Japan's hottest new souvenir: Schoolbags

By Maggie Hiufu Wong, CNNUpdated 26th November 2014
The traditional satchel (randoseru in Japanese) is a mandatory item for first year elementary school kids. The students and their schoolbags are purified at a ceremony at a Shinto shrine to pray for safety.
It's probably been a few years since you packed your books and lunch in a bag, kissed your mom at the door and stumbled off to grade school.
But if you've got a friend traveling to Japan, you might soon find yourself slinging an old-timey book bag over your shoulders.
Randoseru, Japan's traditional schoolchild's backpack, has become the latest must-buy souvenir in Japan.
The randoseru is a mandatory item for first-year elementary school kids in Japan.
Made primarily of leather, the simple, boxy backpack is known for its sturdiness and is usually expected to last a student through his or her first six years of school.
Its popularity among foreigners gained traction earlier this year when Zooey Deschanel was spotted in New York sporting a red randoseru.
It's not the first time Deschanel's taste in backwear has spawned an unlikely trend.
In 2012, she was seen wearing a Fjallraven rucksack -- a hipster schoolbag brand from Sweden -- and a fashion mini-wave was born.
Randoseru sales up
Randoseru has been a uniform for Japanese school children for decades.
Randoseru has been a uniform for Japanese school children for decades.
Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images
In addition to becoming a topic of conversation on talk shows in Japan, the photo of Deschanel and her randoseru made the rounds on the internet.
In April, Yorozu and Nagomi souvenir shops at Kansai International Airport in Osaka began stocking the bags in response to a sudden and unexpected demand from tourists.
Yorozu tells CNN that the shop now sells about 120 randoseru each month.
Chinese and Taiwanese parents and grandparents are among the biggest buyers, but travelers from other countries have been snatching them up, as well.
Seiban, a randoseru manufacturer, has also seen an increase in foreign shoppers at its randoseru shop in Tokyo's Harajuku area.
The company says it's considering hiring more foreign-language-speaking staff to accommodate the demand, according to the Japan Times.
Randoseru typically cost between $120 and $600.
How long the randoseru trend lasts is anybody's guess.
Probably at least until Deschanel is spotted toting her stuff in an egg basket, toolbox or whatever's next.
CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki contributed to this report.