Yep, did that last week
We mentioned randoseru in the Only in Japan: Expenses post. I was a tad scathing about them and got told off on Facebook ;)
Well, last week I went out to buy one with my daughter and granddaughter. In Japan, the grandparents often pay for randoseru so we set off on Sunday to go and look at some.
At first my daughter was interested in looking at some stylish satchel type bags, but after a quick discussion I nixed that idea and we headed to Jusco instead. I figure we can buy trendy designer stuff for my granddaughter when she's old enough to want it for herself and able to understand the trade-offs involved. So probably in a few months then ;)
I was actually quite impressed. Jusco had a good range of bags, from 35,000 yen to 70,000 yen and up. All the bags were lightweight and seemed sturdy. They come in a range of colours now, and the more expensive ones have all sorts of designs and trinkets attached.
I figured something plain would be best because this is supposed to last for the next six years. I can imagine buying some fairy princess style thing now only for my granddaughter to turn into a tomboy later and regret her choice.
We ended up getting the cheapest one (which was plain and functional, and at 35,000 yen not particularly cheap!). My granddaughter chose the colour. Luckily at five years old she was overjoyed to have gotten the colour she wanted and was happy with the bag itself.
We'll get the bag in mid-March. If you are also looking to buy a randoseru this year, you might want to do it sooner rather than later.
Now, I am sure there are lots of other options.
For starters, you don't have to buy a randoseru. They are not mandated by schools, so children could take any bag they wanted. This was what led my daughter to look at the satchels, but I figure children basically want to fit in, so a randoseru is the safest choice unless the child has a strong alternative preference.
You could also buy a second-hand one. Looking online you can find decent-looking ones from 3,500 yen. Perhaps we should have explored this option! When I went to boarding school I got my uniform second-hand from the 'nearly-new shop'. No-one noticed or at least they didn't mention it and it never bothered me.
Randoseru are a big part of Japanese culture. There are all sorts of emotional and cultural expectations around them. However, they shouldn't be the cause of stress and financial difficulty.
As with any purchase, being aware of your options and conscious of your needs is the key to having a successful outcome.
This time I wasn't too upset to overpay for the bag: we had a nice day out and my granddaughter will have the bag for a long time. It's also a big deal for my extended family: my wife's parents and ex-husband all wanted pictures and updates. It would have been more trouble than it was worth to try to force another option on them, and I wasn't particularly bothered either way.
Next up: I'm thinking of making a study desk for her. There is a company down the road that helps people build things with wood (they do most of the work cutting, provide the tools and workshop, etc.). I think it will be a fun project to do together. I'll probably post about it if it happens.
What about you? Any experiences or advice on randoseru?