Recently my friend and I stumbled upon Purikura Mecca (プリクラのメッカ) Game Las Vegas on Shibuya’s well-known Center-gai street. This unassuming arcade has only one activity on the docket: purikura. Purikura is the shortened form of purintokurabu or Print Club and they are the tackiest, flashiest photo booths to exist on planet Earth. Popular among schoolgirls and young twentysomethings, these photo sticker machines launch the classic black and white strip pictures to a completely different level. Girls love these photo booths because they create the ideal image of feminine cuteness and beauty with the touch of a pen. There are many varieties of purikura booths, with more elaborate and technologically advanced versions emerging every year. The first machines emerged in 1995 and have since evolved to machines with the power to ensure maximum beauty in your images. The booths are equipped with digital cameras, typically Canon, and high-capacity flash lamps to illuminate the entire mini photo studio in a wash of perfectly balanced white light.
Gather your willing friends and head for Game Las Vegas. Note that some purikura centers do not allow men to visit on their own and women must accompany them. This rule is in place to ensure the safety of the young demographic using the machines. With your all-female or mixed gender group assembled, walk out of Shibuya Station’s Hachiko Exit; walk across the famous scramble crossing and up Center-gai and the arcade will be on the left side of the street. Purikura is an activity suited for any time of day and fortunately this arcade is open until midnight. The more popular machines featured in magazines will surely have a gaggle of girls waiting in line to take their turn. The machine you use doesn’t really matter, they all outfitted with similar programs to create the same beautifying effects.
Now insert your money and get ready for the fun to begin. The machines are usually just 400 yen per use. First you will have the option to click on which type of complexion filter for your photos. Each machine will have different options, so just pick whichever filter you think looks best. Remember to choose quickly, each step of the process only lasts about ten seconds so the decisions have to be quick. You will then have the choice of which backgrounds and frames to select for your photos. Click around on the screen and pick the ones that suit your group.
After posing it out in your photo shoot, everyone moves to the other side of the booth where you will then decorate the pictures on the monitor using the two stylus pens. Decorating elements include stickers, colorful writing and of course, more cosmetic enhancement. Some machines serve as beauty laboratories with the ability to create the illusion of longer eyelashes, lankier legs, slimmer faces, bigger eyes or colored hair. The options seem endless. Once everyone is satisfied with their editing or if time is up, select how the pictures should be arranged and separated among the group. After that, everything is finished; just wait a few minutes for the sticker sheets to print. While waiting, some machines have mini games or options to send the images digitally to your cell phone by simply inputting your Japanese cell phone email address.
Purikura are a staple in Japanese cute culture and are here to stay. Spare a couple hundred yen and visit an arcade with friends. The frantic picking and choosing of decorative options is really addicting and the resulting pictures are so saccharine sweet; it's easy to see why this is a popular pastime among young women.