Buoyant School Backpack Developed for Tsunami Protection

Courtesy of Sakae Shokai
A “randoseru” backpack for elementary school kids that floats in water.

SENDAI (Jiji Press) — A central Japan company has developed a “randoseru” backpack for elementary school kids that floats in water, in hopes of protecting children in the event of a tsunami or torrential rain.

The backpack, which doubles as a life jacket, was born as a lesson from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan.

“We hope it will be an emergency survival product that children have on them at all times,” said an official of Sakae Shokai, a company based in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, that mainly makes and sells eyewear accessories.

The “Ukuran” backpack, released March 1, can be transformed into a life jacket by flipping the front flap over the head of the child to cover the chest and then securing it with a strap around the chest. It also comes with a whistle to call for help.

According to the company, a Hamamatsu man in his 70s came up with the idea.

The man visited the now-defunct Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, a year after the 2011 tsunami claimed the lives of 84 schoolchildren and staff members there.

Wondering whether something could have been done to save the children’s lives, the man hit upon the idea of a randoseru that could double as a life jacket.

After being approached by the man with the idea, the company began discussions to commercialize such a product in February 2018. It took around four years to develop the final product.

“Hamamatsu is also close to the ocean,” said Takashi Yoshizawa, the 64-year-old head of the company.

“We felt during product development that we need to prepare for the next disaster,” such as a possible powerful earthquake in the Nankai Trough in the Pacific off central and southwestern Japan, he added.

The company aims to publicize the product by taking part in disaster prevention events throughout the country.

“Once children have graduated from elementary school, the backpack can be used at home as an emergency disaster bag,” Yoshizawa said. “We hope that our product will help save as many lives as possible.”