April 24, 2006

School Days: The Public Elementary School Bag

When I first came to Japan, I was walking down the street with another teacher. We were suddenly surrounded by little school girls carrying these bags. He exclaimed, "They look like they're wearing mailboxes!"

Girls carry red ones. Boys carry black. Over the years, more colors were made available. The bags are called randoseru. They are made of leather and they are very bulky. Nowadays, they are more lighweight than the old ones. The back has a little bit more padding than it used to. The straps have always been adjustable.

First graders look overwhelmed especially with these huge bags on their backs. In our neighborhood, they wear a bright yellow hat and put a yellow cover on the outside flap of their randoseru. It is a signal to everyone to watch out for them. By sixth grade, the bags look rather small on big students. They can be a rather tight fit by then. Junior high students get new bags. They choose their own style of bags and they don't have to match everybody else's. I'm sure that little bit of freedom is appreciated. Junior high students wear uniforms whereas elementary public school students don't.

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