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What's Cool

More than just an Ordinary Schoolbag

Part 1

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 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.