Tag Archives: school life

Japan Word of the Day #87 – Randoseru (school backpack)


Today’s Word is: Randoseru (ランドセル)

Have you ever seen those firm-sided, leather-made (or faux leather), red and black backpacks carried by Japanese elementary school kids? They are called randoseru, designed specifically for kids in 1-6th grades to carry their study materials between home and school.

The history of randoseru goes all the way back to late Edo period (around 1853-1869). Western-style backpack made of leather was first introduced by Dutch to Japanese military. In Dutch, backpack was called “ransel,” and as a result of mispronunciation, Japanese people at the time named it randoseru. It wasn’t until 1885 that randoseru was used for children’s school backpacks.

Traditionally, girls carried red randoseru, and boys carried black randoseru. This tradition is no longer the case these days. Today, randoseru comes in a variety of colors and designs. Randoseru companies compete by offering options of cheaper material (artificial leather) or high-end material (real leather), using cartoon characters in their designs, and offering practical, ergonomic designs for children.


Image source: Randoseru ranking, Only Being

Japan Word of the Day #44 – Kanningu (cheating on a test)


Today’s Word is: Kanninngu (kan/nin/gu カンニング)

Kanningu is an act of cheating while you are taking a test. It originates from a Japanese pronunciation of English word “cunning.”
Although someone who cheats on a test might be a cunning person, it does not work as a verb or a noun in English. In Japanese, it’s not a description of a person, but rather, an act of cheating itself.

There are several ways to do kannningu. One might do so by bringing “kanningu paper,” which is simply a piece of paper with answers to a test. Or recent generation of students could use cellphones to check on answers.
Either way, cheating is a serious violation of school rules in Japan, just like other countries. Let’s not try to do it!

Japan Word of the Day #35 – Fight! / Faito! (Encouragement in Japanese-coined English)

Today’s Word is: Faito! (ファイト!)

ファイト, pronounced faito, is a Japanese way of reading the English word “fight.”
However, fight does not mean the same in this case as in English.

“Faito” is used as an encouragement to someone.
The best translation would be “good luck,” “do your best,” or “Go!”
It is especially common when audience is cheering members of team sports.
Another common encouragement term is “フレー (furē),” which is Japanese approximation of the word “Hurray.”

Below is a traditional Japanese cheerleading team.


Cheerleading groups composed mainly of women (similar style to US) do exist in Japan nowadays, but ouendan (cheerleading squad) in Japan is traditionally mostly men dressed in school uniforms, hachimaki headbands, gloves, and they make lots of noise by shouting and drumming. Faito and furē are two typical phrases they use. This style of cheerleading groups started around 1905, whereas US style cheerleaders were introduced around 1980 in Japan.

Image source: Challenge Tsukoukou