Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cool Japanese Thing #18: Purikura

An abbreviated, mispronounced form of the words "Print Club," Purikura (spelled プリクラ in Japanese) are photo booths located throughout the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo and beyond. For a small sum of cash shared between chums, you can take a series of photos in front a green screen. As you can see from the above photo, we later used image editing technology to write our names and add some fancy effects.

The photo booths are usually found in Game Centers, video game arcades with amusements ranging from UFO machines (claw machines in the US) to more traditional combat-oriented coin munchers. The girl on the side of the booth above shows one of the more annoying traits of Purikura: the photos have a habit of over-emphasizing eyes, making people look cartoonish.

You choose from a variety of backgrounds and poses before you begin. Be prepared, because after choosing you have only a short timeframe to get in position. Once the camera flashes, there are no do-overs. Your fee will afford you roughly half a dozen shots before you are directed to the editing partition of the booth. Once you have customized your pictures to your satisfaction, the machine prints them out. Purikura are small, only a couple of inches in size. They are stickers, meant to be affixed to cellphones, electronic dictionaries, cameras, etc. When you pull out your cellphone to make a phone call, you are instantly swept by a wave of nostalgia back to a time when your friends were close enough to make funny faces together in a 3x3 foot room.

If you have $5 to spare while you're visiting in Tokyo (and have friends, I assume), drop by a Game Center and snap some photos. Even if you divide them evenly amongst your friends, you'll still have seven or eight stickers you can put anywhere. There are worst ways to make memories.

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