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Nitpickers may wonder how the Japanese rendering ended up with that “do” sound in the middle: Wouldn’t “ranseru” be closer to the Dutch? But if you hear “ransel” the way a Dutch person pronounces it, there’s a hard sound between the syllables, as evidenced by the alternative spellings I found in a Dutch dictionary from 1847: “randsel” and “rantsel.” I think it’s within reason that a Japanese speaker would transcribe that as “do.”

But let me backtrack to backpacks, for the benefit of readers who may not know what we’re talking about. Randoseru are the hard-sided leather backpacks used by virtually all schoolchildren in Japan. Families invest in one sturdy satchel when a child enters school at the age of 6, and the expectation is that the child will use it for all six years of primary school. Accordingly, randoseru are built to last and have price tags to match. Last year, the average purchase price was ¥36,600, up ¥2, 900 from the year before, which is pretty amazing in these deflationary times. In department stores, a top-of-the-line randoseru retails for almost ¥60,000 ($738 at current exchange rates).

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