Sadness has been expressed throughout the city of Shizuoka — the hometown of Momoko Sakura, creator of the popular "Chibi Maruko-chan" manga and anime series who died of breast cancer at the age of 53 earlier this month.

"She was just like a grown-up Maruko-chan — charming and warm-hearted," said a 57-year-old woman who works for the operator of a theme park featuring the world of Chibi Maruko-chan in the city in central Japan. She said she remembers the manga artist enjoying looking closely at drawings by the children who visited the facility about five years ago.

"I can't believe the news. It was too sudden," she said.