Thursday, March 13, 2008

Elementary School Bags

I actually promised this blog to a friend back home something like five years ago. Her and her daughter (and grandmother!) were curious about elementary school in Japan, some of the differences. I mentioned a few things but didn't get into much detail.

So, here I am with J only two days away from graduating and moving on to junior high, and I finally got to this post.
Bags. To get a glimpse into the life of a Japanese elementary school student, you need to be familiar with bags. This is an unofficial list of all the types of bags that every child must have from first grade on through sixth. A picture of the bag and what's inside.

First is the biggie. The randoseru. The word comes from the Dutch word "ransel" meaning backpack and that is exactly what it is. Every child carries one. Girls carry red. Boys carry black. They have new colors now, pink, green, blue. But 99.9 percent of the time girls carry red, boys carry black. It looks like this.

There are all sorts of clips (for clipping BAGS!) outside and pockets inside. Look at this mess he's got in there. The white card there is J, his address and blood type. Blood types are on everything. Even the kids' gym shirt.

Next, we have the shuji bag/calligraphy bag. This is taken to school on days when the children practice their characters with brush and ink.

Inside is a piece of felt, ink, brushes, paper weights, paper, newspaper print (for blotting) and an ink stone.
Don't forget your flute and your flute bag! It has a clip on the back so it can be stuck just about anywhere.

There is lunch too. All the students and teachers eat school lunch so everyday they bring one of these bags, again clipped to the side of their randoseru.

Inside is a pair of chopsticks, a bandanna for spreading out on their desk (no lunchroom, the kids eat at their own desks), and a mask (Children here take turns getting the school lunches from a room where they've been delivered, and then dishing out the food themselves. The kids who do the handing out wear masks to prevent an accidental sneeze ruining a vat of miso soup.)
Here's a goodie. A sewing kit!

Yet another mess. But I think it is amazing my son has learned how to sew in school. I don't know how to sew yet.

The art bag.

All sorts of goodies inside here. Water colors, brushes, a palate and a big holder for water.
Another fun one. Carving tools. Japanese kids learn how to carve pictures into soft wood. They have these little bags filled with five different shaped carving tools.

That's not all. There are more. I didn't even take a picture of the gym bag, the shoe bag or the cooking class bag (which I can't find, actually). They have a cooking class and learn how to cook! A couple times a year the students get into groups and plan out meals (the teacher checks them to make sure they are nutritionally sound), gather some money, all meet and go shopping for the ingredients. The next day they cook, afterwards inviting the other groups to come share their meals. Blows my mind. I only learned to cook about five years ago and it's still iffy.

My mom and dad will be here tomorrow, so I imagine I'll be busy with them. But I'm hoping to get a shot or two of mom munching a piece of octopus or dad peeling the seaweed from his sushi (he does that, you know). And I'll be sure to post them here for everyone's entertainment. Ha ha.

※This post is for S and her mom and her grandma. Sorry it took so long! I also have birthday presents and Christmas presents here that have yet to be sent. Mom will be in charge of getting those to you.

※And yes, there is a dog sniffing in nearly every picture.


Hilary said...

Where do you store all those bags? Very cool activities they learn.. sewing, cooking. It sounds like high school in the sixties! Gotta love that dog leaving his signature nose print in every shot. :)

Kappa no He said...

Actually, I had to hang a line of hooks all across one wall for them. We still loose one every once in awhile. Now, I'm thinking what to do with them when he moves on to junior high. I imagine the bag thing will continue, but new ones.

Jim Melvin said...

Your blog is one of the coolest ones I've seen. I can't think of another one that I find more interesting, day in and day out.

MDK said...

My daughter would so much love the Naruto bag. She's a very good sketcher and all-around artist for a fifth grader. I'm just no so sure about the sewing kit, tho.

Kappa no He said...

Jim, you are so sweet. Muwa!

MDK, Oooo, maybe I'll have to send it to her. She can chuck all the sewing stuff if she wants, keep her art stuff in there instead. I'll ask and see if it is really needed for junior high or not. I'm thinking not.

Pat said...

My kids had difficulty remembering to bring one bag home from school. I guess there are no ADD kids in Japan?

Kappa no He said...

Actually, I haven't ever heard of anyone with ADD. HOWEVER, Julyan has kind of turned forgetting bags into an art form. A lot of times if something is forgotten the child will run up and down the hall to the other sixth grade classerooms and find a friend who has one so he/she can borrow it. J did this often with gym clothes (as did other kids, borrowing his). Then he brings the clothes home, I wash them and fold them nicely, and he takes them back the next day so the original child (or whoever happens to have forgotten that bag that day) can use them.

Mary Witzl said...

What about the 'helping distribute meals in the lunchroom uniform' bag? The uniform was flawlessly white and my kid always managed to spill soy sauce or catsup on it, so it had to be bleached. And ironed. I really resented that -- the ironing business. Even the dopey cap had to be ironed. And the bag for that cushion thing they had to hang over the back of their chairs, plus the bag the harmonica came in and the snack bag for the after-hours program -- it just went on and on.

Your blog always fills me with nostalgia!

Kappa no He said...

Yes, yes, and yes!! I forgot all of those and we use them too. Although I never ironed the uniform-for-handing-out-kyushoku. Woops.

Ello said...

Wow! Those bags are too much! I can barely get my act together for the kids with just their one bag! Ok so this was absolutely fascinating. I love coming here!

Kappa no He said...

Hey girl, I'm sorry it took me so long to get here myself. My parents are here and well...let's just say, new post soon! And I'm missing making my rounds as well.

Ello said...

I can't wait to hear about Mom and Dad! Cheers!