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Japan’s Amazing Purkikura Photo Booths

We all know the average photo booth. You get in with your friends, with a white background behind you, make some silly faces (with or without accessories) and, finally, your photos are printed out in black and white. But what is Purikura? What is it about this Japanese-styled photo booth that makes it so different from “normal” photo booths? And, more importantly, why are the Japanese so obsessed with it?

Basically, purikura is a special kind of photo booth you can find pretty much everywhere in Japan. Purikura is short for “print club” and the very first machines appeared in Japan around 1995. They are located at events and tourist areas. Every arcade also has a floor or part of a floor dedicated to this delightful machine. The fee to use it ranges from 200 to 400 JPY (US$1.80 to US$3.61).

Purkikura photo booths Rakbo

Some purikura places even offer costumes and makeup areas so that you can go all out and do a whole cosplay photoshoot.

These booths are mostly targeted at young girls (from high school to young adults). In some purikura places, men are not allowed to enter if they’re not accompanied by a girl to avoid perverts of any kind disturbing the photo-taking fun. This means it’s a completely safe space to make a cool memory after a nice day with your friends.

So now: how does it work?

Purkikura photo booths Rakbo Top Model

The booth has two separate areas: one for the actual photo taking and one where you can edit the pictures.

While you’re getting your picture taken, the machine automatically makes all the adjustments to your body image. It will make your skin clearer, your eyes bigger, your chin thinner and, if it’s a full body photo, it will also make your legs skinnier and elongate them.

Don’t worry if you don’t know how to pose! Before the booth begins taking pictures, an example photo appears on the screen in the booth with some nice Japanese girls, who should you some possible poses.

Now for the fun part: the editing of the pictures!

Purkikura photo booths Rakbo Mr. Bean

After taking all your photos, you then move to the editing area, which is normally situated at the back of the booth. This is a small space with a big screen and allows for you and your friend(s) to edit all the taken pictures. You can adorn them with stickers and write messages on them with all kinds of colours imaginable. Remember: the Japanese are obsessed with everything cute, so the cuter you make your pictures, the better. You can even adjust your eye size even more if you think they’re still too small, or edit your makeup by adding blush and eyeliner.

I’m finished with editing, so what now? Print, stick and send!

When you’ve finished editing the pictures, a copy of all the photos will be printed for every person participating in the shoot. Often times, these are not just pictures, but stickers as well! What I’ve seen a lot of Japanese people do (and what I’ve started doing myself) is stick the pictures onto your planner. Keep in mind that before printing the pictures, the booth will also give you the option to get a digital version of only one of the photos. This only works if you have a Japanese phone or a Gmail account. If you choose for the Gmail option, you also have to be able to read Japanese, because no English options are offered on the purikura websites to download them.

I hope you found this interesting and inspired you to try purikura for yourself once you’re in Japan! Let us know if you have anything to add to this or any funny purikura experiences of your own.

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Hanna B

Hanna is a 21 year old Japanese Studies student currently majoring in Japanese literature in Tokyo, Japan. She founded her blog, hannatopia.wordpress.com this year, where she documents her travels and daily life in Japan. In her spare time she loves to read and write. She also has a big passion for food and fashion.


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