Thursday, April 1, 2021



internet photo

April is the start of the new school year in Japan. All Japanese elementary school students use these same backpacks called randoseru. They are well made and expensive and are used for the six years of elementary school.  My students tell me that often the child's grandparents buy the randoseru. 

These sturdy school bags have a long history in Japan. During the Edo period (1603 - 1868), the government was influenced by the western-style military gear of the Netherlands for the soldiers in Japan. The name "randoseru" comes from the old Dutch word for backpack, ransel or rantsel. 

Beginning in about 1885, these sturdy leather backpacks were marketed for use by the country's elementary school students. In 1887, the future Emperor Taisho was given one when he began elementary school. By the 1960's their use was wide-spread across the country, with black for boys and red for girls. Many of my students confirm this color coding when they were children, but now all colors are available.  

When I was in grade school, I had a satchel with a cross body strap that I carried my books and supplies in. I don't remember children carrying backpacks then. I like the randoseru better than my old satchel.  What did you carry your school items in when you were an elementary school student?


Jeanie said...

I honestly don't ever remember carrying school items when I was a kid. I have NO idea. Our books stayed at school, I THINK. Or maybe we just carried them home by hand (which I DO think we did in junior high and beyond). Never a backpack. Or satchel. I'll have to ask my friend from school is she remembers.

It's a good idea. That way kids are more equal -- no one has their "designer" bag.

jacaranda said...

The history is very interesting. My school bag for high school was a bag with 2 handles which we carried over one shoulder. With so many heavy books in it, no wonder our shoulder always hurt. I think I remember that backpacks came into school fashion due to Drs saying the other bags were damaging our shoulders and posture.

Vireya said...

In primary school we had small vinyl bags with airline logos on them and a shoulder strap. Not that anyone had travelled anywhere in a plane! I think they were sold at markets or even possibly variety stores, specifically as school bags. We had to carry our lunchboxes in them, also often a drink bottle with frozen cordial in it, as well as any exercise books we had done homework in. I remember doing writing practice at home in an exercise book, as well as "times tables".

At high school there was a uniform bag with the school logo on it, which sounds like it was similar to Jenni's above.

diamondc said...

Pamela: I think it is grand that they all carry the same bag, if only that would happen here in the USA, then no competition of who has the best bag.
Have a wonderful school year.


gail said...

My brother and I both went to elementary school for several years In Fukushima Ken in the early 1960’s. I still have my red rondoseru with my first and second grade text books and I also have the Math kit that I was issued from school. The textbooks are quite thin paperbacks. Recently I saw a documentary about randoserus which indicated that there are some pretty expensive ones in a vast array of colors and designs available for students today.

Shami Immanuel said...

Pretty photo. Interesting to hear.

Leonore Winterer said...

When I was in elementary school, we had big sturdy backpacks called 'Schulranzen' - I suspect the German 'Ranzen' might be related to the Dutch word! They weren't quite was uniform looking as the randoseru though, there were several slightly different shapes and all kinds of colours and patterns available.