Travel

Japanese Backpacks aka Randoseru

by Leila on April 13, 2013

Randoseru are Japanese Backpacks

If you have watched anime, are into cosplay, read manga or seen a Japanese movie with school kids in it then you would probably recognize the “Randoseru” Japanese backpacks. Randoseru comes from the Dutch word “Ransel” which means backpack.

These have been the standard backpack in Japanese culture since the 1960’s. Their origin dates back to at least to 1885 when soldiers were using a canvas backpack called “ransel” that had the same shape. It later became the norm to make these out of leather so they last a long time.

Traditionally kids will start kindergarten or 1st grade with a brand new randoseru and keep it into their middle school years. This is usually a gift from their grandparents. Before recent times, girls used red backpacks and boys used black but as the Japanese culture shifts to a more individualistic society these come in a range of colors. They make two toned backpacks, that are slightly larger and lighter for older kids… I really want a black and red one. Just saying.

These backpacks are solid and many people cherish theirs. They can literally last a lifetime.

I guess that is why they can run from $300 – $850+ !!

Yes, those are some pricey backpacks (well, not the ones I bought. But, I will get to that…).

Yes, I cringe at that price tag. Then again some women spend hundreds on purses so why not, right? Logically if you think about it most parents buy their kid a new backpack every year. Backpacks in the states can cost around $20-30. If a randoseru is expected to last at least 6 years then it’s a decent investment. The market has been set for these backpacks, their sales haven’t slowed and since they are mandatory in some schools they will continue to be a big part of a students life.

Besides… LOOK AT THEM!

Randoseru Japanese Backpacks

So. Cute. Totally worth it… especially if my Dad was paying for them and not me! Did you read that Dad!?

When I traveled to Japan with my Dad the kids really wanted backpacks. My daughter has asked for a randoseru for a very long time but I just couldn’t justify the cost. While we were in Tokyo it was back to school shopping season so I had hoped to find some school supplies for the kids.

I knew the cost of a randoseru and didn’t even think I would consider getting one.

I don’t read enough of the Japanese language to understand what I am looking at… but, for some reason I lucked out that day. There was a huge display rack with randoseru in every color. There were even accessories. I read 35,000 yen (Over $350) and up to 95,000 yen (Over $1k!!!) for these backpacks. Then something caught my eye.

I saw two randoseru backpacks on the backside of the display case. One was in a box and one was displayed. They both had a code number of 5180 on the box and on a tag on the displayed one.

The sign below it said 2,000 yen (insert lots of Japanese words all over the sign), “2010” and “5180”.

My brain said grab those because I think that sign says the randoseru model # 5180 from the year 2010 is marked down to 2,000 yen!!

Uh, thats like $30.

That’s like impossible.

I asked my Aunt to translate it and she couldn’t believe I was right. We asked a sales woman she she confirmed it. I had hit the randoseru japanese backpack jackpot! I love finding sales as much as I love drinking sake and eating sushi.

I may not read Japanese but I do read discounts. I really wish I had thought about taking a picture of the sign but my hands were a bit full at that point.

My Aunt said that since it’s an older style that kids may not want it or like it so that is why it was marked down so much. Those details aren’t important to my kids since there is nothing to compare them to!

Yes, usually only girls wear red randoseru but my son LOVES red. He would have probably picked out the red one anyway. They love their backpacks and I think I’ve made them paranoid about taking good care of them. I love that I found a great deal on them because, I may not have allowed the kids to use them if I paid full price . And I not-so-secretly wait for the day they decide they don’t want to use them anymore… I would totally wear one and use it as a purse!

So, what about you… Would you spend that much on a backpack that could last years?

 

 

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Sakura aka Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo, Japan

The national flower of Japan is the gorgeous sakura which is known by most in the states as the cherry blossom tree. It’s delicate petals, ranging from five to one hundred, glowing against the sunlight are truly enchanting when you see them with your own eyes. There is a reason these flowers inspire poetry, stories and songs… they are remarkable.

Cherry Blossoms aka Sakura in Japan

Every time I traveled to Japan as a kid it was always during the summer. I love Japan and consider it a part of my heart, love and who I am. However, the summer weather there is like being a sauna in a snowsuit and it is not something that most desire. Even sweaty everything weather can be ignored to enjoy Japan during the summer months…

Except you can’t enjoy sakura during the summer. That is something special just for the spring.

Actually, you can’t even enjoy sakura for long when they bloom in the spring. It is truly the kind of gorgeousness you have to enjoy in the moment because when they bloom they only last for a touch over a week. It seems almost bittersweet or even unfair that something so lovely is short lived.

I like to see it as natures reminder to live in the moment, appreciate what you can when you can and enjoy it.

