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Senseis’ Voices

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN JAPAN?

ランドセル(Randoseru)

A nyūgakushiki, or school entrance ceremony, is held each year on April 1. It occurs on the first day that six–year-old children attend school.  There are many things that both parents and children are required to prepare and purchase for this day. One of these items is a randoseru, or satchel, which children use every day of their primary schooling career from their first day of school until graduation. These days, a randoseru typically costs about 40,000 yen.


Ajari,  2009 [CC BY 2.0] (Flickr)

Randoseru is derived from the Dutch word ransel, meaning ‘backpack’. Randoseru were first used by primary students in 1885 at Tokyo’s prestigious Gakushūin Primary School. This move was based on the school’s policy of equal education for all regardless of background. Noting that some students from well-to-do families commuted to school by horse-drawn carriage while some came by foot, the school made it a rule that all students must walk to school and carry their own school supplies. The school produced a special school bag for the students to allow them to easily carry their belongings. This bag was the predecessor of the randoseru we know today.

Adults in Japan do not use randoseru because it is commonly regarded that they are only for primary students. However, overseas tourists have recently started buying randoseru as souvenirs for everyday use, commenting that they are durable, fashionable and ‘cool’. Randoseru producers have now started making the bags for adults to target these tourists. Some randoseru can even cost thousands of dollars!

By Michie Akahane, JPF Sydney
Contributed: March 2018

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