Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mostly Mud Balls

1. Happy Mother's Day!

My last six Mother's Days have been spent shin deep in muck with a shovel in my hand. We have something called kawa souji (river cleaning) that happens three times a year. Invariably one of those lucky days is Mother's Day. It only last an hour or so but begins at eight AM, rain or shine. The up side? Everyone recieves a free can of tea when the work is finished.

Today it was rainy.

2. I went and did it again--ordered (and borrowed) a heap of books that I want to read all at once. I'm trying to break that habit (of reading twenty books at once). Right now I'm half way through Duma Key but which one to read next?

3. It's kinda common knowledge that the Japanese are quite adept at taking something and making it smaller, better. Here is an example that will blow your mind!

I used to make mud pies when I was a kid. Each 'pie' took about six seconds to whip up and decorate. Give me a free summer day and I could make dozens all lined up and down the sidewalk. I was the neighborhood's master mud pie chef. I think it was the dandelion petals I used for decoration that gained me the honor.

Japansese children make something called doro dango, mud balls. Or hikaru doro dango, shiny mud balls. And they look like this:

I'm not kidding. Some look like this:

They are just mud and water. And a whole lot of shining. Of course, different muds yeild different colors. And the kids are like little scientists when they start talking about where to go to harvest the best dirt and what properties is possesses.

Yay. I found an article in English.

When J was in third grade we went to a mud ball seminar. No, really. There were heaps of kids (and parents) and for five bucks we got two different types of clay and then spent the rest of the day polishing. And polishing. And polishing. There were four teachers and they would check our progress and offer tips. At the end of the day we all got a grade on our doro dangos and were told to go home and keep polishing for a few more weeks. I think J still has his, one was a lovely amber color, the other an olive green.

Here is a great site on how to make mud balls. It's in Japanese but the pictures pretty much show you how it's done. Or go to this page and scroll all the way down to the bottom to see some amazing hikaru doro dango.

I humbly retire my mud pie chef's hat.

And 4. If you have a thousand bucks lying around...

I'm going to try and post twice a week. Wednesdays and Sundays. That is my goal.


Mary Witzl said...

WOW, Kappa. I mean W-O-W. I can't get over those mud balls! I have to say that I suspect parental involvement. (Like the summer science project. At my kid's school I don't think ANY of those were done by the kids alone. A few mothers quite openly admitted that they did most of their kids' science projects. Harumph.)

I think most people, Japanese and non-Japanese alike, would agree that the Japanese tend to be perfectionists. Part of me is awed by this and filled with respect. But mud balls? Mud balls are supposed to look, well, muddy. Jeesh.

We couldn't do mud balls when I was a kid. No mud.

Kappa no He said...

No mud!?!? Where did you live girl? Haha.

And yes, a LOT of those parents were polishing for their little ones.

Pat said...

Now I'm wondering if those expensive "alabaster" and "marble" spheres you can buy in Italy aren't really mud balls made by Japanese school kids! The mud balls look just as beautiful!

I learn so much from your blog, Kappa. Thanks! And I hope the rest of your Mother's Day was wonderful!

Hilary said...

Wow.. that's fascinating. Just think of what Benny could do with a mud ball.. polished or not! ;)

Kappa no He said...

Pat, OMG, I never thought of that...could be! And thank you, I spent 100 bucks, got a ton of sushi and ate with my family and inlaws. It was nice. Hope you have (had?, derned time zones!) a great Mother's Day too!

Hilary, he he he, I can only imagine. I do know that Julyan hid his from our four-legged friend. Ever since the minow egg eating incident Cha's been, well, in the dog house.

Mary Witzl said...

The California desert! It was so hot and sandy and whenever we did get mud it never lasted longer than an hour or two. Sad, isn't it?

Kappa no He said...

Aha! No mud pies but lots of sand castles and sun. Yum!

Frank Baron said...

Very nifty! I just might try making one. Or maybe offer Hilary $5 if she makes one for me.

That musical doodad is quite spiffy too. Good stuff Terrie. :)

Kappa no He said...

Frank, for five bucks I'd make one! Although sending it through the mail could be a problem.

Isn't it though. Strange and strangely relaxing.

Katarina-bakajo said...

I think here you could sell those mud balls for like 20 bucks... Silly over priced Vancouver. But still, I havent made something like that for a long time.
I think that flash musical box thing might cause seizures. Sooo sparkly.

Ello said...

I missed this! Those mud balls are amazing! I can't believe kids did this! And what the heck is that flashy thing! That is just nuts!

plaidearthworm said...

Wow, those polished mud balls are impressive, but I'm torn on the issue. Part of the fun in making messy mud pies is the sheer enjoyment of a task with no purpose, a perk of childhood otherwise known as...playing. ;)
And your book list is impressive as well! I may have to send you something silly and shallow just to balance out all those deep thoughts, like the book I saw recently in Barnes and Noble: Cats With Stuff on Their Heads. Really.

Kappa no He said...

Katarina, twenty bucks? Maybe we can start us up a business. I polish, you sell!

Ello, the attention spans are amazing sometimes. I remember at Julyan's kindergarten they had a long board where all the kids would line up their balls (on top of a piece of paper with their names on it) so that they could continue the next day...and the next.

Plaid, ditto on the getting dirty. It's like umbrellas. My school of thought is that we're SUPPOSED to get wet when it rains.