The Randoseru School Backpack – What Kids Need to Carry!
Contributed by KA Mom (Mum!) Diane K.
My daughter will be starting grade two in a few weeks now.
After arriving in Japan only a year ago it has been a big change for us. One of the biggest changes was starting elementary school. There are many differences here in Japan compared to my native country when it comes to school, and one of the biggest is therandoseru.
A randoseru is basically a backpack. It dates back as far as the end of the 19th century. The word originates from the Dutch word ransel, the square bag that soldiers carried. An elite elementary school started using it in 1885 for its students to carry books. Originally, made of canvas, leather ones eventually came into fashion. Nowadays, you can find a randoseruin local department stores ranging in price from 5,000 yen to up to 80,000 depending on the model and year. Typically, it’s something that the grandparents buy as a present for entering elementary school, and is meant to be used for 6 years, with some kids growing out of them earlier.
One important point many people look for when choosing a randoseru is the weight, as the children have to carry so many things back and forth from school everyday. It will depend on your school but here is a list of things that my daughter has in hers.
Pencil case (ふでばこ)
A plastic sheet for writing on (したじき)
Contact notebook between teacher and parents (れんらくちょ)
The contact book goes inside the contact bag (れんらくちょ)
A notebook to be used in free time (じゆうノ-と)
A notebook to tell things to the teacher like a diary (あのね)
A math notebook to do in class activities (さんすうかんがえるノ-ト)
A math text book (あたらしいさんす)
A notebook for doing extra work (じしゅがく)
A math drill book (けいさんドリル) abbreviated to (けドリル)
A math drill notebook (ドリルノ-ト)
A kanji drill book (かんじドリル) abbreviated to (かんど)
A kanji practice note book (かんじノ-ト)
A Japanese reading textbook (こくご)
On the days that she has the subject she has to bring the following books:
Life Sciences (せいかつ)
Arts and crafts (ずがこうさく)
Yes, It is a lot for a little body to carry. To give you a better idea of the weight, my daughter, for a rather tall first grade student weighs 26.4 kg (58 lbs) and her randoseruwhen fully packed weighs 3.4 kgs. (7.5 lbs), around 13% of her body weight. This is important as not only does she need to carry her randoseru but she also has many other things to carry back and forth to school. Many of which are hooked onto the randoseru.
Water bottle/Thermos with tea. (すいと)
A bag for carrying gym clothes (てさぎぶくろ)
Gym clothes (たいそふく)
Indoor shoes and a bag to carry them (うわくつ)
A bag for carrying lunch items with chopsticks and lunch mat
All of her clothes do not have pockets so we attach a bag with tissue and handkerchief in it.
Twice a month I have to wash and iron the chef coat and hat as thekids take turns serving food. She has to bring it home and take it back with a mask.
*Some kids also need to take a toothbrush and cup.
Now, like my daughter asked me, why do they have to carry it back and forth from school everyday?
Well, one of the reasons is that they do not have the storage space in their desks or in the classroom to keep the books, but according to one elementary school teacher:
— firstly, the students have to learn how to pack their bags and follow their daily schedules which are kept on the cover of the randoseru
— secondly, the teachers are hoping the the students are doing extra study at home to review what they learned that day.
Hence, the notebook they have for extra study. (じしゅがく).
Getting your children ready for elementary school in Japan can be a daunting experience filled with many questions. And many Japanese people view their randoseru as a big part of their elementary school experience. In fact, once your child finishes their primary years and still wants to hold onto their randoseru, you might consider converting it into a mini handbag, key chain or some other memorable item. I guess better than having all of thoserandoseru filling up the “rando”fill.