We’re Obsessed with Japan’s Randoseru Backpacks

Our love of backpacks is no secret — we can’t get enough of the things. They’re completely utilitarian, they’ve been made in ultra-stylish shapes and colorways over the past few seasons, and they’re a lot less painful and cumbersome than the shoulder bags we normally end up schlepping around town.

And we were super excited when, in the course of our should-we-invest-in-a-new-backpack research, we found what’s called a randoseru, a traditional Japanese children’s backpack.

The word comes from the Japanese mispronunciation of the Dutch word ransel, which means backpack. The bags are hard-sided and generally made of leather, and because of their construction they can weigh about two pounds when they’re empty. As a part of traditional school uniforms, some schools restricted male students to carrying black randoseru and girls to red, but today they’re made in a variety of colors. We totally want one in cerulean.

The problem is they’re prohibitively expensive, and their high quality is reflected in their cost. Unlike the paper-thin canvas JanSport backpacks we used as kids, a randoseru is the kind of bag you buy once and never have to replace. Ever.

We found a well-built, basic black one on sale here for $200, but randoseru can get a lot more expensive than that. This one clocks in at 165,900 Yen, or over $1,800.

But, we’ve been tempted to spend more than that on bags before (the Hermes Birkin, anyone?). Two hundred dollars is a small price to pay for a great bag, and a very small price to pay for a piece of storied Japanese fashion history.

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