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Shiny Mud Balls
May 30, 2006 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Hikaru dorodango is a recent craze in Japanese school yards. Apparently it's an absorbing task, one that anyone can pick up. There are even competing, previously undisclosed techniques.
posted by ancientgower (40 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
[this is good]

[I am making one]
posted by exlotuseater at 10:36 AM on May 30, 2006


So in theory, this is how you really polish a turd?
posted by TwoWordReview at 10:37 AM on May 30, 2006


Read about this on boingboing a while back but couldn't find much more about it. It's tempting to try and make one.
posted by fire&wings at 10:42 AM on May 30, 2006


Who'da thunk? What an interesting world we live in.
posted by nickyskye at 10:43 AM on May 30, 2006


What's the point of making a mudball if you can't throw it at your best friend's sister?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:46 AM on May 30, 2006


Let's see capitalism appropriate this.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:49 AM on May 30, 2006


Wonderful. I hope this becomes popular in the west. Anything that teaches our children to dedicate themselves to monotonous, repetitive tasks with glee is a win for our economy.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:49 AM on May 30, 2006


Is there something specific about the soil of Japan that allows you to polish mud, or it all mud anywhere around the world suitable for polishing? I don't want to sit in my yard tonight polishing a ball of dirt only to find that I've got the wrong type of mud in my yard.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:54 AM on May 30, 2006


What Keith Talent said. Also, in my experience there is a difference between soil (what you plant things in) and dirt. Although they say "soil" all the time, it looks like they are using dirt.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:56 AM on May 30, 2006


This article was published in 2001, and i have been unable to find much that states that this is still occurring. In fact my friend in Japan who teaches at a school courtesy of the Jet Program, was also oblivious to this "phenomenons" existence.
posted by sourbrew at 11:00 AM on May 30, 2006


Let's see capitalism appropriate this.


posted by sonofsamiam at 11:02 AM on May 30, 2006


Interesting story, though I've never heard of such a thing and I taught English in Japan for over a year at the kindergarden level.

I'm still going to try it, though.
posted by dead_ at 11:05 AM on May 30, 2006


Neat.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:10 AM on May 30, 2006


[Items you must have]

  1.Nice weather of 2-3 days duration, completely dry soil


I really wanted to make one, but it looks like I'd have to emigrate first.
posted by jack_mo at 11:14 AM on May 30, 2006


Na na, na na na na na na, Katamari Damacy...
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:17 AM on May 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


Sounds neat, but you'll have to count me in as one of the "foreigners in Japan who's never heard of it". Been living here since '96, so I've been here before, during, and after the rise of the shiny mud balls.

Ynoxas : "Anything that teaches our children to dedicate themselves to monotonous, repetitive tasks with glee is a win for our economy."

Ever play with a toddler? They love monotonous, repetitive tasks. It isn't something you have to teach them to enjoy.
posted by Bugbread at 11:32 AM on May 30, 2006


Makes sense, as nautral clay is a key ingredient in sculpting, traditional ceramics, and cement mixtures.
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:47 AM on May 30, 2006


Faint of Butt: Na na, na na na na na na, Katamari Damacy...

You took the words right out of my mouth. And I'm definitely gonna try and make one. Nothing like free, muddy fun.
posted by RobertFrost at 12:00 PM on May 30, 2006


lemming ball
posted by caddis at 12:42 PM on May 30, 2006


Well, when I was in kindergarten, we used to make "balls" (read: misshapen pseudospherical lumps) of mud and then "bake" them by burying them in a thin layer of hot, dry sand, and afterwards we would throw them against a fence to see whose was hardest.
posted by ori at 1:10 PM on May 30, 2006


Well, when I was in kindergarten, we used to make "balls" (read: misshapen pseudospherical lumps) of mud and then "bake" them by burying them in a thin layer of hot, dry sand, and afterwards we would throw them against a fence to see whose was hardest.

Hard science makes me smile!

This sounds pretty awesome, I kind of want to try it but doubt I will.
posted by Phantomx at 1:20 PM on May 30, 2006


If Shiny Mud Ball begins to smoke, get away immediately. Seek shelter and cover head.

Shiny Mud Ball may stick to certain types of skin.

When not in use, Shiny Mud Ball should be returned to its special container and kept under refrigeration...

Ingredients of Shiny Mud Ball include an unknown glowing substance which fell to Earth, presumably from outer space.

Do not taunt Shiny Mud Ball.
posted by DefendBrooklyn at 1:20 PM on May 30, 2006


Was just talking to a good friend in Japan... pretty sure this isn't a craze. He'd never heard of it. Googling it in Japanese only turns up a handful of pages, too.
posted by dead_ at 1:21 PM on May 30, 2006


It might not be a craze with Japanese pre-schoolers, but I suspect it'll soon be a full blown phenomena among underworked internet hipsters.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:36 PM on May 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


dead_, while I agree that it isn't a craze, and seems unheard of, I wouldn't say Googling it only turns up a handful of pages, either.

