Three Women with Ramen

Written by on February 3, 2007 in Life, Culture, Events, Photo Blog with 0 Comments

Three Women with Ramen

I saw these figures at a ramen restaurant. Nice place; nice ramen, too.

Today Reia received a red school backpack from her grandparents. This is an important coming of age event. Just about every elementary student in Japan carries a red or black leather (or imitation leather) backpack to school. When you see kids walking to school, you can always spot the elementary students this way. Black backpacks generally signify that a child goes to a private school; red is normal. Each child usually carries the same backpack from the time he or she starts first grade through graduation from the sixth grade.

Retailers have mightily capitalized on the great significance attached to school backpacks. The cheapest, plastic backpacks sell in discount stores for about 5,000 yen. Low end imitation leather backpacks start at 10,000 yen (about $100). The price goes up and up. All the way to about $500 for the supreme models made of something like hand stitched Italian baby goat leather (I made that up, but you get the point). I’d say few people in Tokyo buy the cheaper ones.

I’m not going to tell you how much Reia’s backpack cost. I don’t want to know myself. This is something that grandparents traditionally buy, and retailers have got grandparents wrapped around their little fingers.

Reia’s backpack had to be ordered. They couldn’t just buy it at the store; that’s a sign of something. It came to her grandparents’ house a couple of weeks ago, and they dropped it off today. After taking it from the box and assembling the straps, her grandparents put the backpack on Reia and everyone was pleased. ALMOST everyone. Reia put the backpack down and, as she continued to bask in attention, Maika proceeded to draw her finest smiling face and stick figure body on the soft pink leather using a ball point pen.

A call to the manufacturer confirmed that nothing will take that off. Replacing the back flap (of course, the manufacturer is pleased to do that) will cost a mere 5,000 yen. On the other hand, sending Reia to school with a childish stick figure on her back may cost years of therapy in the future. Or not. 🙂 What do you do? It appears we can delay answering the question, because first graders keep the back flap inside an ugly yellow protective cover the whole year anyway. What would you do?

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