Japan is vending-machine heaven, you can buy a huge variety of products from vending machines, and you can find the machines everywhere (within a hundred meters from my apartment there are at least 9). My favorite vending machine is the coin-operated photo sticker booth called ‘Purikura’, which is a shortened form of ‘purinto kurabu’, the Japanese pronunciation of Print Club.

The Purikura is a machine that lets you design and print out stickers with photos of your face on them. The concept was invented in 1994-1995 by 30-year-old woman, who thought about how neat it would be to have a small photo sticker with your picture on it. Back then you could just choose a background, have one picture taken and get a sheet with 16 of the same stickers. But of course it was still wildly popular with young people, especially among junior-high-school and high-school girls. I read that nowadays school girls may spend up to 2,000 yen per day for these stickers.

Ten years later, when I first visited Japan, I was introduced to a much more advanced version of the original machine. The booth was huge, like a tiny house, so even a whole group of people can enter it to get their picture taken together. The Purikura let us pose for perhaps even up to ten exposures, and we could manually change the background by pulling on the curtains behind us. Once the pictures had been taken we could select the pictures that we wished to keep and customize them using a touch screen. The screen displayed a vast array of options such as virtual stamps, borders, and pens that could be superimposed on the photographs. The time to play around with all these options was kind of limited though, but it was fun. After all that we could chose the number and size of the pictures to be printed, and the pictures were printed out on a glossy full-color 4 X 6 inch sheet to be cut up and divided among us. And the machine sent our favorite picture to Yasu’s keitai.

Last weekend, more than 3 years after my first Purikura experience, I did it again, twice! On Sunday with Maiko in Komaki and on Monday with Yasu in Fuso. And in the last 3 years they’ve become even more advanced. Some common options now include the ability to alter lighting and back drops digitally (and I read that the newest versions offer features such as fans and blue screen effects) and the virtual stamps, borders, and superimposing pens were complemented with pictures, clip art, colorful backdrops, and much more. And by now the amount and the size of the pictures sent to your keitai has increased, as you can see!

Maiko being a girl was very experienced with this kind of thing and we had no problems, but when I tried it with Yasu things were a little bit too fast for us. By the time Yasu had translated what the machine told us to choose from, the machine’s patience was up and it did the choosing for us! So we ended up with a picture where I had my eyes closed (besides the one with us kissing), oh well. But my inexperience just presents me with an excuse to practice, because it’s just great Japanese entertainment!

4 thoughts on “Purikura

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