Japanese Purikura photo booths that produce selfies that you can decorate and print are at least a decade older than Snapchat filters. At around $ 3.50 per inhabitant, they still attract hordes of Tokyo teenagers.

NPR Code Switch reporter Kat Chow and I gave Purikura – the word is a mashup of the Japanese Purinto Kurabu or “Print Club” – a try. A couple of teenage girls in Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood advised us on how to optimize our experience.

But it was good to have a race and culture reporter on hand: in the end, we found that the instant changes to the images in these photo booths raise some questions about what is considered beautiful in the eyes of the Japanese.

Copyright 2020 NPR. Further information can be found at https://www.npr.org.


In the age of Snapchat and Instagram where almost anyone can have the equivalent of a photo studio in their hands, some people still use old-style photo booths. This is especially true in Japan, where the photo booths are called Purikura. It’s something Elise tries to do with that name on her series. Elise Hu from NPR, here with Kat Chow from Code Switch in Tokyo.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: The whole reason we’re on this street is because we’re going to try Japanese print clubs, and that’s where the word purikura comes from.

KAT CHOW, BYLINE: All right.

HU: It’s short for Purinto Kurabu. (Read) Insert four coins and touch the screen to start.


HU: Get in there. In part of the booth you actually take the photo. And then you like to rush to the other and decorate your photo.

Decorate with glitter and emojis, of course. But you can also significantly improve your image – resize your facial features, even out the tone of your skin, lengthen your legs and change your makeup. They call it.

Kat, I’ll do the same with your face.

CHOW: Are you going to fix my eyebrows?

HU: I think you need bigger eyes. And I’ll make your face smaller

Once you’re done, the stands will print out a series of photos to share with your friends.

Oh, our photos are out. Our photos are out.

CHOW: Oh, they’re cute.

HU: Purikura amusement arcades have several booths with different backgrounds. And a photo session only costs about $ 4. After school, hordes of Japanese teenagers drop by in groups. Since they are the experts, we asked them.

How do you have a real purikura experience? How do you look really good

Sixteen year old Honami.

HONAMI: (through interpreter) You should hide your face by your hair to do it …

HU: … Oh, cover your face.

HONAMI: (through interpreter) Yes, too small.

HU: Perhaps the best purikura look for us is one where we’re barely seen. Elise Hu, NPR News, Tokyo.

INKSEEP: The video of the purikura experience can be found at npr.org/elisetries. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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