Randoseru More than just an Ordinary Schoolbag

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A Special Bag, A Childhood Friend

Worn everyday by Japanese elementary school students, the randoseru is a sturdy and functional backpack made of leather, or a leather-like synthetic material. Worn over the shoulders, it leaves both hands free; a flap covers an extra-wide opening that allows easy access to textbooks and notebooks inside. Along with their own desk, a randoseru is one of the most popular items given to a child starting elementary school. Many first-graders set off for their first day of school wearing a shiny new bag from their grandparents.

Randoseru
A randoseru on a school desk. (Photos : AFLO)

Elementary school kids wearing randoseru to school

The randoseru dates as far back as the end of the 19th century, when Western military structure was first adopted in Japan. Soldiers carried square bags called ransel, a Dutch word, which changed into randoseru in Japanese. In 1885, an elite elementary school started using the military backpack for its students to carry books. The first models were made of canvas, but before long, it became fashionable to have leather backpacks made to order — these are thought to be the forerunners of the modern randoseru.

The backpacks were initially used by students at only a small number of elementary schools, but as Japan became more prosperous during the 1960s, the randoseru became a standard elementary school bag.

Randoseru in Transformation

Boys used to carry black randoseru and girls carried red ones. Although the bags also came in other colors such as blue and yellow, they were not very popular in the past, as kids didn’t want a different randoseru to their friends. Recently, though, a more individualistic sense of style has come into fashion. More kids are choosing randoseru in colors they like, and to meet this demand, manufacturers have broadened the tones available.

One of Japan’s most well-known volume retailers launched a line ofrandoseru in 24 different colors in 2001. Another bag maker markets a two-tone bag in more subdued colors suitable for kids in higher elementary school grades. These more sophisticated randoseru designs have proven to be quite popular.

 

Randoseru

Now bigger, lighter, and easier to use. (Photo : AFLO)

Randoseru in 24 colors on display in an Aeon store

They have not only transformed in terms of color, but in size, as well. When textbooks got larger in the 1990s, so did the bags. Today, randoseru can hold the Japanese standard document size of 21 by 29 centimeters. While the bags have gotten larger, they have also become lighter than before. Originally weighing some 1.6kg in the past, most modern randoseru weigh less than a kilogram.

japanese-schoolbag

More sophisticated designs are also popular.
(Cooperation from Toyama Bag Company)

More than just a bag for holding textbooks, a randoseru evokes memories for their owners of the six years they spent in elementary school. As many people want to hold onto their bags to commemorate their younger school days, the mini-randoseru has become quite popular. These miniature decorations are made from used randoseru material, and retain the anime character stickers, scratches and good luck charms of the original bag that invoke old memories and a sense of nostalgia. For the Japanese, the randoseru is more than just a simple bag: it is more like a special friend from childhood.

 

Randoseru
A mini-randoseru about 11 centimeters tall packs a lot of memories.
(Cooperation from Yumekoji)

 

Source : http://web-japan.org/kidsweb/cool/11-07/index.html

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