Most Japanese elementary children travel to their schools each day with a special kind of backpack known as a “randsel.” This boxy school satchel is used to hold textbooks, notebooks, and other essential items.
Many of the satchels are made of artificial leather, while others may be of natural horse or cow leather. Until around 2000, the preferred colors were black for boys and red for girls, but now a greater variety of colors is available, from camel to viridian and indigo. Many girls today favor brown and rose colors, while many boys still hold on to “orthodox” black. The bags' sizes have also changed. The typical main container section of a randsel used to be 215 mm by 300 mm, but several new and slightly larger sizes were introduced last year, when textbooks also became larger.
Outside Japan, some university students and young people use randsel. In Japan, however, almost nobody older than elementary school children carry them. Here, the association of randsel with elementary school is very strong. A typical Japanese springtime scene is the site of small children carrying new randsel on their back.
Updated: February 27, 2020