Japanese school backpacks are going genderless as manufacturers release different colors and designs

MATSUYAMA — As many middle and high schools in Japan prepare to introduce gender-neutral uniforms, backpacks for elementary school students are also going gender-neutral, with manufacturers releasing the items in different colors and designs.

Leather goods company Tsuchiya Kaban Co., major retailer Aeon Co. and office furniture maker Itoki Corp. have all introduced the genderless “randoseru” – schoolbags traditionally used by students in grades one through six in Japan – targeting children who have enrolled in elementary school in the past. April, and they sold well. Such backpacks also draw attention to the already active randoseru market for children who will become first graders in the 2023 school year, because the time of the “randoseru hunt” when the whole family is involved in choosing a perfect backpack for the child becoming earlier. year by year.

At the Tsuchiya Kaban backpack fair held at a hotel in Matsuyama city, western Japan, on March 27, a girl who will start elementary school in April 2023 kept not to look in a mirror while she was wearing a gray backpack. She said excitedly, “I like it!”

Some 130 backpacks made up of 63 designs in around 50 colors were lined up. Families were seen checking each backpack in earnest, as children typically use the same ones for six years until graduation, and some children were seen rushing towards the ones that attracted their attention.

One of the most eye-catching displays at the show was the “Reco” series, Tsuchiya Kaban’s range of randoseru that has the theme of “choosing the color that best represents itself” regardless of gender. Traditionally, boys used black backpacks, while girls chose red ones.

Tsuchiya Kaban Co.’s “randoseru” backpack fair for children who will enroll in elementary school in the 2023 school year is held in Matsuyama City on March 27, 2022. (Mainichi/Hiroyuki yamanaka)

The gender-neutral line is available in two types: “basic” priced at 82,000 yen (about $630) each, and “premium” sold at 83,000 yen (about $640) each. The basic type is available in red, black, navy blue, brown and gray, while the other is bright blue, khaki and orange. Natsuki Takahashi, 36, public relations manager for Tsuchiya Kaban, said, “We wanted to break down fixed ideas like ‘this color is for boys’ and ‘this color is for girls.’ where children can freely choose what they like by choosing a randoseru themselves.”

A girl chose a “prism blue” backpack at the Matsuyama salon. His 41-year-old mum said: “My child wanted blue from the start, and Reco’s concept that a child can choose any color they want, regardless of gender, helped us choose the right one for them. .” The company will continue to accept reservations for backpacks until July 31.

According to Tsuchiya Kaban’s online survey of parents who have children due to enroll in primary school starting in the 2022 school year, conducted over two days in April 2021, 83.1% of 326 valid responses favored the idea of ​​eliminating fixed gendered school backpack color concepts. To a question about the main points to consider when buying such backpacks, with several possible answers, “choose a color and a design that the child likes” was the most frequently chosen answer by 71.5% of respondents, outperforming selected “lightness” and “price” by 52.5% and 47.5%, respectively.

Other school backpack manufacturers have followed Tsuchiya Kaban’s lead, and genderless colors and designs have become a popular trend for backpacks for children expected to enroll in the 2023 school year.

Aeon launched 24 colors for its school backpacks in 2001 under its former Jusco brand. After receiving customer reviews, such as “I like the color but not so much the design,” the retailer introduced simply designed, gender-free school bags for children enrolled in School 2022, and they apparently popular. Itoki also introduced backpacks with neutral designs by removing elements generally preferred by specific genders, inspired by concepts such as Finnish nature. Of the company’s 25 new models, six are genderless.

University of Marketing and Distribution Science Associate Professor Kozue Goto, whose expertise includes marketing theory and branding, pointed out, “The genderless acceptance movement is observed mainly among the younger generations. It’s a chance for companies to capitalize on a new market. improving products and services. They will have to prepare product ranges sorted by new concepts. »

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Yamanaka, Matsuyama Bureau)

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