This Randoseru Backpack Rethink Angered Some Grumpy Grown-Ups

This Randoseru Backpack Rethink Angered Some Grumpy Grown-Ups

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Girl carrying randoseru backpack
Picture: 8x10 / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
Adults in Japan took to social media to lambaste a new backpack accessory. And then the kids who designed it clapped back.

Kids these days. They don’t know the joys of walking to school in the snow, uphill, both ways. At least, I’m sure that’s what some Japanese social media users thought when they lit into this redesign of Japan’s famous randoseru backpack. However, it was the randoseru’s designers – a group of kids – who had the last laugh.

What is a randoseru?

A randoseru (from the Dutch ransel) is a well-made backpack primarily used by elementary school kids in Japan. If you’ve seen a schoolkid around this age in Japan, chances are you’ve also seen them sporting a randoseru backpack.

The Dutch ransel came into fashion during Japan’s Meiji era primarily as military equipment. According to one manufacturer, it became popular for school use in the 1880s. Schools began barring richer students from commuting to school by rickshaw or horse. So students began wearing randoseru to haul their materials to and from class[1].

Why are randoseru so expensive?

If you know anything about randoseru, you know they’re pricy AF. In 2021, parents in Japan spent an average ¥55,000 (around USD $411) on one. Almost 28% say they spend over ¥60,000 on this essential piece of school equipment[2].

So why are randoseru so expensive? One thing to keep in mind is that randoseru are built to last. Unlike a cheap backpack from Target, a randoseru will ideally last a student through their first six years of school. So, yes, they’re pricey. But it’s a one-time cost that will last the student until middle school.

Lightening the load: the samposeru

The “sampo-seru”, a randoseru backpack designed to be carried like luggage.

Randoseru aren’t just expensive – they’re also heavy. According to a survey by Asahi Shinbun, the average randoseru backpack weighs around 8.5lbs. And 90% of students surveyed said they felt their loads were too heavy[3].

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So it’s little wonder that a pack of kids decided to take matters into their own hands. A group of elementary schoolers in Tochigi Prefecture came up with the “sampo-seru” (さんぽせる). A portmanteau of randoseru and the word sampo (散歩, walking), the samposeru does just what it says. The metal rack on wheels is designed to fit almost any randoseru. Once attached, the user can drag their backpack around like they would a suitcase. The device lightens the heavy load that elementary schoolers have to carry by around 90%.

The carrier sells for around ¥5500 (ca. USD $50). To call it a hit would be an understatement. Orders have already reached 3,000 units. And there’s a three-month wait for new orders. Honestly, I wouldn’t have expected anything less from the country that makes the world’s best toilet seats.

You can see the invention in action in this video from TBS Dig[4]:

“Look at it before you spout off!”

Who could have a problem with a delightful invention such as this?

Adults, that’s who.

Grumpy people with nothing better to do with their lives flocked to Twitter. I guess to complain about how the samposeru would make Japanese kids weak…or something. Several argued that the device was inconvenient. Even dangerous. What happens when you go downhill?!

But perhaps the funniest comment was the person who proclaimed: “Whoever invented this doesn’t understand kids at all!” (Who’s gonna tell ‘im?)

A post about the samposeru garnered over 1,000 such comments. Many of them were negative. But what came next was fantastic: the kids took to Twitter to respond to some of the more egregious complaints.

For example, someone asked, “Wasn’t the randoseru designed to protect your back and head if you fall over?” To which one of the kids replied: “The randoseru will knock you over itself ’cause it’s so heavy! You walk around with a bunch of kerosone bottles strapped across your back – you’ll fall over too!”

Another: “If you lose hold of it on a downhill it’ll be nothing but tears. What if it hits someone?”

The reply: “It has two tires – how’s it gonna roll down a hill? We thought about that in the design. Look at it before you spout off!”

If this inventing thing doesn’t work out, these kids have bright futures as social media mavens.

In all seriousness, a doctor who worked with the kids on the project reports they were all taken aback by the negativity. “The kids and I think thought people would tell us we’d done good. [The criticism] is really crushing.”

Hopefully they can brush it off and keep kicking ass. Meanwhile, this is a good lesson for all of us to think before we go off online. You never know who’s reading on the other side of the screen…

10-Year-Old School-Skipping “Revolutionary” Goes Viral in Japan

Footnotes

[1] 中村鞄のランドセル。Nakamura Kaban

[2] ランドセルの相場は?人気メーカーの価格帯とおすすめ12選. Bio-Cafe

[3] ランドセル、どんどん重く? 大量の教科書とタブレットと水筒と… Asahi Shinbun

[4] 重たいランドセルに希望の光?小学生が開発した「さんぽセル」に大人が反論!大人VS小学生の「さんぽセル論争」|TBS NEWS DIG

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Jay Allen

Jay manages the technical writing practice for ercule, an SEO, content strategy and analytics firm. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

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