Monday, 30 April 2012

History of Purikura

Ever wondered about the history of purikura? The English wiki has very little information so I had a look at some Japanese sites.
The first purikura machines were simple frame sticker pictures located at amusement parks. I remember having the same kind of machines in England when I was younger!

They were called プリント倶楽部 (print club) and that’s where the name purikura now comes from.

プリント倶楽部 = purinto kurabu

プリント倶楽部 is the trademarked name from the company Atlus (machine above) which made the first machines. No other company can use that word, however ‘purikura’ has become the standard name for any photo sticker booth. They usually officially have names like “Photo sticker booth” “sticker machine” etc.
Atlus released the first machines in July 1995, but in 1997 they were featured on a TV show by SMAP and that’s when the boom years really started. It seems Atlus had a monopoly for about two years until other companies started getting in on the act, and in 2009 Atlus announced it was leaving the arcade business including purikura machines. They now focus on software games.

Surprisingly, the first full body machine was Street Snap made in 1998 by the now-bankrupt Towa Japan.
Around 1999 the focus became pens, decorating and skintone lightening, and by 2000 the decoration screen had become separate. Until then (and even now in some low-quality or specialist machines) you decorated on the same screen as you took the pictures.

Around 1999 was also when glittery or metallic prints became possible.

The peak number of machines occurred in 2002 with 36,546 machines in use.

In 2003 machines began processing and altering/enhancing your features, whether that was a good move or bad, I’ll leave up to you!

In 2004 the first “image model”, meaning a famous magazine model, was used. Although I couldn’t find out who. It was also around 2004 that purikura corners started becoming women/couples only, to prevent voyeurs taking up-skirt photos at the decoration booth (possibly why there are seats too?) and guys hanging around just to try and pick up girls.

Around 2005 there began to be machines with extra things inside, such as benches…
Purikura 2004-06 Me Cat
Monkey bars to hang from…
Even whole climbing frames!
climbing frame
Most recently mobile phone downloading and finally specific mobile phone graphics for bloggers and for your wallpaper, ringing screen etc were added.

Atlas launched an overseas company in China in 2003 but dissolved it in 2006, they also attempted to launch in Singapore but lost money and pulled out in 2008. As far as I know most purikura machine abroad are exported from Japan rather than local versions.

The current major manufacturers are FuRyu (first purikura in 1998) , Make Software (1997), Bandai-Namco (1997), IMS (2000) and Tatsumi (2000).

You can see some of the old machines here.

Main sources: Japanese wiki, Shibuya Station, Purikura Museum, and my own memories!

My purikura history!

2004 – pretty simple
Purikura 2004-06 Me Lori (2)
2005 - still simple
rock on
2006 – started to get more fun options, tinting…
Purikura 2006 Me & Mel (4)
2007 – loads of fun frames came out and double taking of pictures
Purikura 2007 Me & Cat (1)
2008 – Otome came out and let you get into the frames
Purikura 2008 Me Chiho (3)
2009 – this kind of colour wash came out (I miss it!) along with flash graphics and the occasional black and white option
Purikura 2009 Me Katherine (11)
2010 – square pictures started coming out and the quality increased a lot.
Purikura 2010 Me Vanessa (6)
2011 – collage bonus shots started with Bambi-Na, also lots more eye settings and make-up enhancements became standard
2012 – blogger style Instagram-inspired frames and filters became popular, Me Her Jyoshi is a machine specifically targeting fashion bloggers.
I’m excited for the future!

PS. I was told that typing in those prove you're human words for commenting was too annoying so I've disabled them!


  1. This is a great post! I think the new purikura machines are awesome.

    I recently saw the old, original machine at a mall in L.A.'s Little Tokyo. I was like "That purikira machine looks really ghetto..." Then I realized it wasn't old, it was "classic!" :P

  2. I remember the old purikura machines a long time ago. I think a lot of them got removed! I like the new ones, but miss the old ones as well!

    1. I think you can maybe still find the odd old machine around, I guess they'd have to update them as the owners wouldn't be able to buy the right sticker sheets anymore!

  3. I remember using half of these machines over the years. I always assumed we just got the crappy ones in the USA, I didn't realize they were still growing in popularity. Thanks for sharing! ^^

    1. Yeah, we had the older kind in the UK too, I wonder why it became such a big thing here in Japan but faded elsewhere!

  4. very cool post. you musta worked hard to find all that out! i took my first puri in 2004 as well, though they're in a box somewhere back home in Canada...

    1. It took a while but it was fun to research!
      My very first puri, I'm looking at the screen the whole time #fail

  5. This is a really great blog with so much info about purikura! I just wrote about purikura for my blog and I linked back here for anyone that wanted to find out more.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Thank you for the comment and the link!


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