“Okuribito” (Departures) has been named as this year’s best foreign language film at the 81st Academy Awards. Widely considered the second-favorite for the award, behind Israeli film “War With Bashir,” the movie continued on its strong performance at festivals around the world over the last few months. Joined on stage by stars Motoki Masahiro (43) Hirosue Ryoko (28), Hirosue Ryoko (28) and Yo Kimiko (52), director Takita Yoji (53) gave a brief acceptance speech in very broken English. The award meant that Japan was two for two on the night. “Tsumiki no Ie,” an animated short by Kato Kunio (31), took Japan’s first ever Oscar in that category and the the country’s first in six years. Okuribito is a moving and often humorous drama of human dignity and family bonds. Motoki plays an out-of-work cellist who leaves Tokyo to return to his hometown to become an undertaker, ritually cleansing and placing the deceased into coffins at funeral ceremonies.
Actress Shaku Yumiko (30) announced online yesterday that she had an autoimmune disease disease, but later deleted the entry from her blog. She wrote that she had been diagnosed with Guillain-BarrÃ© syndrome, which was causing the mild paralysis she had been experiencing in her arms and legs. But when he read the details of the blog entry, her doctor contacted her to clarify that she was suffering from a milder condition affecting her peripheral nervous system. Fans had been expressing concern for the popular actress and it was decided to simply delete the original entry. She wrote a new entry that didn’t mention the syndrome and reassured fans that she was fine and well on the road to recovery. Shaku wrote on the blog last week that she had come down with a severe cold and high fever. When she felt unable to move her limbs on Saturday she decided to see a doctor and received what she thought was the stark-sounding diagnosis, though she was assured she should recover fully with a week’s rest. Shaku is currently starring in the Fuji TV drama series “B-gata Onna ga Kekkon Suru Houhou.”
• “Tsumiki no Ie,” an animated short by Kato Kunio (31), has taken Japan’s first ever Oscar in that category and the the country’s first in six years. Though the movie’s title translates as House of Blocks, Kato chose to use the French “La Maison en Petits Cubes” for its international release. It is the story of an elderly man living on top of a brick building surrounded by encroaching floodwaters. The man continues to painstakingly add bricks to the top of his dwelling to avoid being swallowed up. One day, he accidentally drops his pipe into one of the underwater rooms. He follows it as it sinks downward. Each new floor brings back an old memory, such as time he spent with his deceased wife and their daughter.