Japanese culture is known for its unusual pastimes and weird hobbies, but ‘dorodango’ must be among the most unexpected things you’d see a kid doing for hours. And we mean hours and hours non-stop! ‘Dorodango’, which literally means ‘dirt ball’ is exactly what it is – a ball made of mud that is later polished to absolute perfection until it looks like it’s made of marble or some other stone. Think that’s impossible? Japanese kids would disagree! As well as numerous adults who also enjoy this meditative process that borders on compulsion. Bruce Gardner, an artist who has mastered this wicked craft, admits that it requires lots of patience and perfectionism to finish at least one ball. Nevertheless, the whole process of polishing dirt balls is incredibly soothing and has a calming effect on anyone who tries it. A masterfully polished dorodango is called ‘hikaru dorodango’, with ‘hikaru’ standing for ‘light’ or ‘shiny’. One can create ‘hikaru dorodango’ of various sizes and colors, depending on where the soil was taken from.
Here’s how you make the famous Japanese shining dorodango. First collect the soil and separate all the rocks so that you’re left with something you can actually shape.
Then use your hands to create a dirt ball or ‘dorodango’. Add more layers while you’re at it and be prepared to spend at least half an hour just shaping the ball.
Shaping the ball is a truly relaxing process, despite the time it may take you to finish the job. Be careful as the ball can easily crack!
Before you can start polishing, your newly made dorodango needs to sit in a plastic bag for yet another 30 minutes, where it will dry and become more solid.
You can add more layers and dry your dorodango some more until you’re satisfied with the base for your future ‘hikaru dorodango’.