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Many associate coin-operated photo booths with one of two experiences: having your passport photograph taken – an activity heavy with rules and regulations including having a “neutral expression”. Or black and white overzealous, and unflattering, photographs of a hemmed in group of friends.
In Japan, they do things a little differently, step forward Purikura.
Purikura was released in the 1990s as an alternative to the dry photo booths of old. There isn’t an add-on that they haven’t yet considered; longer legs? Check. Bigger eyes? Check. Inexplicable hearts, rainbow and pictures of small animals? Why not!
It’s big business in Japan. Some of the bigger gaming arcades, such as Club Sega in Akihabara, have a purikura section and others even have a dedicated floor where queues snake out of the most popular booths.
Whether you fancy a full-length pose with anime characters, or a romantic snap bordered by Hello Kitty images, purikura is an opportunity to experience Japanese popular culture. We’ve written a three-step guide to help you feel like a pro when you arrive at the booth.
Step one – pre-photo pampering
So this step isn’t completely necessary, depending on how seriously you’re taking the whole thing… Some purikura corners have areas where you can straighten your hair, rent or borrow clothes and rifle through a props box to prepare for the big moment. Your time to shine.
Step two – snap away
If you pick one of the newer booths at a popular time, chances are that you might have to queue, but the older ones are often just as fun. Despite being a slight assault on the senses when you step inside – there are bright lights and music to get you fired up – instructions are usually in English and Japanese so it’s not too overwhelming. The screen will also offer suggestions for your best angle or popular poses to strike.
If you have bags, put them down quickly once you’ve paid, the camera waits for no-one!
Step three – post-production
The most important step of all, post-production.
Pick from a variety of themes and edits; make your skin look flawless, your eyes bigger and “cuter” (for that otherworldly alien look) or add stamps of flowers and hearts should you so wish. Post-production is timed, but there are two screens so a friend can take the pressure off.
Once ready, newer machines can send the photos straight to your email address. If they are printed, it’s often in sticker form just outside the booth – ideal for decorating your travel diary and a fun alternative to a regular souvenir.