In April, new school kids start to carry brand-new boxy bags on their backs. The traditional satchel “randosel” is a must item for the first-year elementary school children in Japan. The bag is known for its sturdiness as it is designed to be used for the six years of elementary school education. Many of the bags come with a six-year warranty. Although “randosel” is now available in a variety of colors, its box-shaped design remains unchanged for decades.
Traditionally, the colors of “randosel” are black for boys and red for girls. In addition, children today tend to like other colors including brown, navy, blue, green, silver, purple and pink. Those with lines and decorative stitches as well as custom-made bags are also popular. Made of cordovan, cowhide or synthetic leather, the “randosel” is an expensive item, typically costing around 30,000-50,000 yen. Grandparents often buy them as a commemorative gift for their grandchildren entering a school.
The origin of “randosel” is a backpack called “ransel” that came from the Netherlands. The bag was used first by the Japanese military in the Edo period. It was in the late 1800s that children began to carry the backpack as a school bag. Since it was a luxury gear, it took some time before becoming widespread. Elementary school students commonly used the current style of “randoseru” during the years of rapid economic growth after the mid-1950s.
Recently, marketers of “randoseru” have found a totally new customer segment that was unimaginable several years ago – foreigners. Not only Asian parents buy the bag as a souvenir for their children when they visit Japan, but young people from Europe and the U.S. shop it for themselves. Its popularity increased after Hollywood star Zooey Deschanel was spotted in New York carrying a red “randoseru” early last year. Growing interest in Japanese animation featuring school kids has also something to do with its popularity. The bags are available at duty-free shops in international airports and department stores in Japan.
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