What started as just curiosity has now become a new obsession. Almost a hobby. I've gotten purikura in almost every city I've visited. This is purikura:
Purikura is the Japanese version of photo booths. You slip coins into a slot, and several small photos are taken. Usually friends and lovers take them together. And that's where the similarities end.
In purikura you have a choice of several different booths, sometimes over twenty. They're often in multistory arcades but just as often they are attractions in and of themselves. They are most popular with young crowds but even college graduates will get some purikura with their friends to celebrate the occasion.
Once you insert the coins the madness begins, and quickly. You need to select how you want to be tinted and if you want your eyes to be colored/sparkled. Then you decide which 4-6 backgrounds you want out of about 100. Some are just plain colors or patterns but others have cute images like on my example of purikura.
Once you decide how you're gonna pose (before each shot you're shown models posing in your selected background in case you can't come up with anything on the spot) and the photos are taken it's only half over.
Then you go to a smaller, adjacent booth with two chairs and a screen with two "pens" attached. Now you go about decorating your tiny photos. There's tons of hearts and stars, cutesy sayings in Japanese and English (the one above is, "Suki, suki, daisuki: Like, like, love"), date stamps, pen color choices for writing your own message, and hoards of cute images like puppies and cakes and smileys.
It's incredibly overwhelming at first but the more you go to the purikura dens the more you're used to what they offer and pretty soon you're purikura-ing just like a giddy group of high school girls.
Purikura is probably not a legitimate hobby nor is it probably what the JET Programme has in mind when it recommends getting involved in cultural activities. But it is fun, really, really fun. And, as if it couldn't get better, you can peel off the backing and your purikura becomes a sticker!