japan. He is also known in Toronto for his musical version of Aristophanes’ Clouds, LysistrataAssemblywomenThe Tokyo Affair, as well as two operas for children, Allegra’s Magic Flute, and Orphea and the Golden Harp.
  • Yael Strasberg is the Acquisitions Manager for Entertainment One Films Canada, the Canadian division of the industry’s largest independent, multi-territory film distributor.   Yael has been instrumental in some of eOne’s highest profile acquisitions, including Atom Egoyan’s CHLOE, animated hit THE NUT JOB, and the upcoming Canadian film BACKSTABBING FOR BEGINNERS, starring Sir Ben Kingsley and Theo James.  Yael also has a specialization in working with up and coming talent, identifying and developing relationships with new Canadian writers, directors and producers and helping them to navigate the Canadian film industry.  Prior to joining eOne in 2008, Yael held positions at Sony BMG Films and Untitled Entertainment in New York.

2016 Jury

  • Dr. Sandra Annett is an assistant professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University where she teaches courses on Japanese Film and Japanese Science Fiction. She is the author of Anime Fan Communities: Transcultural Flows and Frictions
  • Liam Lacey is one of Canada’s most respected film critics who spent almost four decades as a critic at Canada’s largest national newspaper, The Globe and Mail.
  • Tim Smythe-Bishop is currently the Vice President, Theatrical for eOne Films Canada with over 30 years of experience in film exhibition, distribution and production
  • Rui Umezawa is a Toronto writer whose works include the novel The Truth About Death and Dying, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize for Best First Book (Canada and the Caribbean) and Strange Light Afar; Tales of the Supernatural from Old Japan, which was chosen by the CBC as one of the Best Books of 2015
  • Akane Yamada is a Tokyo-based film and television director, screenwriter, playwright, and novelist/essayist. Her work includes the films Dogs without Names and All to the Sea

2015 Jury

  • Director Yoshihiro Nakamura (Fish Story, Snow White Murder Case)
  • CBC Metro Morning’s Film Critic Karen Gordon
  • Tokyo-based film professional Ian MacDougall
  • Joanna Miles, Marketing VP eOne Films
  • Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival director Kristine Estorninos

2014 Jury

  • Mark Schilling, Japanese film critic for The Japan Times, Japan correspondent for Variety
  • Daihachi Yoshida, Japan Academy Prize-winning director, The Kirishima Thing, Permanent Nobara, Funuke – Show Some Love You Losers
  • Sonia Sakamoto-Jog, Executive Director, Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival
  • Joanna Miles, Vice President Marketing, Entertainment One Films
  • Kate Scullin, Film Program Officer, The Japan Foundation, Toronto

Winners of the Kobayashi Audience Choice Award

  • 2021 - Under the Open Sky
  • 2020 – Bento Harassment
  • 2019 – Dance with Me
  • 2018 – blank 13
  • 2017 – Her Love Boils Bathwater 
  • 2016 – Flying Colors
  • 2015 – Wood Job!
  • 2014 – The Eternal Zero
  • 2013 – Being Born
  • 2012 – Rebirth

Winners of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Film

  • 2021 - A Garden of Camellias
  • 2020 – Voices in the Wind
  • 2019 – Born Bone Born
  • 2018 – The Scythian Lamb
  • 2017 – In This Corner of the World
  • 2016 – Being Good
  • 2015 – My Man
  • 2014 – Pecoross’ Mother and Her Days

Special Director’s Award

  • 2018 – Sekigahara
  • 2017 – Mumon – Land of Stealth
  • 2015 – Kakekomi
  • 2014 – The Snow White Murder Case
  • 2014 – The Mole Song – Undercover Agent Reiji