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This poster promises “a choice of eyes and skin.” Yikes.

Back in the day,I remember when we crammed ourselves into dark, dank little photo booths that could–gasp!–only take pictures! Well, that day is passed in the wake of Print Club (“Purikura” for short), a craze that I think was just beginning in Japan when I arrived in the late 90s. Now there are rows and rows of “purikura” booths everywhere you go, each with more far-out features than the next! Here’s the rundown on this fancy photo fun.

Two young women getting animated about something

First, just lift the flap and go inside your booth of choice. Then insert your coins (your pics may cost anywhere from 300 to 700 yen, or 3 to 7 dollars, depending on how tricked-out your booth is) and start hamming it up. The soothing-yet authoritative robot voice will let you know when its time to pose, etc. You may feel silly because, unlike above, your booth will be blank and completely boring. Just wait!

Hey, go easy on the hearts…I can’t see my face!

Now the real fun begins. Outside the booth you will be able to “edit” yourself and your environment with a special pen, inserting words, cute icons, and new backgrounds and colors. In some booths, you can even adjust the tint! The computer will allow you to choose several versions of your pics with different personal touches.

Too bad for him the camera can’t change her blah expression, though

And viola! You are now in front of…an office building? A school? Who knows? Anyway, there are hearts in the air so everything’s good.

Is it love? Or just a bunch of red everywhere?

Or you could forget the corny background stuff and just go for pure fantasy, it’s really up to you! It’s just amazing what you can create out of nothing.

One should never miss an opportunity to doodle on the faces of friends…at least this way, you can keep your friends afterward!

When you’re done, the booth will print out your pictures on sticker-sheets and politely shove them out of a slot to the side. Most purikura stations have a pair of scissors hanging around somewhere nearby so you can cut the stickers right away and share them. Scissors, you ask? Weird, I know, but perfectly safe in Japan.

This is, like, the 8-track of print club machines! Sorry, America

During one of my recent trips back home to America, I may have seen a clunker like the above sitting in a corner. If so, I apologize–this whole purikura thing may not seem like a big deal to some, although the ones in Japan are just cooler, not to mention much more advanced.

I only have (big) eyes for you

In fact, during my latest purikura excursion with my wife, we stumbled unwittingly into a machine with godlike powers. We went in as human beings and came out as anime characters! No, seriously…smooth white skin, scary-big eyes, faces shaped to eerie perfection. I still have the photos, and they creep me out!

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