Introducing the randoseru. Almost every elementary school kid has one of these bags, although they are not mandatory at most schools it is like a rite of passage, a elementary school status symbol if you will and I have yet to see one of the local kids carrying something different.
The idea behind the bag is durability, they start off with it in grade one and they will use the same bag until the graduate elementary school, 6 years later. Traditionally they were made from leather and some still are but many are made from synthetic materials these days too. Also, it was always the rule that boys had black and girls had red. Some private schools enforce the colour and sometimes the brand too but our school anything goes. These days they are available in every colour going, Ebi-kun wanted green.
Now, these bags are not cheap, the ones I looked at this year ran in the price range of ¥20,000 - ¥59,000 ($248 - $731 / £156 - £460 / €189 - €559) Which, as far as I am concerned is a LOT of money to spend on a kids school bag. For those of you doing this next year, the kindergartens will send home a pile of flyers around summer/early autumn that is when you should start looking at the bags, don't do like we did and leave it too late. Also, in keeping with tradition the grandparents pay for the bag *phew*
We didn't know at the time but if you want a personalised bag you need to order early, by the time we got round to looking the only option was to buy one off the shelf. The personalised ones have a menu so you can pick the bag colour, stitching colour, what type of linings, add stars or hearts etc.
Inside will fit A4 sized books but really it isn't that big and you often see kids with extra bags either in their hand or hanging from the randoseru.
And to answer the question about the alarm, it is in case of an emergency and they are not supposed to set it off unless it is an emergency, that said, I heard quite a few yesterday, I am sure the novelty will wear off soon.
So, Ebi-kun's first day seemed to go OK, they didn't do much learning much to his disappointment and declared that he had no homework as soon as he walked through the door. He was shattered when he got in but once he had eaten he was bouncing off the walls as normal, here's to another 6 years...