In-Store Changes for Japan’s Beloved Student Backpacks


Have you ever heard of randoseru? These are synthetic leather or faux leather backpacks typically used by elementary school children in Japan. Acquired when Japanese students begin their first year of school, the same durable backpacks are generally used until children graduate.

The bags are renowned for their durability, but not without their issues. Randoseru syndrome, for example, refers to a wide range of physical and mental disorders caused by prolonged journeys to school with ill-fitting or overly heavy backpacks carried by children.

To tackle this problem, elementary school students in Tochigi Prefecture came up with a creative solution to randoseru syndrome. And they’re bringing it to market with student support.

Small inventors, big success

Seeking ways to ease their own burden and that of their classmates, a group of elementary school students came up with sanposeu (さんぽセル). They are basically poles with tires that can be attached to a randoseru backpack, allowing it to function as a wheeled suitcase.

Although it has been the subject of much debate, sanposeru has been a hit. Since the product launch in April 2022, students have received approximately 3,000 orders, with a waiting list of up to four months.

News of the product’s release sparked a flood of over 1,000 adult reviews. Elementary school students involved in its elaboration call the situation “the Sanposeru incident” and are outraged.

Despite unwelcome criticism from adults, the little inventors became more determined than ever to pursue their project.

Heavy bags for small children

Another objective of the project is to make adults aware of the problem of the weight of school bags. On June 14, two primary school principals placed orders for sanposeru, the inventors told media.

To make commuting to school less strenuous for more students, they organized a donation-based crowdfunding campaign to distribute free samperu to those who request them through school principals. school, mayors, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and the Prime Minister’s Office, which funded the cost of approximately 3 500 units.

As for the other adults?

“I call on all principals, mayors and ministers who reject samposterus to reduce the weight of their students’ backpacks to half of what it is now. If you do this, you can create an era in which samperu will no longer be needed,” said one of the young inventors.

The binders themselves are getting lighter, but what’s getting heavier are their contents.

The number of pages in textbooks increases every year, as well as the number of subjects taught in Japan.

Due to COVID-19 and other factors, tablets have been introduced in the classroom, but students are now required to bring bottled water to school for infection control as well, which ends up adding weight to their backpacks.

Reflections from the Minister of Education

On June 14, the Minister of MEXT Shinsuke Suematsu reacted to the sanposeru issue by saying, “Children have raised a valuable question, and I hope every school will reconsider how to handle school backpacks and other belongings with children as the first priority.

Continuing, he added, “I saw the photos and was surprised to see that the primary school students themselves had found a solution to the problem.”

“In my opinion, it is remarkable that the children themselves identified the problem, did some trial and error and found a solution with the support of adults. Everyone at the Ministry of Education thinks so too,” Suematsu told reporters.

Why Randoseru?

The iconic backpacks of Japanese students date back to the Edo period, when Japan was heavily influenced by Western culture. They are an adaptation of the Dutch style backpack called a ransel, which was originally used by soldiers. The term itself is of Dutch origin.

Manufacturers have recently introduced a variety of colors, materials and styles in product design, giving today’s children options unimaginable for their parents.

But at the same time, prices have soared and the original bag has become unaffordable for some.

An empty randoseru typically weighs over 1 kg (about 2 pounds), making it heavier than a regular backpack.

Randoseru syndrome

According to Japan Baggage Association and Randoseru Industry Association, the average weight of books and stationery for grades one through six is ​​4.7 kg (10 lb). If the weight of the school bag itself is 1.3 kg, it means that students carry around 6 kg (13 lb) of luggage to school every day.

Carrying a heavy load in the wrong shape will increase the load on children’s shoulders and cause stiffness.

Also, when trying to walk with a full backpack, students will naturally lean forward if their backpack doesn’t fit properly.

It can also cause back pain and a hunchback.

It is said that the six years of primary school is an important period for physical growth, therefore the school bag must be designed and carried correctly to avoid any health problems.

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Author: Shaun Fernando

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