It’s flu (or インフルエンザ) season and you know what that means! Come on, you know you do. But, if you don’t, I’ll just go ahead and spell it out for you: the surgical masks have come out in full force.
In the spirit of paranoia, my base school has instated a policy of everyone, students and staff, wearing a mask at all times. It looks like we’re in the middle of a serious pandemic (we’re not), or on the set of some kind of viral apocalypse film. I haven’t been wearing one because the kids need to see my mouth during English time (also, I hate them), but I think Japan’s cultural hypochondria is rubbing off on me because I’m getting worried about coming down with something. The constant, mind-numbing cold doesn’t help. But the situation is not even a tenth as dire as they’re making it out to be. Just one more reason for me to be eagerly anticipating the end of winter.
But flu season is a blah topic, so to change gears entirely, I’ll address the other half of my vaguely alliterative blog title: purikura.
Purikura (プリクラ) is the shortened name for Japanese photo booths that print the photos as stickers. They’re sort of a quintessential Japanese pop culture experience – you and whoever you’re with (I’ve done them with one other person, I’ve also done them with big groups) put in your ¥400 (a little shy of $5) and get sent through a rapid-fire series of screens picking the starting options you want (such as the backgrounds for the photos). It’s very quick and will choose for you if you take too long. Then the machine takes a series of photos (usually six) very quickly. As in, you only get a few seconds in between photos to change poses. Then you go out to the touch screens on the outside of the machine and get to decorate the hell out of your photos. It’s crazy and ridiculous and you end up with photos that look something like:
…that. Since I have a Japanese mobile phone mail address, I was able to get a photo sent to me and we picked that one. The text, cutesy decorations, and sparkles were all added by Lauren (she has the whiskers) during the few minutes we had to decorate our six shots. As you can probably tell, the booths are designed to make you look good. The lights are really bright to even out your complexion, eyes are enhanced, and the whole effect is soft. They’re super popular with schoolgirls, groups of friends, and couples on dates. And foreigners, of course.
I really like it, honestly. When you split the cost between people, it’s a cheap thing to do while out. Purikura machines are in every arcade in the country, and Japan has a lot of arcades, so you never have to go far to find one, and the stickers are nice for memories. It sounds cheesy, but I’m serious. I have so many puri stickers from when I was a foreign student and I love them because they remind me of what I was doing and where I was at the time. I’m glad I have them.
So, if you’re in Japan and have never tried it, purikura is awesome. Even if it’s not really your thing, you’ll enjoy it at least once.