‘castle Grandma’ Publishes Her Folk - Art Picture Letters

‘Castle Grandma’ publishes her folk-art picture lettersShe's an artist simply and affectionately known as the "Castle Grandma."
Hiroko Sogo's folk art is called "etegami" (picture letters), which combines simple images and thoughtful words on paper or postcards.
The 79-year-old's long-standing theme is Marugame Castle, which stands in her hometown on the island of Shikoku.

Using the watercolor kits her children once used, Sogo sketches seasonal flowers and birds, often seated near the moat or in front of the historic Genkansaki-gomon gate.

Her work has now finally been published in book form, titled "Oshiro no Obaachan Kokoro no Etegami” (Castle grandma’s picture letters from the heart).

As a frequent fixture at the castle, Sogo acquired the nickname of Castle Grandma and has handed out one of her pictures for free to about 12,000 people--visitors from far-flung places such as the United States, France, Norway and Burkina Faso.

The simple aphorisms she adds to each picture include, “Don’t pull another person’s leg--Lead by the hand, instead” and “Laughter is the best cosmetic.”

Sogo started sketching 12 years ago after the death of her husband, a doctor. Her favorite subjects are the wildflowers, grasses and the moat of the castle, which was constructed in the 17th century.

She held an exhibition of her works at the castle, which attracted locals as well as many tourists from Japan and overseas.

An editor at the publisher Kadokawa Corp. was impressed with her story in the Kagawa Prefecture edition of The Asahi Shimbun on April 6. The editor checked Sogo’s etegami on an electronic edition of her works and immediately offered to publish them in print form.

“She has a nice cute smile and acts as a magnet for all the people around her,” the editor said. “Each etegami in the book is almost pocket-size so the reader can keep it at hand. I hope many people will pick up the book and get lightened up by the grandma’s smile and paintings.”

The 108-page A5-size book “Oshiro no Obaachan Kokoro no Etegami” is priced at 1,100 yen ($9).