I was told by my family that the cherry blossoms usually bloom early April in the Tokyo area but this year we were fortunate that they decided to bloom early for our trip. When we arrived the blossoms were blooming and as wel left they were falling. When the petals fall it creates a spring snowfall of flowers and something I have never seen before.

Sakura falling creates a spring snowfall of petals

My aunt wrote to my Dad just before our trip and told him that sakura was all around Tokyo waiting to greet us and we may travel to Kyoto to see more.

My Dad, being the awesome and easily confused person he is (love you Dad!), was thinking this had something to do with dogs. One of my aunts in Japan has a small dog named Sakura… why my Dad thought the dog was going to greet us or that we would travel a few hours from Tokyo to see more dogs baffles me.

It just added ammo to make fun of him. That is my favorite part because I am such a nice daughter. 😛

 

Traveling to Japan When Sakura are in Bloom

Ueno Park, My Dad, The Sakura and I

 

 

Ueno Park, The Sakura and Me making faces...

Tokyo was transformed with these beautiful flowers and you don’t realize how many sakura trees there are until they are in full bloom. The cherry blossoms blanketed an already magnificent city in absolute beauty.

We walked around the local park the first morning I was there on our way to Tokyo Skytree. I took so many pictures and could have spent the entire day there. Viewing sakura is called “hanami” and it is a very popular activity all over Japan and this became obvious when we went to Ueno Park. People laid out tarps early in the morning and picnicked all day and most through the night to sit under the beautiful sakura trees and celebrate. Picnicking under the Sakura trees and enjoying the night festivals is something I cannot wait to experience with my kids.

Traveling in Japan during the spring for Sakura Hanami Festivals is very popular. It is also very crowded and the peak travel time in Japan. If you find yourself planning a trip to Japan and want to experience the beauty of the sakura I highly recommend making it happen. The average bloom times vary in different regions of Japan… the southern areas, like Okinawa, bloom as early as January while most are in early April.

If you want to check out Cherry Blossoms in the states there are many parks that have them since Japan gave the United States thousands of Cherry Blossom trees in 1910. The gift of Sakura has been ongoing since then and some varieties have been raised to tolerate warmer climates. If you want to get a taste of the Japanese culture keep an eye out for “Cherry Blossom Festivals” in your local area… there are many happening all the time in March! 

Sakura in Japan

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Traveling to Japan

 

 

Traveling to Tokyo is something I did often as a kid. While many of my friends went to summer camp I often spent a chunk of my summers in Japan. I had no idea then how fortunate I was. I’m half Japanese and my ethnicity has molded me in many ways and so did traveling to Tokyo as often as I did.

I have family that lives in Tokyo, Japan that I hadn’t seen for over 15 years. The last trip I took to Japan was when I was a teenager and I was there for almost two months. At that time I thought I would move to Japan when I turned 18 and live there for a few years. I even planned on getting a job with one of the international airlines so I could travel back and forth from Japan to the US.

Then life happens, things change and time slips away. The things we were sure we would do changes as does our interests.

I don’t regret staying in the states but I do regret not making visiting Japan a priority. I allowed over 15 years to pass between visits. Life, at times, has been more than difficult especially since I was a single Mom for so long with two kids… one of which has special health needs.

Traveling internationally with kids is difficult to say the least. Traveling with a child with special health needs and life threatening food allergies makes things a little more complicated. But, I want my kids to experience Japan and I hate feeling like my kids can’t do something because of their health.

When my Dad planned his trip to Japan this year he invited me to come with him. Actually, I think I invited myself! I was very excited but also had a huge amount of guilt being away from my kids.

I realized if I am able to go to Japan and familiarize myself with everything again it will make it so much easier to plan a trip with the rest of my family. That may seem like a lame justification. However, going to another country and not knowing how to modify our trip to make it safe for my daughter petrified me from planning it.

And, of course, there have been the tsunami and radiation concerns these past two years that delayed bringing them.

On top of all of that I also needed to realize I do not need to have an excuse to make time for myself. I haven’t had a vacation of my own since becoming a Mom. Yes, I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing travel opportunities from my blog, with the kids and friends/family but those are still an amount of work involved.

This was also the first time in many years since my Dad and I have spent a lot of time together. I honestly can’t remember the last time we traveled just us… if ever. Again… time is a tricky thing and so is life.

We booked the trip in January and the trip was here before I knew it!

Finally… Traveling to Japan Again

The flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo is a long one. I had my backpack loaded up with my MacBook, Kindle Fire and iPad. I tossed in a couple books and notebooks. I figured all that time without distractions from the kids would result in some extra writing and wrapping up projects.

When we got settled into our seats my Dad looked at me and said, “Yes! This is where I catch up on movies! If you time it right you can watch five of them.”

Every time someone speaks over the intercom on the airplane it pauses your screen. Each time the pilot or flight attendant started to speak my Dad would make a frustrated face. They were cutting into his movie time! It was funny watching him get so upset.

