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?