Have you ever noticed that young people in Japan often post picture stickers with special effects on social media such as Instagram? These kinds of picture stickers are very popular in Japan; you can take pictures of your design for different purposes such as recording a special event like graduation, a night out with friends, or even just for fun. If you also want this kind of pictures and wonder how they did the magic, you will find this article helpful for you to understand how purikura works and where you can find it.
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What is purikura?
Purikura (Japanese: プリクラ) is a shortened form for “print club” (Japanese: プリント倶楽部). The first purikura was introduced by Altus and Sega in 1995, and its popularity has been growing ever since. You may think purikura looks nothing different from a photo booth—a matter of fact, it works exactly like a photo booth where you take your ID or passport photos, except that you can do much more with a purikura machine. For instance, you can add filters to your pictures, edit your pictures with digitised effects, change your background, etc. As you can imagine, purikura machines are adding more and more new effects and functions as modern technology progresses. Old purikura machines only had photo frames, as you can see in the picture below:
The new purikura machines not only enable you to change the background or colour of the picture, but it also allows you to edit the person in the photo. For example, you can make your eyes look bigger, your face look smaller, change your skin tone, and many more.
To be sure, there are also photo editing apps that offer similar functions as a purikura machine, however, I don’t think editing photos on your phone or laptop is nearly as much fun as playing around with a real machine. Once you try it out, you will know what I am talking about 🙂
Privacy isn’t a concern when it comes to playing with purikura. You will pose in a private booth and get your photo sheets almost immediately.
Where can I find purikura?
Since purikura is so popular among Japanese, you can find purikura machines almost everywhere in every city. Obviously, one of the easiest spots to find purikura is game centres or shopping malls. Depending on the size and theme of these centres, you will at least find some purikura machines in the corner of some floors, and sometimes you will even see an entire floor dedicated to various purikura machines! When you find a purikura machine or area, you need to watch out if this machine is open to everyone. For example, there are purikura machines for females only. But most purikura machines are open to everyone, and there’s no limit to how many people can be in one picture.
Many places also offer costumes for rent or sale if you need clothes for a special theme:
How to use purikura?
In short, you use it like a normal photo boost, but with a few more steps.
- You insert coins to pay (most purikura machines only accept coins; more will be discussed in the next section).
- You choose the background, mode, colour, etc. for your picture (you can enter your email in this step if you want a digital copy of your picture.
- You pose for the picture in the booth.
- You will see your picture on the screen, and now it’s the “doodle time”: you can draw or write anything on your picture with a doodle pen and edit the photo (you will have a limited doodle time, depending on how busy it is. If there’s someone waiting, you will have a shorter doodle time; if nobody is waiting, you will be able to doodle longer).
- Select layout (how you want to cut the picture).
- Your picture is ready for you in a sec! You can choose to cut it into different pieces if you want to share with your friends (depending on what kind of layout you just chose). Oftentimes, you will get two sheets of the photo.
How much is purikura?
Luckily, taking photos with a purikura machine is a relatively affordable hobby 🙂 Each purikura machine is a bit different because each machine has different effects that you can use. And the more effect you use, the more pricey it is. On average, you can expect to spend around 400 yen (<4 USD/Euro). Usually, you will be able to get two sheets of printed photos. What you need to bear in mind is that you can only pay with 100 yen coins at most purikura machines, so make sure to take some change with you (in most gaming centres, you will find a money changing machine next to a purikura machine :))
Argurably, purikura is a must-try for every Japanese culture lover. Now you can also find purikura outside Japan. I have seen purikura machines (or purikura-ish machines :p) several times in different countries in Europe. I love purikura photos as a souvenir because it is creative and personalized. You can share the picture with your friends or make a collection for your photo album. Besides the photo itself, the experience of shooting and editing your picture is just so much fun. Have you seen or tried a purikura machine before? What kind of interesting effects does the machine have?
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