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April - June 1997

Print Club

Print Club (known in Japanese as Purinto Kurabu, or Puri Kura for short) is a machine that lets you design and print out stickers with photos of your face on them. It's fast and easy. Ever since Print Club came out in the summer of 1995, it's been wildly popular among young people, especially junior-high-school and high-school girls. You can find Print Club machines on street corners all over Japan.

To use Print Club, you stand in front of the machine, draw a curtain behind you, and drop in 300 yen (about $2.70). You press a button to choose a background for your photo, then press another button to take your picture. On the screen you see an image of your face as it will appear on the sticker. The machine says, "Please wait a moment. I'm printing the stickers." Then, after a minute has gone by, the machine spits out a sheet of 16 stickers.

Girls (and some young women too) like to exchange these stickers with their friends and put them all over their notebooks. They also like to show each other their sticker collections. "We enjoy exchanging stickers, and it's fun to collect a whole bunch," the girls say. Some people think the popularity of Print Club stickers is a product of the Japanese group mentality. Young people like to keep in touch with their friends, and nobody wants to be left out. For Japanese girls, both Print Club stickers and pagers (which are also extremely popular in Japan) serve as tools for communicating with friends.

But Print Club is also used by other people, for other purposes. Some people use it to take group photos of family or friends. Recently, people have begun making greeting cards from the family pictures they take with Print Club. And many people put the stickers on their business cards so that prospective employers, customers, and so on will remember their faces as well as their names.

The Print Club craze has led to a variety of related products. Mini albums and keychains designed to hold Print Club stickers have been around for a while now. More recently, Print Club Files (mini files on a chain) have become a hit item.

Now there's a new kind of machine called Stamp Club that can create a rubber stamp with the image of your face.

Print Club was shown at a trade fair in New York this past June. So you might be seeing Print Club in the United States before long!

Photos: (Top) The machines can be found all over Japan; (middle) collecting the stickers is all the rage; (above) a variety of "frames" can be chosen for the stickers. (Kyodo)