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On our last full day in Japan, the Tofugu team and the venerable Gakuranman visited Sega Joypolis, an arcade / amusement park in Odaiba, Tokyo.

At Joypolis, we tried our hand at purikura, or a Japanese photo booth. As you can see, the results are as colorful as they are disturbing:

fugu-gaku-purikura

Purikura (short for “print club”) is everywhere in Japan. Any place you can find an arcade (which is most places), you’re likely to be able to find purikura too.

But what exactly is purikura?

What’s Purikura?

Photo booths have been around for close to a century now, but not in the way that purikura exists. When most Americans think of photo booths, we usually tend to think of the kind that you find at malls or fair grounds that give you a simple black-and-white photo strip.

buster-sheep-photo-booth

Purikura was introduced to Japanese arcades in the mid-90s and is much different than its predeccesors. It’s fun, interactive, and above all, cute!

Japan loves cute things, and purikura caters to that love. Most of purikura editing tools are aimed towards making the people and the photos look more cute. You can add hearts, sparkles, stars, cute sayings, and anything else you might imagine would up the cute factor of the picture.

Purikura’s main demographic is young women, either in high school or young adulthood. Unfortunately, one of the things that shocked me about Japan was that this demographic made purikura attractive to pervs.

no-boys-purikura

As a result, many purikura places have banned men, unless they’re accompanied by a woman. (Fortunately, our all-male group was able to use purikura at Joypolis.)

Fortunately though, these bans have made purikura once again a safe place for people to take pictures without worrying about being harrassed. So once you’re in the photo booth, what do you do?

How to Purikura

At its most basic, doing purikura is pretty easy: hop in a booth with your friends, pose for the camera, and then edit your pictures. A few moments later, your photos will pop out of the machine and you can be on your merry way.

But the finer details of purikura are a little more complicated than that. Editing purikura pictures is practically an art unto itself.

Editing

Even before you get your hands on purikura editing tools, many purikura machines can add things in automatically. The machine can give you things like brightened, smoothed skin, larger eyes, a sharpened chin, and even longer legs.

big-eyes-purikura

Huge eyes? Check.

It’s all supposed to make you and your friends look super kawaii, but these “enhancements” can sometimes make people look more alien than human.

But once you’ve actually taken the pictures, you’re able to move to the outside of the booth and edit the pictures by hand.

You’re given a touch screen, a stylus, and editing tools that would make Blingee jealous. You can add stamps of all of the things I mentioned earlier (hearts, stars, sparkles, etc.), clip art, text, or just freestyle it with the pen tool.

purikura

For a full, step-by-step guide, the purikura blog No Puri No Life! has a good tutorial, along with reviews of different machines.

Once you’re done, you can print it out, send it to your cell phone (if you have a Japanese cell phone), or send it through any number of other options. And once you you’ve got your purikura masterpiece in your possession, you can show it off for the whole world to see.


Have you done purikura before? What did you like about it? Got any awesome purikura pictures you wanna share? Show me in the comments!

  • simplyshiny

    I have only once experienced the wonders of a purikura booth, and no longer have the pictures. But, the LINE app on your smart phone can do some similar awesome things to your pictures!

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    I love purikura! I’ve done it with many friends (Japanese and foreign) and with my family!
    It’s just so much fun! Actually performing and decorating is the great part about it and not the photos! Although they’re a great memory and small enough to carry around with you! ;)

  • http://twitter.com/Cupucuups Hamyo

    OMG!! Finally there is someone who share the reason why there are a lot of young teenagers in Japan was have so many creepy photo with an alien form. And all that things is about Purikura!! thanks hashi you save my life :D http://okonomikatsu.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/joel.alexander.980 Joel Alexander

    I wouldn’t really say purikura = Japanese photo booths, because there are regular photo booths in Japan too. Can you imagine some salaryman getting his passport photo done in a purikura? =P

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=765796943 Sara Sanchez

    Joypolis= my favorite place on earth

    Yay Purikura!

  • Finera

    When my friends and I who are all white went into a purikura booth with our Japanese friends we often looked rather strange while our Japanese friends looked wonderful! But I found them very amusing.

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    Yes.

  • Savannah Soule

    I have boatloads of purikura. I went to middle school and high school in Japan and purikura were pretty much essential for any teenage hang out, with Americans or Japanese.
    I always liked how it lets you choose what type of complexion you want: super tan, normal, super pasty white, or somewhere in between all of these.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joel.alexander.980 Joel Alexander

    Well you, madam, have a very fertile imagination. =)

  • mark

    how… coincidental… that this comes out about a day after ciaela covers the same topic…

  • http://twitter.com/kima_siksin Kima

    If anyone can answer this question… how much does it cost to use one of these? And where exactly do you find those? In malls? I’m hoping to make a scrapbook out of these photos once I go to Japan next fall :D

  • Savannah

    It usually costs between 400 and 600 yen, and you get like a large note card size print off of pictures and you can usually choose the layout of how many print and what sizes. Yeah, sometimes in malls, you can definitely find them in large quantities in arcade type places. Making a scrapbook should be pretty easy; your purikura collection will probably stack up fast. But I’d say try to go with other people so you can split the cost and it’s more fun with more people.

  • http://twitter.com/kima_siksin Kima

    Thanks for the reply and the advice! I can’t wait to go do that :D

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    Those are great omg

  • http://www.facebook.com/AbigailCamarillo Cam Abi

    Well you guys just look so adorbs!

  • http://twitter.com/purigal Purigal

    Thank you for linking to No Puri No Life! :)

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    Thank you for your awesome work!

  • DAVIDPD

    These are cool. I wish they were more popular here in the States.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1434168513 Juan Fernando Castellón

    You can also find them at Daiso 100 Yen shops. Went to one with a friend and her sister during a trip out there. If you visit Shizuoka prefecture, make sure to visit the Hamamatsu Musical instrument museum.