The Oscar nominations for “Drive My Car,” Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s three-hour drama about a man dealing with the death of his wife, have thrilled the director’s native Japan.

News of the four Academy Awards nominations was reported by all major Japanese media, from the most serious Nikkei business daily to the sports tabloids whose usual coverage of local art films is zero.

The news also lit up Twitter.

“An Academy Award nomination for Best Picture is a great accomplishment. I think the melding between Haruki Murakami and Chekhov has created a universality that can be felt around the world,” said Twitter user YasioE.

“I really want it to win the Best Picture award, don’t you? Judging from the state of the awards race, I think it can win it. And as a film based on Murakami’s work, I think it should win the Adapted Screenplay award too,” said another with the name Izumi Ota.

Hamaguchi himself linked the film’s acclaim to Murakami in a statement that he issued on Tuesday (Japanese time), after he landing in Germany for the upcoming Berlin Film Festival.

Describing himself as “surprised from the bottom of my heart,” Hamaguchi said: “The basis for the praise (this film is getting) is the universality of Haruki Murakami’s story.”

“Thanks to these nominations, I hope that the wonderful performances of the actors and the work of the supporting staff will be seen by even more viewers,” his statement continued.

In addition to a first-ever best picture nod for a Japanese film, “Drive My Car” has been nominated for best director, best adapted screenplay and best international feature.

Released in Japan in August of last year, “Drive My Car” earned a modest JPY30 million ($260,000), unofficially ranking at 151th place at the box office for the year. (In contrast, Bong Joon-ho’s black comedy “Parasite,” which snagged four Oscars, including an Asian-film-first Best Picture prize, scored 41 billion yen in Japan, making it the third-highest-earning film of 2020.)

Hamaguchi’s film has nonetheless been showered with Japanese honors, including eight nominations at the Japan Academy Prize, the local equivalent of the Oscars, and selection as the best Japanese film of the year in the prestigious Kinema Junpo magazine critics’ poll.

It faces strong competition in the Japan Academy race, however, with the Shiraishi Kazuya cop-versus-gangsters thriller “Last of the Wolves” nominated for 13 prizes in 12 categories – tops for a local film. The results will be announced at the 45th Japan Academy awards ceremony on March 11, 2022. The Oscars ceremony is on March 27.

Speaking to the TBS network prior to the Oscars nominations announcement, Hamaguchi said: “I feel that I’ve been given enough praise by this point, and if something happens with this, it will be like an extra reward.”