hikaru dorodango1 min read

“[A]n artifact of such utter simplicity and perfection that it seems it must be either the first object or the last…”

— William Gibson

William Gibson is describing the haunting elegance of hikaru dorodango. His essay in TATE Magazine, “Shiny Balls of Mud: William Gibson Looks at Japanese Pursuits of Perfection” was my first exposure to this trend sweeping through Japan.

Hikaru dorodango are balls of mud, molded by hand into perfect spheres, dried, and polished to an unbelievable luster. The process is simple, but the result makes it seem like alchemy.

A traditional pastime among the children of Japan, the exact origin of hikaru dorodango is unknown. The tradition was dying out until taken up by Professor Fumio Kayo, of the Kyoto University of Education, as a means to study the psychology of children’s play. In the course of his research, Kayo developed a simple technique for creating dorodango. With the help of Japanese media, Kayo has revived and extended the popular reach of this tradition to the point where it is now an international phenomenon.

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