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Some things just don’t quite translate culturally. For example, in most parts of the West, horses aren’t really considered food, while some Japanese consider horse meat a delicacy, particularly if you don’t mar the flavor by cooking it before eating. But whether it’s a hamburger or a stallion skewer, at the end of the day they’re both ways of satisfying a meat lover’s cravings.

Likewise, kids in Japan might reach for some dango dumplings instead of a slice of cake, but they’re both just treats for someone with a sweet tooth. Which brings us to another fundamental human condition: children love to make things out of mud, and while Japanese kids don’t make mud cakes, they make mud dango.

Now, writing supply maker Shachihata is putting a new, shiny spin on mud dango.

Even though it was a popular pastime for Japanese kids for generations, in recent years fewer and fewer children are making mud dango. Modern, hygiene-conscious parents aren’t sure they like the idea of their kids digging around in the sandbox or dirt at the local parks to procure the necessary ingredients. Making a nice, round mud dango can be tricky too, and even when you get it right, it dries out and cracks after a few days.

▼ A typical mud dango

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To combat these problems, Shachihata is releasing its Koro Pika Doro Dango (Rolling and Shining Mud Dango) Kit. The kit, which retails for 525 yen (US$5.15), comes with 200 grams (7.1 oz.) of dirt to be used for the mud dango’s core, 40 grams (1.4 oz.) of powdered clay coating, a measuring spoon, and a paper stand. The sand and clay are 100 percent natural and hygienic, sourced from the Tono area in southeastern Gifu Prefecture.
DD 2 What makes the kit unique is are the special qualities of the dirt and clay. As the ingredients are mixed and rolled together, they form a smooth, shiny surface.

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▼ The finished mud dango, before decorating

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Aside from being easy to put stickers on, kids can also draw on the surface with oil-based pens and markers.
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The kit contains enough dirt and clay to make one mud dango with a diameter of 57 mms (2.2 inches), two at 47 mms (1.9 inches), or three at 37 mms (1.5 inches). Shachihata recommends starting with the smaller sizes, and working your way up once you get the hang of rolling them.

The kit goes on sale on May 27, just in time for kids looking for an arts and craft project for Japan’s rainy season in June or summer vacation in July.

Sources IT Media, Shachihata
Top image: IT Media (via Shachihata)
Insert images: Hoiku Akira, IT Media (via Shachihata)