I don’t watch a lot of TV or Movies and when I do I tend to multitask. I think this makes my sweetie crazy because I will miss things or he will say “Watch this part!” if my attention is diverted. The night before I left we watched Wreck it Ralph and I painted my nails and my daughter’s nails the whole time. I heard the whole story but I can’t tell you in exact detail what some of the scene looked like. Basically, it’s rare for me to just relax and watch something.

I ended up spending 12 hours enjoying movies and reading. It was glorious. The flight is long, your body gets sore sitting that long and the food sucks… but the silver lining is that it felt like a mini vacation to just be able to chill out.

Sure, spending 12 hours on a patio overlooking the beach would have been much better but I will take what I can!

Important or Obscure things to mention about International Flights:

* If you sit at the back of the plane you may not get a choice in food. We were just handed what was left. Twice they had to scrounge to find my Dad a snack. The food was terrible… Bring your own food but no liquids!

* If you sit next to a guy who speaks no english, picks his nose and wipes it on his pants constantly and sleeps with his head rested on a pillow on the seat in front of him while drooling do NOT stop trying to take pictures of this. I tried to be sneaky but the pictures didn’t come out and I was worried he would wake up a fling a boogie at me. It’s truly my only regret. It would have almost been worth the boogie flinging.

* If you are the type of person to do what I listed above on a plane do NOT sit next to me. I will document it in greater detail if I am ever put in that situation again. hehehe

* Accept before going on a plane that there may be babies or children and traveling with kids is much harder on them than you. Yes, they can be loud but I found captain drooling nose picker next to me much more annoying than the baby who cried a few times in flight. Making loud passive aggressive remarks, whining about it and complaining doesn’t change this fact… it just makes you look like a jerk. Even if other jerks agree. There is this wonderful thing called technology – use your earplugs and cut those kids some slack.

* Stretch often, bring a donut neck pillow and don’t be afraid to look like a weirdo and stretch in your chair.

* The trip TO Japan isn’t so bad as far as adjusting to the time difference goes. We left around noon and a looooong plane ride later we landed in time for dinner! On the way back sleep as much as you can because you will lose a day. I like to say that it was like a wibbly wobbly timey wimey plane of stuff and I time traveled leaving at 5pm in Tokyo and arrived in the morning in California.

* Why do so many people cut in line going ON an airline? There is a huge line already for the previous groups waiting to board so if you are in the final group then go to the back of the line instead of crowding the ticket checker and cutting everyone that has been standing there. It’s not Disneyland with rigid line policies, chances are you will get away with it without anyone saying anything but courtesy is just good for humans.

Sadly, on both flights, I only saw Americans cut lines like this. There was a couple who was behind us on our flight home and they got out of line and walked up to the front and basically elbowed their way in. I heard the guy say “This line is ridiculous!” … No one is going to stop anyone from doing this or throw you in Airport Jail (is there one?!) for acting like a tool but… yeah. Don’t be a traveling tool.

We left on a Sunday and came home the following Monday. We lost a day and gained a day somewhere along the way. Since I cannot possibly wrap up my entire Japan experience or what I have reflected on since then I am going to write many posts on various topics over the next couple of weeks. Have a question or something you want to hear more about? Let me know and I will do what I can to answer it! Here is a little glimpse at our trip…

Traveling to Japan

 

Traveling to Japan - Nikko

 

Traveling to Japan

Traveling to Japan

Traveling to Japan

I will be covering the following things in upcoming posts:

Planning a Trip to Japan
What to see in Tokyo
Nikko, Japan
Restrooms in Japan – It’s an Experience of its Own!
Ueno Park
Public Transportation in Japan as a Foreigner
Traveling to Japan – Tips on Etiquette
Sakura aka Cherry Blossoms – The Beauty of Spring in Japan
Korean BBQ in Japan
Japanese Breakfast
Why 7-Elevens in Japan are Amazing
Food Allergies in Japan
Tokyo Giants – Why Japanese Baseball is insanely Exciting
Japanese Baths and Onsen/Public Bathing
Culture Differences between the USA and Japan
Akihabara – A Tech Geeks and Shoppers Paradise
Harajuku – A Subculture and World of Fashion of its own
Sushi and Sashimi in Japan
Bento – Cute Lunches and Rad Stuff to put Stuff in
Bicycle Culture in Japan – How Moms in Japan Roll
Drinking Coffee in Japan… Like a Boss
Traditional Japanese Desserts
Taking Your Shoes off in Japan – For Homes and some Restaurants

I will update this list with links as I add the posts :) Yikes, I better get writing!

Also, if you follow me on Instagram you can see many pics on there. I will be adding an album of pics from Japan on my Facebook page as well.

Thank you to everyone who was following along on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook on my trip. I loved getting all the feedback and making so many people feel like they were a part of it!

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