The ultimate selfie experience – Japanese photo booths (purikura machines)
Purikura プルクラ is a photo sticker booth or a product that has been generated by one and the name originates from the brand ‘Print Club’. These booths are found all over Japan generally in amusement arcades and shopping centres and they are popular with teenagers, young women and couples alike. The booths provide around 30 minutes of fun entertainment for approximately ¥400 and best of all you get to take the memories home. It’s much better than the ‘selfie craze’ as instead of taking pictures of yourself, at home, this is a social activity, with most booths able to accommodate two people but some are large enough to visit with a group of friends.
The booths usually operate by entering via a curtain, inserting coins into the machine and then following the on screen instructions. Although these are usually in Japanese, they are accompanied by pictures and arrows explaining what your options are and therefore they are relatively easy to use for non-Japanese speakers. The instructions allow you to customise the shots you intend to take allowing you to select from modes such as ‘pretty’, ‘beauty’, ‘romantic’, etc. choosing lighting, backdrops and camera angles. Once you have made your initial selections you get multiple opportunities to take the perfect shot. There is a countdown of how many retakes you are allowed and often there are on-screen poses suggested to inspire you.
Once the pictures have been taken you get to choose which ones you would like to keep using either a touch screen or an electronic pen on a screen. Often this is done in a separate section of the booth so you sometimes have to exit to find the customisation area.
Next comes the fun bit, you get to edit and decorate your snaps! This is usually accompanied by music and you can often select which tracks you want to hear while you complete your masterpiece! There is a time limit for doing this but it tends to be between 20 and 30 minutes.
Customisation features include adding borders, virtual stamps, images, backgrounds and text, all of which usually allow you to select the size, colour and style.
Many booths offer beauty customisation options and, if you think the Kardashian’s take beauty editing too far, the Japanese do this to the extreme. Options to customise include making your eyes bigger and more sparkly which is great for getting that anime doll look that is so coveted. You can often also smooth out any skin blemishes and imperfections leaving you with a healthy milky glow, add makeup such as blusher and lipstick, false eyelashes and much more.
Once you’ve finished perfecting your look, you then get to choose the quantity and size of your prints. Usually you get two copies included in the original price. There is also often the option to email these to your mobile phone although we’ve struggled with this as our email address does not have a generic domain name and these are usually suggested onscreen.
And voila, perfect memories are created!