Japanese Purikura: Popular Japanese Sticker Photo Booths for Creating Cute Memories

Maybe you have seen the photos on social media of Japanese girls posing together with their friends, all with unusually big eyes, tiny triangular faces, and lustrous hair worthy of a shampoo commercial? This is the phenomenon of Japanese purikura, a special type of Japanese sticker photo booth that is all about creating cute memories with your friends. In this article, we will explain how the popular pastime began and how it has evolved, with our step-by-step guide helping you and your friends to enjoy a fun and truly kawaii photo session together!

Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy through them, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

What Is Japanese Purikura?

Japanese purikura are a special type of Japanese sticker photo booth that is often frequented by the Japanese youth, especially females. You can take photos together with family and friends, then decorate and print them out in sticker format. Paste them onto anything you hold dear and be reminded of all the lovely memories with each glance!

What Is the Meaning of "Purikura"?

Purikura is an abbreviation of purinto kurabu (プリントクラブ, or “print club” in English).

The History of Japanese Purikura

In the early 1990s, a woman working for a Japanese gaming company called "Atlus" suggested to her employer to develop beautifying photo booths, inspired by Japan’s iconic kawaii culture. Or so the story goes - what we know for sure is that the first versions of these Japanese sticker photo booths that were to become one of Japanese high school girls’ favorite pastimes were soon launched and installed in game arcades by Atlus. The early models were very simple, and basically just offered to add various frames, such as flowers, to your photos.

Soon the machines began to gain popularity, and when Atlus merged with major gaming company Sega, the photo booths became collectively known as "purikura." After being featured on a TV show by the popular band SMAP in 1997, the purikura machine's success took off for good.

In 1997, a new type of Japanese sticker photo booth allowed people to adjust the cameras and lights inside the booth by themselves. Developers noticed that many girls used this opportunity to try and use the lights to make their skin brighter or clearer. From here, features to whiten and change the texture of the skin, as well as to change your hair color, were added one after the other. The rakugaki corner (scribble or decoration corner) also eventually became a thing when adding text, drawings, or stamps were introduced in these photo machines around the change of the millenia.

Today, the possibilities of Japanese purikura machines are endless: they can extend your legs, make your face smaller, your skin brighter, and your hair thicker, all for that perfect look. Not even the pandemic stopped its popularity - though usage of these Japanese sticker photo booths dropped sharply at the start in 2020, the number of photo sessions rapidly increased in 2021, proving that it’s still very much an essential and important part of young Japanese people’s lives when socializing.

Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas!

Where To Find Japanese Purikura?

Japanese sticker photo booths can be found throughout Japan. Arcades, amusement parks, karaoke establishments, department stores, and other places where youth typically gather are all good places to look for purikura machines. Some places might even have an entire floor dedicated to these photo booths!

Japanese purikura typically costs only 300-500 yen per photo session, making it a cheap and affordable hobby for young people. The price has to be paid in 100-yen coins, and there will usually be an exchange machine available somewhere near the booths to turn your bills into coins.

If you want to try Japanese purikura but are not planning on visiting Japan anytime soon, you might have luck in other parts of Asia as well since these Japanese sticker photo booths have also spread to countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. We even have anecdotes of seeing purikura machines in places like Sydney, Australia!

Recommended Hotel: The Millennials Shibuya

Located in Shibuya, one of the top shopping and entertainment districts of Tokyo for Japan's youth, The Millennials Shibuya is primely located for any and all Tokyo sightseeing you plan to do. Of course, this extends to Japanese purikura, with Harajuku - one of the most popular spots for Japanese purikura in the country - literally just one train stop away. We visited and wrote about this futuristic capsule hotel in the past, so have a read if you want to know what to expect when staying there.


How To Enjoy Japanese Purikura?

So, you have decided to try Japanese purikura and have brought yourself and your friends to a place with these sticker photo booths - what’s next?

If it’s a place with many Japanese sticker photo booths, take some time to pick your favorite one. They come in many different themes, some adding special backgrounds to fit a certain atmosphere or that have features such as making your eyes extra big and sparkly. Looking at the pictures on the outside walls of the photo booths will usually give you a hint as to what to expect from that particular purikura machine.

Once you've picked your booth and inserted the money, you will normally be prompted to first choose a sticker layout on a small screen. Each layout has a set number of pictures and poses, and you will also select the number of people participating in your photo shoot here.

Then the fun begins! The machine will suggest poses, but you can also be creative and invent your own. If this is your first time, you might be surprised at how quickly everything happens once you’re inside the Japanese sticker photo booth, so keep an eye on the big timer on the screen!

Once the photo shoot is over, it is time for the next step: editing, which is arguably the best part of any Japanese purikura experience. Nearly all machines will have a rakugaki corner, which is right behind the photo taking area. The screens there will show your newly taken photos, and now you can have fun adding frames, stamps, filters, glitter, and other effects. You can also draw directly on the screen or add cheerful messages. There will be a timer here as well, so edit quickly!

When you’re happy with the result, it’s time to enjoy your photos. Nowadays, you often get the choice between printed stickers or having a digital copy sent to your email address - or both. The purikura machines print out the stickers very quickly, and the quality is surprisingly good. You can stick the photos wherever you like, such as the back of your phone (as pictured above), as a memory of your amazing time in Japan. You can also do as the local high school girls do, and collect all your Japanese purikura stickers in a special album called the "puricho" (プリ帳)!

Extra Japanese Purikura Tips

Make sure to leave your green garments at home since the Japanese purikura machines often use a green screen to add background and filters - and you don’t want part of your body to become invisible!

It’s also worth noting that many Japanese purikura places don’t allow men inside, unless they’re accompanied by a female. This is to avoid harassment since the audience is mostly female. Instead of letting this stop you, why not bring your female friends and have even more fun with a big group photo session?

Japanese purikura machines will usually print two sheets of stickers, but if there’s not enough sheets for everyone in your party, there will often be a scissor station nearby so that you can cut up the sheets and divide your photo memories between you.

As purikura is a pastime mostly popular with high schoolers, it can be a good idea to go when they’re at school, such as on a weekday during the day - this way, you can avoid the rush.

Cherish the Memories of Your Japan Trip with Japanese Sticker Photo Booths

Though the main audience of Japanese purikura is Japanese high schoolers, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy this unique piece of Japanese culture! Japanese purikura stickers make for the perfect souvenirs of your amazing adventure in Japan. Grab your friends and make it to the nearest Japanese sticker photo booth to create great memories together!


Thumbnail credit: PIXTA

If you want to give feedback on any of our articles, you have an idea that you'd really like to see come to life, or you just have a question on Japan, hit us up on our FacebookTwitter, or Instagram!

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

tsunagu Japan Newsletter

Subscribe to our free newsletter and we'll show you the best Japan has to offer!

Subscribe Now!
Get your Japan discounts here!

About the author

Maya V.
Maya grew up in Copenhagen and first visited Japan in 2012, which led to many more trips over the years before she moved to Tokyo in 2020. Travel is her passion, and she has stayed overnight in all of Japan’s 47 prefectures at least once. Maya loves hiking and going to Japanese festivals, but one thing will make her travel farther than anything else: the many cute, stylish, or themed special trains running along Japan’s scenic coastline and traversing its scenic countryside.
  • Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas!

Restaurant Search

Sign up to our free newsletter to discover the best Japan has to offer.