Grade schoolers across Japan carry leather backpacks called “randoseru” (ランドセル). Traditionally, kids have carried one of two colors: black for boys, and red for girls. In recent years, however, that’s changed.
Randoseru, which comes from the Dutch word “ransel,” or “backpack,” vary in price. It’s possible to find them for around $80, but the all-leather backpacks which most parents buy are around $300 and get as expensive as $800 or $900, or even more, depending on the materials and whether or not they are made in Japan. Most randoseru are made in Japan, and this is used as a selling point. Remember, these are bags that are built to last, and to be used by children from first grade to sixth grade. They need to be well-made, because kids carry the same bag for six years.
Back in early 2014, American actress Zooey Deschanel was spotted carrying a randoseru in New York. This actually made morning talk shows in Japan, because it’s very surprising for Japanese to see adults carry randoseru. They have such a strong connection with childhood in Japan. Also, the fact the bag had been repurposed for fashion also surprised Japanese viewers (though, some Japanese hipsters have also been known to carry them ironically).
While other colors besides black and red existed in the past, such as a light red or blue, it wasn’t until the last ten years that there has been a greater variety in colors and design. Perhaps previous generations might have been more reluctant to carry unusual colors, or the variety that exists today simply didn’t exist. Japanese fashion got rather outrageous during the 90s and early 00s, and the youth of those decades are now parents, possibly explaining why these randoseru exist.
Even with that in mind, my oldest son carried a black randoseru. That color, along with red, are probably still the most common, and traditional. (Note: some girls carry black randoseru, too!) Looking at neighbor kids and family friends, black and red still rule, but for those looking for slightly different randoseru, there are these.
Like cowboy randoseru. Which I think is totally rad.
It also comes in “Choco Pink,” among several other colors.
These are standard looking randoseru with a Mario twist. They’re probably an ideal compromise for parents reluctant to let their kids carry garish randoseru and for kids who want something a little more exciting than your standard satchel.
This line of randoseru is called “Luminous Glare,” which actually sounds kind of mean!
These randoseru are made from all sorts of things, like snake, wild boar, ostrich, long-tailed fowl as well as gold and platinum. The prices are astronomical, and normal children do not carry these. Heck, neither do abnormal children, so I doubt this retailer ever sells these. They seem more like PR stunts.
Are those garter belts? No, but they sure look like ‘em. These bags are priced at around $548 each.
Even Nike has been getting in on the randoseru business! The satchels themselves are not unusual looking, but rather, the fact that Nike, an American sports appeal company, is selling them, is.
And where there’s Nike, there’s probably Puma. Note that this is simply Puma-branded. It’s actually from a famous Japanese randoseru maker. This model costs over $600.
This is priced at 95,040 yen, or around $898.
This one is 97,200 yen — which is $918.
And a rock and roll style Hysteric Glamor skull randoseru will set you back a cool 126,000 yen or $1,190. That’s a lot for a kid’s school bag!
This is actually a “randoseru for adults” from a hipster bag company called Akujidou. Priced at 118,000 yen ($1,115), the randoseru is actually cheaper than some of the school-use ones. But they are playfully crafted and designed to fit adults (instead of regular randoseru, which are made for children), so it’s perfect if you want to go skateboarding.
Or ride a bicycle with a top hat.
Or whatever. Call me a traditionalist, but I still think plain old black and red look best.
Top photo: Rakuten
This article was originally published on September 3, 2014.
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