Breaking news: it appears that for the first time a Japanese film has won the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Film*. Okuribito（おくりびと), whose English title is Departures, won out over better-known and more heavily favorited productions like The Class, and Waltz with Bashir. The movie, written by Kundo Koyama and directed by Yojiro Taketa (滝田洋二郎), tells the story of a former professional cellist who returns to his hometown to look for a job and discovers he has a special gift for undertaking.
In the animated short film category, Japan took away a second statuette for La Maison en Petits Cubes (つみきのいえ), a 12-minute tale of an elderly man who, while reminiscing about days gone by, adds blocks to his house to keep out rising floodwaters. The film was written and directed by Kunio Kato (加藤久仁生). It was the first time Japan won an Oscar for this category, as well.
* This is the first time a Japanese film has earned an Academy "Award of Merit" for this category. Previous Japanese productions have won "special" or "honorary" awards. Ref