Shiny Mud Balls

A wild craze which spread throughout pre-school Japan from the year 1984, "dango-making" is the odd pastime of making shiny mud balls.

The spheres, some as small as marbles, some as large as lawn bowls, have become an obsession with hundreds of thousands of Japanese kiddies and their parents. The balls can be startlingly beautiful, which, given their genesis as dirt, provides a poignant counterpoint to their shiny glory.

While making hikaru dorodango, children are usually completely absorbed in the task of pressing the mud and shining the surface to a high sheen. The resulting sphere often becomes a prized possession.

The craze crossed-over to the general Japanese population when a documentary on dango-making was televised by the national television network NHK in the year 2001. The internet is now littered with childrens', parents', and senior citizens' hikaru dorodango fan websites.

Professor Fumio Kayo, a psychologist of the Kyoto University of Education, has extensively studied the impact of dango-making on children, and endorses the pastime as an excellent method for child development. Interestingly, Kayo-san became obsessed with dango-making while studying the phenomenon, so much so that he enjoined research scientists at the Kyoto University to discover the best possible method to produce a superior shine on the dorodango.

His method, developed with the help of electron microscopy, is as follows:

  1. Take a handful of mud, pack it tightly, while squeezing out any water.
  2. Cover the surface of the dango with some dry dirt, and gently form the mud into a perfect sphere.
  3. Allow the dango to dry, and when dry, pack it firmly with the hands, rubbing the surface until a fine film appears.
  4. Rub the hands in dirt, patting the dust into the surface of the dango. Do this for at least two hours.
  5. Tightly seal the dango in a plastic bag for at least three or four hours.
  6. Remove the dango from the plastic bag, and repeat steps 4 and 5.
  7. Remove the dango from the plastic bag, and if it is dry, polish it with a soft cloth until it shines.
Research: Trends in Japan/Japan Information Network/Japan Echo Inc.

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