All About Japan

All About Purikura!

| Photography , Fashion

Purikura, shortened from the word purinto kurabu—literally "print club"—refers to Japanese photo booths that are incredibly popular among the country's youth. An arguable must-try for tourists who visit the Land of the Rising Sun, this kawaii blend of technology and culture is ubiquitous throughout the country.

History of Purikura

The first purinto kurabu (プリント倶楽部) machines debuted in Japan in July, 1995, and were developed by the Tokyo-based game software company Atlus. They started out as fairly basic machines that simply took your photo and placed a stylish frame around it, such as flowers. It wasn't long until other gaming companies such as Sega started developing machines as well, and they collectively came to be called purikura. Although they were very popular in the arcades and amusement centers in which they were placed, they really took off in 1997 when they were featured on television with the incredibly popular Japanese band, SMAP.

While the popularity of purikura technically hit its peak in the late '90s, they've been a ubiquitous part of youth culture since their conception. Although the base concept has remained the same, the machines have become increasingly sophisticated with advances in technology.

Where Can You Find It?

First day in Japan was spent strolling in Tokyo and getting my nerd on 🎮

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Now that your attention has been piqued, you may be wondering where you can find purikura. A better question might be, where can't you? Purikura can be found in just about every arcade in Japan, where there's usually an entire floor dedicated to different machines. They can also be found in amusement parks, and randomly in different places around the country. They typically range between ¥200 to ¥400, and usually and will print out two sheets of photos to share with friends.

It's worth noting that since purikura is strongly geared towards a female audience, sometimes men will not be allowed onto floors that specialize in purikura machines unless they're accompanied by a woman.

Taking the Photos

When you enter a purikura booth, it'll give you options for different poses, backgrounds and photography styles. But be warned—a timer starts when you walk in, and everything is in Japanese, so you have to be quick! Most booths have you set against a green screen, so try not to wear anything that will blend in.

Once you've selected the style of photos and backgrounds, you'll want to get into position. It'll give you an example of a fun pose that is cute and trendy, but you're free to pose as you like. Most of the photos will be close ups but depending on what styles you've chosen, some of the photos will be full body shots.

Editing Fun

The vogueing and vamping that comes with the photo session ends rather quickly, and before you know it you'll be prompted to exit the booth and begin editing. The editing consoles of a purikura booth are usually covered by a curtain to give customers privacy. Although there's a time limit for this part of the process, it's quite long, so you should be able to adjust your photos to your heart's content!

There's almost too many ways you can edit your pictures. There's colorful stickers, time and day stamps, cat ears, sparkles, Japanese phrases and more... and you can put them anywhere you'd like. There's also freeform glitter pens that allow users to draw whatever they want, and even options to add or accentuate makeup. A big part of purikura is doing it with friends or significant others, so you'll find a lot of stamps that are themed around friendship or love.

Enjoy Your Prints!

Once you're finished editing, the photos are ready to print! The process will only take a minute or two, and often there's a prompt to join a rewards program in order to get a digital copy of your prints. Sometimes there's even fun games to play!

A couple minutes later and you have the results of all your hard work in the form of oh-so-kawaii stickers. Although it prints on a single sheet, it's common practice to cut them up into individual stickers! If there aren't enough sheets to go around, there's usually a scissor station nearby so you can divvy them up accordingly.

Styles of Booths

Although they all end with fantastic photos, not every purikura booth is the same. With so much to choose from, it's important to find the booth that has a theme and style to fit your mood. Some will feature more extreme Harajuku-style cuteness, others might try to highlight natural beauty, where others still might turn you and your friends into a Japanese hime (princess) or exaggerate your style like a gyaru.

Some places also have prep areas where you can check your style in the mirror, or choose from accessories or costumes to use during your shoot! Depending on your style and interests, there's a purikura machine for you!

Bringing Purikura to You

Of course, you may want to enjoy purikura and don't live in Japan. Don't fret! Purikura booths are starting to pop up at anime conventions, as well as otaku-related stores. Keep an eye out for events near you!

In the meantime, there's also the wonderful world of technology, especially apps. There are many apps that will give you a purikura-like product that you can do in your home, wherever you are! With 10,000,000 downloads, Meitu is definitely worth checking out—there's countless ways to edit your photos with filters, stickers, beauty edits and more. If you're looking for an app to do all the work for your, try Snow! It has many filters and is basically the purikura version of Snapchat, although plenty of people just use it for the filters. Beyond these two, there are countless other apps for you and your friends to enjoy. While they're fun, they can't quite compare to the real thing, so get over here and try it for yourself!