Jackie and I went to Japantown recently. Japantown's always struck me as odd - there's a weird energy there, like it's built on an indian burial ground or something. It's nothing that really sticks with you, it's just a bit off.
But it has the Hi-Tech Car Air Freshener Store, a combination weird/awesome knife store, pretty good Udon at Mifune, and a dozen other japanese stores. Oh and now that Sundance has taken over the cinema and turned it into a cocktail-dinner-movie experience, the movies have gotten better.
But it also has Pika Pika.
This entire shop is devoted to insanely complicated japanese photo booths. It's in the corner and the outside is pretty nondescript - I'd never noticed it but it's been there awhile. Walking in results in slight disorientation because of all the graphical busy-ness, jpop music, and occasional shrieks of teenage girls. Picking a booth turns out to be rather difficult. There are about a dozen, and they're all kind of overwhelming, not least because all the instructions are in japanese. In the end, I'm not so sure it matters which one you choose...
That's right. Eight bucks. Well worth it though. You put your money in and step inside. And then you panic. There's a shrill voice telling you what to do (in Japanese) and high strung girls on video showing you how to pose...and a countdown. You try to keep up and do something interesting.
After (5? 10? 30?) minutes, you've posed four to five times, encouraged to do some pretty bizarre things. But wait, you're not done. Go around to the side of the machine where you'll find a screen with a stylus - here you can customize your pictures with as many saccharine glittery effects as your little heart desires.
You end up with something like this. If we were in Japan, you could have the machine email the pictures to your mobile phone.
It's pretty easy to get to - straight shot West on Geary from downtown ($10 cab ride, 15 minute bus ride, and there's a parking garage). All in all, it's a slightly bizarre, highly entertaining afternoon in San Francisco, especially if it's raining.
Find Pika Pika on Yelp.