Randoseru: Once a Requirement, Now a Fashionable School Bag

  • When Japanese children start going to elementary school, almost everything has to be uniform, including the backpacks! Randoseru are large, sturdy backpacks which are traditionally given to children upon beginning his or her first year in elementary school. Randoseru is a term that has been derived from the Dutch word “ransel,” simply meaning backpack. This comes in different colors and varieties, depending on children’s preference. It is used by children for carrying their books and other things when they go to school.


    The most popular and traditional color of randoseru, especially for conservative schools, are red and black; for girls and boys, respectively. However, with the changing society, some schools no longer require children to have randoseru. As a solution to the impending decline of sales, the production of different colors was implemented. This was also a way of responding to the changing attitude towards gender-stereotypes; thus, colors of pink, brown, blue, green, dark blue and so on were used. Some even have two-tone colors.


    Do you know that the use of randoseru started a long time ago, even dating back to the Edo Period? It started as a way of carrying the baggage for foot soldiers. It was a Netherlands-style rucksack which they call as “ransel” and is shaped much like the randoseru today.

    In 1885, randoseru started to be used by students who were going to the Gakushuin school. It was a school for noble children, primarily consisting of those belonging to the Imperial family. Since Japanese people honor the soldiers so highly, they thought of honoring the students in the same manner by shaping their bags similar to that of the soldier’s. At that time It was so expensive that only rich people could afford it.

    Contemporary Randoseru

    As mentioned previously, in recent years, randoseru is now available in different colors. It became a kind of fashion while maintaining its original shape. Most girls choose the pink color while boys favor black, brown, green and marine blue. There are even some characters available such as a Hello Kitty randoseru!