When I first started to follow Japanese culture back in the UK, I saw these bags in anime (Japanese cartoons), manga (comics) and in magazines. I then came over to Japan and started to wonder why all the kids had one and why there were all the same shape n size.
These bags are known as "Randoseru" which is the Japanese pronunciation of the Dutch word "Ransel" meaning "Backpack" and are used by elementary school children in Japan.
They were first introduced into Japan as a backpack for commissioned officers in the imperial army during the Meiji period and then used in governmental schools as the standard commuting bag.
A randoseru is a compulsory school item that ones grandparents usually buy for their grandchildren and usually cost 2 kidneys and a bladder - the most expensive one in this store cost 628 USD! The most expensive randoseru that I've been able to find online costs 1805 USD from Rakuten. Some modern schools these days don't enforce use of the randoseru but those are still the minority. An ad for randoseru below.
So now we know how much it costs to buy a randoseru for elementary school children, I thought we'd look at how much more it costs to send children to school in Japan - costs converted to USD.
-Kindergarten (3 years - public): 7,943 USD
-Kindergarten (3 years - private): 17,536 USD
-Elementary (6 years - public): 21,798 USD
-Elementary (6 years - private): 89,675 USD
-Junior High (3 years - public): 15,392 USD
-Junior High (3 years - private): 41,360 USD
-High School (3 years - public): 16, 995 USD
-High school (3 years - private): 34,078 USD
-Total for all public (15 years): 62,130 USD
-Total for all private (15 years): 182,651 USD
University is not compulsory but for those wishing to go would spend an average of 54,412 USD for the 4 years.
Schooling free or cost a few limbs in your neck of the woods? More photos and sources of figures in the Randoseru article.