Before the Japanese polished foil balls, they were polishing dirt balls, known as dorodango. Literally translated as “mud dumpling”, dorodangos are created from earth and water, plus a lot of careful work and determination.
The Story of Dorodango
The dorodango is actually a traditional pastime of Japanese school children, and until recently, it was a dying art. Then, Professor Fumio Kayo from the Kyoto University of Education, discovered it and took it up. He used the making of dorodango as a means to study the psychology of children’s play, and during his research, he developed a simple method to create dorodangos. Soon, with the help of the Japanese media, it became an international phenomenon.
The ingredients you need to make these “mud dumplings” should be readily available to you; all you need is some soil, water and lots of patience and gentleness. After all, the balls are just mud, so you’ll need to handle them with extreme care, or you risk ruining them. The balls have two parts to them: the core, and the outer shell.
First, gather some soil, dry it, and filter it. The finer the soil, the smoother your product. Then, add some water to the soil to create a firm mud paste. Grab a handful of mud and start to shape it into a ball. For the first few minutes, you have to squeeze it to make it as compact as possible. Continue to roll the ball between your hands, making it as round as you can. Next, you have to leave the core to dry. Besides letting it air dry, you can slightly speed up the process by very carefully rolling it on a dry cloth. Once it is dry enough, you may begin on the shell.
Basically, by adding dry filtered earth bit by bit to the core, you form the shell. According to a dorodango-making website, if you start this step too early, you risk cracking it. However, if all goes smoothly, keep shaping the ball, adding the dry earth little by little. When no more earth can stick to the ball (this may take hours), you can move on the the polishing part. The polishing part consists of using very fine, very thinly filtered earth to polish the surface of the ball. When your dorodango is smooth enough for your liking, you may then take it a step further by using a thin piece of cloth to make it shine even more. If your dorodango looks like a snooker ball, congratulations! You’ve successfully made your first dorodango! If your dorodango cracks or falls apart at any point, you get to start over again. Happy polishing!