【Strange Customs in Japan】Rankatsu: The reason why Japanese people spend more than 50,000 yen on a school bag "randoseru" for children
The "○○katsu" series that conveys a little strange or unusual culture and customs in Japan. This time, I would like to introduce the word "Rankatsu", which is related to the randsel bag "randoseru" (ランドセル) or school bag used by Japanese elementary school students when they go to school. In Japan, buying a randsel (school bag) is a big event that has a special meaning for parents and grandparents of the children. Why is a school bag so important? You will know once you read the article!
What is a randoseru?
First of all, I will introduce the basic knowledge of randoseru.
Still intact even after 6 years of use! A very durable bag
Even if you are not Japanese, I think there are many people who have seen Japanese school bags, or locally known as randoseru (ランドセル - randsel). A randsel is a bag used by Japanese elementary school students for commuting to school, and generally, the same school bag will continue to be used throughout the six years of elementary school. Therefore, school bags need to be very sturdy and are mostly made of leather. Also, since it is a bag that carries a lot of textbooks and writing utensils every day, it is important that it is light and has a shape that does not burden the child's body.
History of randoseru
The "bagpack for going to school" that can be said to be the origin of "randoseru" began to be used at the GAKUSHUIN (* 1) in 1885. The photo above is a school bag used by Gakushuin Junior High School students during the Meiji era. It had a square shape that was not so different from the current school bag.
By the way, the etymology of school bag is said to be the Dutch word "ransel" (pronounced as 'rantsel' or 'randsel') which means a backpack. Since Japan has been trading with the Netherlands since the Edo period, there are many Japanese words derived from Dutch.
* 1: A private school run by THE GAKUSHUIN SCHOOL CORPORATION, which runs from kindergarten to university. It is also known as the school where the Japanese royal family attends.
Price of randoseru
According to a survey by the Randoseru Kogyokai (ランドセル工業会 - industry association of randoseru makers), the average price of school bags is increasing year by year. In 2000, the average price was 35,000 yen, but in 2021, it was about 55,000 yen.
You may even think that's unbelievable to spend more than 50,000 yen on a child's school bag. The background of the price increase in recent years is that the performance of school bags has improved, such as weight reduction and improvement of toughness, and that the number of school bags that are particular about design has increased compared to the past.
What is Japan's unique custom "Rankatsu"?
Rankatsu is an abbreviation of "Randoseru Katsudo" (ランドセル活動 - school bag activity), which means going to a department store, searching on the Internet, or requesting a catalog in order to select a school bag.
This kind of Rankatsu starts as early as a year before the child enters elementary school. You might think, "Why not just buy it the day before the entrance ceremony?" but that would be too late. Randoseru with popular designs sell out quickly. In order to get the best randoseru before it sells out, you need to do Rankatsu for a year in advance.
It is also common for grandparents to give their grandchildren a school bag as a gift for school admission. In Japan, there are long holidays such as Golden Week (May) and Obon (August), and many children go to their grandparents' house during these holidays. At such time, grandparents take their grandchildren to department stores and buy randoseru.
Until about 20 years ago, there were mainly two types of school bags, black and red. It was common for boys to use black school bags and girls to use red school bags. However, recently, colors and designs have diversified.
The 'randoseru' school bags sold by Tsuchiya Kaban Co., LTD, a randoseru maker in Tokyo founded in 1965, have about 50 colors! It's colorful and it makes you feel excited just by looking at it.
Following the trend toward genderlessness in recent years, the number of randoseru that can be used regardless of gender is increasing.
The number of randoseru that collaborates with brands is increasing. The photo above are randoseru in collaboration with the popular Japanese brand "mina perhonen". The price is over 80,000 yen, but Tsuchiya Kaban offers free compensation for 6 years, so if the randoseru is broken, torn, or worn out during the 6 years of elementary school, it will be repaired free of charge.
As the design of randoseru is diversified and the choices are increasing, it takes longer than before to decide which school bag to buy. Do you understand the reason why Japanese people have to do Rankatsu for a year before a child enters the school now?
Why randoseru are so special
Some people may wonder why Japanese people are so desperate for 'randoseru' school bags.
The Japanese see the enrollment of their children and grandchildren in elementary school as a very big event. Your very own once-very-small children and grandchildren grow up and become elementary school students... In other words, entering elementary school is an event that symbolizes the growth of children. Therefore, the randoseru that symbolizes the entrance to elementary school is also a special existence.
Also, since randoseru are used for 6 years in elementary school, many people think that randoseru as an item full of memories for 6 years. Therefore, after graduating from elementary school, some people make mini randoseru out of the old randoseru they used and keep them as a memorable reminder item.
Why don't you try using a randoseru too?
Randoseru need to be lightweight and sturdy because they will be used by children for 6 years. In other words, they are very high-performance. It is a waste to keep such high-performance bags only for children, so in recent years, randoseru for adults have also been on the market.
And that's it! How did you feel about the strange Japanese custom "Rankatsu"? We look forward to your comments!