光る 泥団子    - 689 hits
光る 泥だんご   - 10,800 hits
光る どろだんご  - 459 hits

Admittedly, there's some overlap, but even if you consider them to all overlap, we're talking in the neighborhood of 10,000 hits, which is 52 pages of Google. If 50 percent are false positives, we're still talking 25 pages of Google results.

The guy across the hall from me remembers hearing about the guy on NHK, but doesn't know any kids who actually made the shiny variety. Making the unshiny variety is apparently a Japanese hobby from years and years back (think American kids with their 'mud pies').
posted by Bugbread at 1:40 PM on May 30, 2006


it is theessence of play. and shine is a concept we love because by our own industry we again it. same with the sphere we achieve it by making many mistakes. then we achieve it the ball which shines. like a moon or a precious thing. and we have learned. fantastic!
posted by bernardrudden at 2:12 PM on May 30, 2006


Do not taunt Shiny Mud Ball.
posted by DefendBrooklyn at 3:20 PM CST on May 30


... and DefendBrooklyn knocks one out of the park!!!
posted by Ynoxas at 2:12 PM on May 30, 2006


This seems to me to be a kind of pottery, but without a 'firing' step. Any potters care to express an opinion on it?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:32 PM on May 30, 2006


I just want to add to the "never heard of this" chorus. I have been teaching in Japanese elementary schools for the last four years and have never seen any of this. Most elementary school boys seems to be into giant beetles and Pokemon-like card-battle games.
posted by donkeymon at 2:45 PM on May 30, 2006


To answer Aeschenkarnos, there is an old technique called "terra sigilatta" which uses a slip with very very fine clay particles. This slip is applied to unfired clay and then burnished or buffed to a shine. It is a fired process though, a very low temp on the scale of things, less than a terra cotta flower pot. This technique is often used in Native American pottery.

These mud balls probably contain dirt that includes fine clay particles that when burnished are "shiny".
posted by hotmud at 3:23 PM on May 30, 2006


Yep, hotmud's got it right on the nose.

I imagine that when you pat the ground to generate dust (directions from one of the links), you are actually pulling up only the finest and smallest clay particles. At the microscopic level, they look something like our red blood cells (roughly), so it makes sense that you could compress them very tightly and create a shine!

I'm working on a terra sigilatta project right now, and I have been getting a similar high sheen on the unfired work.

It was refreshing (I think) to have my lifestyle confirmed though - "Guess what kids, playing with dirt is fun!"
posted by dirtmonster at 4:51 PM on May 30, 2006


Dig your hands in the dirt
Children, play with earth

posted by Eideteker at 7:57 PM on May 30, 2006


I played with mud constantly as a kid. I am totally making one of these this weekend. And probably next weekend too.
posted by LeeJay at 8:37 PM on May 30, 2006


Maria Martinez and San Ildefonso Pottery [BIOGRAPHY link]:


Part of the unique-ness of San Ildefonso pottery is the clay that is used, which comes from their reservation. Dried clay and volcanic ash are collected yearly from selected locations throughout the reservation, and later combined with water in small batches. The clay from each pueblo has its own mineral composition, allowing for rich differences in texture and color. The watery clay slip that is used on the black wares, for example, has a rich iron content that turns black when fired in a particular way.

After a batch of clay is mixed and has set for a few days, a "pancake" of clay is formed and pressed into a puki, beginning the process of building a pot. The puki is a bowl-shaped form that supports the bottom of the pot as it is being built. Most commonly, pots are formed with a coil technique, in which long snake-shaped coils are circled around the base of the pot and blended together to create the walls of the vessel. A potter's wheel is not used in traditional pueblo pottery making. When the height and the amount of clay are just right, the walls of the pot are smoothed and shaped into curves with pieces of gourd, called kajepes.

The pot is left to partially dry after the form is completed. In its semi-dried state, the pot is ready to be scraped, which refines the shape and removes any irregularity. Then the pot is sanded with sandpaper to rid it of any grit. The red slip is applied next, and the pot must be burnished with a stone before the slip dries completely. This step is most critical for the glossy nature of the black wares.
Now that's mud.
posted by cenoxo at 9:06 PM on May 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


and I thought all the Japanese kids were playing kancho



posted by vaportrail at 9:44 PM on May 30, 2006


I teach at a Japanese kindergarten and I've never seen this. On the other hand, my kids are young enough that anything that messes up their hands is still strange and scary and thus avoided at all costs. They won't even touch paint with paintbrushes.
posted by emmling at 3:50 AM on May 31, 2006


Yes, I hesitated when I wrote "craze," but "thing" didn't seem to cover it.
posted by ancientgower at 4:50 AM on May 31, 2006


sounds cool
posted by stockguy at 6:54 AM on May 31, 2006


It's been a full day, how is there still only one entry on Flickr?

The mud pies example is the most similar thing I can think of from my childhood, we used to smooth them out with our hands and dirt until they were somewhat shiny, although nothing like the dorodango.
posted by Driph at 10:22 AM on May 31, 2006


Dorodango were made famous...in a program aired nationally in June 2001.

And I'm only hearing about it now? Hang your head in shame, blogosphere.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:03 PM on May 31, 2006


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