I don’t know about you but I’ve noticed how popular those photo booth stickers are at the moment. When I first came to Japan, I was surprised at how popular they are in Japan, too.
Introducing “purikura”, the Japanese word for that exact thing we’re talking about. Before TikTok dances and Instagram filters became huge on the streets, purikura was top on the vain game.
So what exactly is it? How did it come about? Where can I find them? How do I take a purikura picture? All your answers are just a scroll down away!
What is Purikura?
So, what is purikura (プリクラ)? This word is a short form of “purinto kurabu” (プリント倶楽部), which means “print club”. Print club refers to the photo booths that you see all around Japan. It’s incredibly popular – all the local youths are crazy about it.
It’s the perfect activity with friends or on a date. It’s also the perfect souvenir because it’s a unique Japan activity.
You might be thinking, “it’s just a picture in a photo booth.” True, but purikura is more than just that. Worldwide, we have those official photo booths for ID photos. Sometimes, at events, you get photo booths that print pictures in film roll style. In Japan, it can be done any time, anywhere. You can customise it however you like.
While it functions the same way of any other photo booth, it’s more like a photo shoot. After you’ve taken your 5 consecutive pictures, you get to edit them. Everything from stickers and fonts to filters and frames. You’re in control of how it’s going to look when it’s printed.
The History of Purikura
So how did this fun activity come about? It all started in 1995 when the first ever print club machine was invented. The Tokyo-based game software company, Atlus, was the brains behind it. Originally, it was just a pose-and-print situation. You could only add frames around it.
Then comes other gaming companies like SEGA. They developed the print club machines to include so much more. This was also the time when the word “purikura” was tossed around.
In 1997, things really took off for the machines. An extremely popular Japanese band called SMAP featured purikura on local television. Amusement centers and arcades where they were found were filled with people getting their own purikura.
Nowadays, you get all sorts of purikura. Some machines have themes. I know people who prefer certain photo booths over others because they have better filters.
Where to Find Purikura
So you’re interested in taking some purikura of your own. Where do you go to get them? Where can you find them? The better question is, where can’t you find them? They’re quite literally everywhere. I don’t think you can go a day walking around any part of Japan without coming across a few purikura booths.
Almost every arcade in Japan has a floor dedicated to purikura machines. If you’re in Shibuya, you’ll likely spot them on the first floor. Sometimes, they’re bunched up in an area. So if you cross the street, you’ll see another group of purikura booths!
If you just want your picture taken to mark the occasion, any purikura will do. But if you’re like me and some of my friends, you want the best purikura booth. Venture around to find the one that has filters and edits you like best.
Styles of purikura booths include Harajuku-style kawaii (かわいい), princess style or hime (姫) and natural beauty. Trust me, there are others that are way more dramatic. Some places even have preparation areas for you to get ready!
How To: Purikura
It might be pretty straightforward for some people, but others might be intimidated by purikura if it’s their first time. Don’t worry, we got you covered. We’ll guide you through how to take purikura pictures!
Step 1: Posing for the pictures
It’s simple, really. A lot of these purikura booths suggest pose options for you. All you have to do is follow them. But you don’t have to if you don’t want to. You can go all out and pose any way you want.
There’s a timer for everything, so don’t take too long to pose. As soon as you walk in the booth, the timer begins. Usually you only have a couple of seconds before it flashes. Be quick!
You’ll usually have a green screen behind you so you can choose cute backdrops. I highly recommend to not wear anything close to the colour green.
Step 2: Edit the pictures
Don’t worry if you didn’t pose too well. You can edit yourself after the pictures have been taken. Remember when I said there’s a timer for everything? There’s a timer for editing, too. Don’t worry, it’s not a few seconds. It’s a few minutes.
But even then it’s not enough. There are so many ways to edit. You have to choose between hundreds of stickers, animal ears, time and day stamps, markers and borders. You’ll have all the privacy you need to edit behind the curtains, so don’t be shy to go crazy.
There’s really no one way to do it. That’s the best part about purikura editing.
Step 3: Print out the pictures
All that’s left to do is print. After the timer runs out, you get options on which layout you want your pictures to be printed in. Pick the one you like and wait a minute or two. It’ll be printed out and you’ll have your sticker pictures!
Usually, the booths print two copies. You can choose to cut it out and divide it among your friends or partner. If you join their rewards program, you can order a digital copy for free! This way, everyone has a version of the original.
Will you be trying purikura when you go to Japan? I have to admit that it’s one of my most favourite things to do in Japan. It’s cheap, fun and fast! On top of it all, you get to mark that special day with your friends or partner.