Japan’s School Bags Are Expensive And Fashionable

Japan’s School Bags Are Expensive And Fashionable

School children across Japan carry leather backpacks called “randoseru” (ランドセル). Traditionally, kids have carried one of two colours: black for boys, and red for girls. In recent years, however, that’s changed.

Picture: Rakuten

Randoseru, which comes from the Dutch word “ransel”, or “backpack”, vary in price. It’s possible to find them for around $80, but the all-leather backpacks which most parents buy are around $300 and get as expensive as $800 or $900 — or even more, depending on the materials and whether or not they are made in Japan. Most randoseru are made in Japan, and this is used as a selling point. Remember, these are bags that are built to last — and to be used by children from first grade to sixth grade. They need to be well-made, because kids carry the same bag for six years.

(Photo: t06_h)

Picture: t06_h

Earlier this year, American actress Zooey Deschanel was spotted carrying a randoseru in New York. This actually made morning talk shows in Japan, because it’s very surprising for Japanese to see adults carry randoseru. They have such a strong connection with childhood in Japan. Also, the fact the bag had been repurposed for fashion also surprised Japanese viewers (though, some Japanese hipsters have also been known to carry them ironically).

(Photo: Chibi Maruko)

Picture: Chibi Maruko

While other colours besides black and red existed in the past, such as a light red or blue, it wasn’t until the last 10 years that there has been a greater variety in colours and design. Perhaps previous generations might have been more reluctant to carry unusual colours — that, or the variety that exists today simply didn’t exist. Japanese fashion got rather outrageous during the ’90s and early ’00s, and the youth of those decades are now parents, possibly explaining why these randoseru exist.

(Photo: NariNari)

Picture: NariNari

Even with that in mind, my oldest son carries a black randoseru. That colour, along with red, are probably still the most common — and traditional. (Note: some girls carry black randoseru too!) Looking at neighbour kids and family friends, black and red still rule, but for those looking for slightly different randoseru, there are these.

(Photo: Lirico)

Picture: Lirico

Like cowboy randoseru. Which I think is totally rad.

(Photo: Lirico)

Picture: Lirico

It also comes in “Choco Pink”, among several other colours.

(Photo: ayuminee1012)

Picture: ayuminee1012

These are standard looking randoseru with a Mario twist. They’re probably an ideal compromise for parents reluctant to let their kids carry garish randoseru and for kids who want something a little more exciting than your standard satchel.

(Photo: Ryuuuunn)

Picture: Ryuuuunn

This line of randoseru is called “Luminous Glare”, which actually sounds kind of mean!

(Photo: Digitaling)

Picture: Digitaling

These randoseru are made from all sorts of things — like snake, wild boar, ostrich, long-tailed fowl as well as gold and platinum. The prices are astronomical, and normal children do not carry these. Heck, neither do abnormal children, so I doubt this retailer ever sells these. They seem more like PR stunts.

(Photo: 1222Koara)

Picture: 1222Koara

Are those garter belts? No, but they sure look like ’em. These bags are priced at around $US550 each.

(Photo: nike_oky)

Picture: nike_oky

Even Nike has been getting in on the randoseru business! The satchels themselves are not unusual looking, but rather, the fact that Nike, an American sports appeal company, is selling them, is.

(Photo: kids_osiya)

Picture: kids_osiya

And where there’s Nike, there’s probably Puma. Note that this is simply Puma-branded. It’s actually from a famous Japanese randoseru maker. This model costs over $US600.

(Photo: XN)

Picture: XN

This is priced at 95,040 yen or around $US905.

(Photo: Narumiya)

Picture: Narumiya

This one is 97,200 yen — which is $US925.

(Photo: 365yen)

Picture: 365yen

And a rock and roll style Hysteric Glamor skull randoseru will set you back a cool 126,000 yen or $US1,200. That’s a lot of a kid’s school bag!

(Photo: Akujidou)

Picture: Akujidou

This is actually a “randoseru for adults” from a hipster bag company called Akujidou. Priced at 118,000 yen, the randoseru is actually cheaper than some of the school-use ones. But they are playfully crafted and designed to fit adults (instead of regular randoseru, which are made for children), so it’s perfect if you want to go skateboarding.

(Photo: Akujidou)

Picture: Akujidou

Or ride a bicycle with a top hat.

(Photo: Akujidou)

Picture: Akujidou

Or whatever. Call me a traditionalist, but I still think plain old black and red look best.


  • They look exceedingly sturdy and well made. I went through like a squillion bags during my years at school, the Japanese sure do have the right idea … most times!

  • aw man i really like the style of that bag! I’d be happy carrying one at uni, but probably not just everywhere as a fashion statement. Bags are primarily functional for me, and if my laptop doesn’t fit, they’re no good.

  • They’re like Kanken backpacks. Originally designed for Swedish schoolkids but now half the uni crowd in Sydney has those squarish bags.

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