His entire ideology as a filmmaker changed around the time he made Nobody Knows in 2003. His work before that is extremely different. I believe he now cites Naruse as his main influence, and yes he is a second-rate Naruse follower. But the comparison to Ozu has always been overblown and jaundiced. His early films bear more resemblance to Hou Hsiao-hsien than Ozu.
It kills me to know this is the same director who made a masterful film in Maborosi, and a solid effort in Distance, who now has shown the greatest decline in talent that I've ever seen. I can't see anything stylistically, aesthetically, thematically, remotely interesting in his recent efforts. Such a shame