Popular even overseas! About the School Bags (randoseru) in Japan




Have you ever heard of "randoseru" (ransel)? Randoseru refers to a bag used by elementary school students to go to school, but for the Japanese, it is not just a bag; it has a special meaning.
We have two elementary school students in our family, and even before the start of the school year, the topic of what to do about school bags came up among parents (before our child became 5 year-old), and I was surprised. It's more than a year until the start of school, and we're already preparing for school bags! It seems that even among children, they were getting excited about what color to choose.
Randoseru (school bags) are attracting attention overseas as a fashion item, with the overheating school bag sales battle being referred to as the ラン活 "ran-katsu" (ran-activities) and their use by overseas celebrities. In this article, I will introduce you to these Japanese school bags.

・What is a randoseru?

Randoseru are special school bags used by Japanese elementary school students. It is usually made of leather, solidly built, and is used throughout the six years of elementary school. randoseru are rarely used for purposes other than for elementary school students commuting to and from school.
Randoseru are square in shape, wide inside, and can hold many items such as textbooks, notebooks, tablets, and other stationery. Currently, they are available in a wide variety of designs, colors, functionality, and are purchased according to children's preferences and school regulations.

・History of randoseru

The history of randoseru dates back to the Edo period, more than 500 years ago, and is said to have originated from a backpack used by samurai of the shogunate and clans. In the Meiji Period (1868-), schools were founded and students needed school supplies to carry with them. A backpack-like bag was used to carry school supplies, which was carried on the student's back to keep both hands free. This backpack was called a "ransel" in Dutch, which later became known as a randoseru (school bag).
In 1888, it was recorded that a box-shaped school bag was adopted for students instead of a backpack. In 1891, black leather was decided as the material for school bags, and in 1898, the detailed shape and dimensions were standardized.In this way, the randoseru (school bag) became firmly established as the go-to bag for Japanese students, and while it has undergone many changes over the years, its basic style has remained unchanged.

・What is a randoseru to the Japanese?

The school bag culture in Japan has a long history and is deeply embedded in society. Many Japanese people even associate "randoseru" as the first thing they think of when they talk about elementary school students. Because many children continue to use their school bags throughout six years of school, they are valued not only as a mere school bag, but also as a special reminder of their daily school life together. In addition, randoseru are usually given as a congratulatory gift from parents or grandparents before entering school. Children have a strong sense that "randoseru = becoming an elementary school student", and the phrase ランドセルの一年生 "randoseru no ichinensei" (randoseru first grader) is often used. Therefore, in Japan, the purchase of a randoseru is a special event for parents and children.
Currently, the randoseru sales season begins before the spring of the year prior to the start of school, with exhibitions and other events held in various locations. The most popular items are sold out before summer. The activities leading up to the purchase of school bags are called ラン活 "ran-katsu" (ran-activities) and an increasing number of families are visiting many exhibition halls from an early stage to buy expensive school bags.

・The evolution of randoseru

Throughout its history, randoserus have undergone various improvements and innovations to make them more comfortable and functional. In recent years, randoserus have become more diverse in design and functionality. Traditionally, "black" for boys and "red" for girls were the standard, but over the past 20 years or so, a variety of colors and materials have been used. Colorful, pop designs and collaborations with character goods are increasingly being incorporated to please children. The colors favored by boys and girls have also changed, and randoserus have become an item for children to express their individuality.
In addition, significant progress has been made in terms of functionality. randoserus have been designed to reduce the weight of the bag and to avoid putting strain on the back. In addition, convenient functions for daily life have been added, such as waterproofing, improved durability, and ventilation. Furthermore, randoserus with smart features such as glowing LED lights, GPS functions, and USB ports have also been introduced in recent years.

・Popular overseas? Japanese randoseru


One of the main reasons for the popularity of randoseru overseas is the influence of Japanese anime and manga. Anime and manga are popular worldwide, and the randoseru carried by the characters in them are attracting attention. Interest in school bags is also growing, especially in Europe, the United States, and East Asia.
Japanese randoseru are not only of high quality, but are also rich in design, with colorful shades and character collaborations. This unique style is also attracting attention overseas, with photos of foreign celebrities carrying randoseru on their backs becoming a hot topic among fashion-conscious people. Increasingly, tourists visiting Japan, especially from Europe, the United States, and China, are buying school bags as souvenirs.


When the new school year begins in April, first-year students with school bags on their small bodies can be seen lined up to go to school. By the time they reach 6th grade, the year of graduation, the randoseru are so used up that they feel small on their grown-up bodies. In recent years, they have become popular as souvenirs, so please take a look at them when you visit Japan!