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Adventures in Japanese UI Design: Sharp Konbini Printers

It’s time to look at another Japanese user interface design. Last week we looked at the UI of a sushi ordering machine. In the first post in this series we looked at a very modern vending machine. This time we will look at the Sharp konbini printer which you can find in some Japanese convenience stores like Lawson’s and FamilyMart.

For those who don’t know, Japanese convenience stores are easily Japan’s best feature. Here is a small list of things you could do at a convenience store: buy lunch, get an delivery, get cash from an ATM, pay your bills, grab a late night snack. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The Sharp konbini printer take copies, fax documents, scan documents and print both regular documents and photos (on photo paper).
This is what the printer looks like. Notice on the right hand side there is a coin slot.
The coin slot in detail (from another machine). This is how you pay. Paying with coins is a bit old school, but this is a good way to get rid of your small coins.
Coin slot in detail (from another machine).
My Japanese is not so great yet so the first thing to do is change the language. The standard user interface is in Japanese, but the machine offers 8 languages including Russian, Spanish, English and Chinese.
Next you have to get your files on the machine. Some machines allow you to bring your files on all kinds of media. Most machines only allow USB tranfers and transfers through a specific smartphone app called PrintSmash. You can only download it if you have a Japanese iTunes account.
This is menu where you select the type of print. Notice you can print up to A3 size. You can print photo IDs or index prints, as well as multiple photos per page.
Folder selection – Basically you are browsing the filesystem of your inserted media here to find the files you want to print.
Example of an error. Unfortunately the system couldn’t handle a 10Mb JPG file.
Notice how the system treats the metadata created by Mac OSX as broken files. This can be confusing at times.
A preview of what the print will look like. I printed an image from Howl’s Moving Castle, one of my favorite films. Printing this image on photo paper costs ¥120, or €0,82 at the current exchange rate. For reference printing a black and white A4 costs ¥10 or €0,68.
While your document is printing you can keep yourself busy with a little game. Very Japanese.
This is the end result! The print is pretty good for the price and convenience of being able to do it yourself.

I really like these conbini printers: you don’t have to have a printer at home, or worry about ordering ink. You can make photo prints and relatively cheap document prints. And if you are in Japan, there’s probably a convenience store close to you anyway.

That’s it for today!

Johan Ronsse

About the author

Johan Ronsse is an interface designer who is trying to find the balance between aesthetics and usability. He tweets as @wolfr_2.

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2 thoughts on “Adventures in Japanese UI Design: Sharp Konbini Printers”

  • No avatar

    13 Mar 2017 at 10:13

    ‘Twas helpful…even in 2017.

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