Oct 13, 2009
Etegami: Japanese picture letters
Broccoli??? Certainly! A few days ago I found these pictures displayed at a train station. This is not a catalog of vegetables as one might think, but rather it’s called etegami (絵手紙 – literally “picture letter”) which is a hand-painted postcard. Etegami has a long tradition in Japan and is a popular way of sending messages for all kinds of occasions.
In a paper store you can buy an empty postcard (only the space for addressee is printed on it) onto which you can paint any kind of subject. You don’t need to be Picasso and there are no rules as to what to draw and how. In order not to lose the moment of inspiration, you’re supposed to paint directly on paper without sketches beforehand. A typical etegami shows a picture of an ordinary thing, something we see everyday but usually take for granted. It should include a message written in a form of a proverb, a poem or some witty sentence. The Japanese say you should write and paint something you feel that moment so it can be sent to someone from the heart.
Below is an exhibit of picture letters by members of an etegami club.