memorial purikura

As you’re probably already aware, Tuesday this week marked the third anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, a day on which tens of thousands of people lost their lives and many more were displaced, never able to return to their homes. At 14:46 local time, the exact moment the quake struck three years ago, people across the country stopped to take part in nationwide silent prayer, or mokutou in Japanese.

Teens across the land also took a moment to pay their respects that day, although the actions of a few were perhaps a little misguided. Soon after the moment of silence, photos emerged online showing kids “praying” inside purikura sticker photo booths, which were quickly shared and “favourited”.

Netizens reacted angrily to the images, calling them disrespectful and deploring how the smartphone generation feels the need to broadcast almost everything they do.

Although some people, busy as they were, went about their day oblivious to the fact that the moment of silence was being held, the vast majority stopped what they were doing and took a few seconds to reflect on Tuesday this week.

Even on the streets of Tokyo, hundreds of people came to a sudden halt as memorial services were broadcast on big screens.

Not long afterwards, a number of photos appeared online showing teens supposedly praying and showing their respects for the dead. Many included messages such as “in memory of those who lost their lives on March 11, 2011,” and seemed quite genuine. Others less so.


Naturally, the online community was both surprised and angered to see such photos, which were mostly taken in purikura photo booths, which require manual operation and for the participants to strike a suitable pose while the machine takes their photo. They’re also almost always located within noisy video arcades, begging the question of whether these kids were really taking their reflection seriously.

Despite being daubed with the kanji characters for silent prayer (黙祷), few netizens believed that these shared displays of respect for the dead were genuine, and found the very idea of taking photos of oneself during a time like this, not least then sharing them online, in very poor taste.

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“What on earth are these people doing sharing photos on Twitter of themselves praying? What on earth is wrong with Japan?” wrote one of the many angry Twitter users in response to the photos, adding that surely the money spent on taking the photo would have been better given to a relief fund to help those affected by the disaster.

The majority of the comments made online, however, were far blunter:

“Man, this pisses me off.”
“These kids have zero morals.”
“Are they even praying properly?”
“Purikura is anything but silent prayer.”
“Silent prayer isn’t some event you know!”

In fairness, we’re sure that at least some of the kids who took photos like these genuinely meant well and that their hearts were in the right place. They’re young and, what with growing up in the age of smartphones and selfies, by sharing their photos in this way they may have felt that they were showing their respects appropriately. Rather, it is down to their teachers, parents and even older siblings to tell them that while social media can be a wonderful tool for spreading a message, there are times when we should put down our phones and appreciate the gravity of the situation, and certainly not just for show.

Stepping into a purikura booth to document your prayers for the dead is most definitely not a good idea. But then again, sharing photos of yourself supposedly passionately kissing your boy/girlfriend, or taking time out from “having an amazing time with the best friends ever” to Tweet or update your Facebook status with is perhaps just as idiotic, so maybe we’re not really setting the best example?

Source/photos: Hamster Sokuhou