POSTED BY DANNY CHOO On Mon 2009/01/26 08:30 JST in Japanese Culture

When I first started to follow Japanese culture, I saw these bags in anime, manga, J Dorama and in magazines. I then came over to Japan and started to wonder why all the kids had one and why there were all the same shape n size.

These bags are known as "Randoseru" which is the Japanese pronunciation of the Dutch word "Ransel" meaning "Backpack" and are used by elementary school children in Japan.
They were first introduced into Japan as a backpack for commissioned officers in the imperial army during the Meiji period.

The Randoseru was then introduced into governmental schools as the standard commuting bag.

A randoseru is a compulsory school item that ones grandparents usually buy for their grandchildren and usually cost 2 kidneys and a bladder - take this one for example - 57750 yen!
Most randoseru are made from sturdy leather. Some are made of leather-like material but still cost a bomb.

Some "NASA" randoseru developed in space?

These ones going for a bit cheaper at 43050 yen.
Most kids usually have one randoseru that lasts them throughout their 6 years in elementary school - given that and the fact that most schools make it compulsory, grand/parents don't really have a choice but pay such high prices. Once the market price for something has been set over here, as people expect to pay that sum, there is no reason to charge less - a bit like this safety pin that costs 151 USD.

Traditionally, the boys carry black and girls carry red randoseru. The empty weight is over a kilo and I've seen kids which randoseru stuffed with a ton of text books.
This randoseru costs 57750 yen.

More standard color randoseru. Some modern school these days dont enforce use of the randoseru but those are still the minority. Some schools have their own issued randoseru with the school emblem seal on the bag. Some schools make first year elementary school children cover their randoseru with a yellow reflective cover to make them stand out while they commute to school.

That was another interesting thing I found about Japan - small school kids traveling on their own on the trains - never saw that back in London. Do kids travel safely on their own in your neck of the woods?

So I thought I'd spend 120000 yen on one because Rinn from Kodomo no Jikan has one (not).

My brother in law's daughter was raised in Japan but has been back in China for a few years now. Shes staying with us for a few weeks and gets to go to a Japanese elementary school for two weeks. Not sure what type of program it is though. Our next door neighbors loaned us their randoseru that their eldest daughter used for 6 years and I thought I'd inspect it.

Apart from a few creases here n there, the randoseru is still in pretty good condition. An ad for Tenshi no Hane randoseru below.

Bottom of the randoseru. Another randoseru ad this time featuring half Japanese/British Becky-chan.

Inside - has a tough plastic base with visible screws that hold the metal bit to the bottom of the bag.

A few pockets at the front for figmas.

This is what my neice has inside for today's first day at school - not sure about the heavy books as shes over here for only two weeks.

Sturdy straps to last the many years at elementary school.

Rin and her randoseru.
So now we know how much it costs to buy a randoseru for elementary school children, I thought we'd look at how much it costs to send children to school in Japan.

Kindergarten (3 years - public): 729962 yen
Kindergarten (3 years - private): 1611457 yen

Elementary (6 years - public): 2003070 yen
Elementary (6 years - private): 8240327 yen

Junior High (3 years - public): 1414387 yen
Junior High (3 years - private): 3800593 yen

High School (3 years - public): 1561758 yen
High school (3 years - private): 3131439 yen

Total for all public (15 years): 5709177 yen
Total for all private (15 years): 16783816 yen

University is not compulsory but for those wishing to go would spend an average of 5000000 yen for the 4 years.

And then there are International schools. Many gaijin comrades prefer to send their kids to a school where there are other gaijin and the way kids are taught is different from the standard - this costs them 2500000 yen each year. I knew somebody at Microsoft who went back to Seattle because he didn't want his kids brought up on Japanese education but could not afford the annual fixed cost of that 2500000 yen.

Back in the UK, I remember all of my schooling being free - even university back then was free - to top that off, they even gave me money each term to help with my studies. I remember buying a 600 pound VCR which could play PAL and NTSC VHS tapes - NTSC needed to watch the Japanese videos.
I heard things are not so rosy in the UK now and that they charge for university? I took a BA at London University SOAS.

So what is it like in your region then? Does it cost a bomb to send kids to school or is it free?

This article references details at the following sites:-
Wikipedia Japanese
Wikipedia English.

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