Street Karting in Japan

By: Julia Austin

Presented by

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Who knew mixing it with busy city traffic in go karts was the way to go? Our brave scribe Julia Austin tries it and survives

Did you know that Mario Kart-themed go-kart tours on Japanese public roads is a thing? With a three-week long snowboarding trip ahead of us on the mountain of Niseko a quick stop over in Tokyo was on the cards and for us, MariCar was an absolute must.

What better way to see some of Tokyo’s most popular tourist attractions than throwing our bunch of rev-head Australians in Yoshi costumes and turning us loose in a 50cc go-kart on the streets of Tokyo?

I would go as far as to say this experience, with the exception of jumping out of a helicopter onto a snow covered mountain, is by far the best thing I have done in all my years. Here’s why.

With a group of eight, booking for this experience was vital but very easily done via the MariCar Facebook page and no advance payment was required. We did, however have to obtain our international drivers licence before jetting out of Australia – but again, this was as simple as stopping it at your motoring organisation with a passport photo.

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After signing some liability waiver forms that, without a word of a lie, make you swear you are not carrying any banana peels and or tortoise shells, we got into our costumes, which are included in the cost.

There were many different characters to choose from and not all Mario Kart related, but as a purist, I went with Mario, while my partner chose Luigi and the rest of the group continued the theme. The costumes were cute, goofy single-piece suits and also warm! Thankfully, MariCar also offers complimentary gloves as everyone in our group had failed to realise the February temperature in Tokyo can drop into minus figures. We had a good laugh at each other and jumped into the carts.

Our friendly tour leader did a fantastic job at explaining how to drive the thing; his instructions were simple – accelerator on the right and brake on the left, drive in one line behind him and go two-by-two at traffic light stops. Simple.

Amazingly, Japanese law does not currently require drivers to wear helmets while living out their Mario Kart fantasies, and seatbelts are also not mandatory. 

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Unsurprisingly, Japan Today reports that not only is there a rise in the number of kart-related injuries and incidents of property damage, but that foreign drivers are responsible for 86 per cent of them. Of course, that figure doesn’t break things down in terms of banana peel versus tortoise shell accidents, but it does categorise nationalities and age groups.

North American males in their 20s are the chief offenders, South Koreans are responsible for two-thirds as many accidents, followed by China, Taiwan and Australia, respectively. People in their 20s and 30s are responsible for 90 per cent of accidents, a figure which should surprise nobody.

We drove from Shibuya to Tokyo bay BBQ shop before crossing the Rainbow Bridge at 80km/h. If I can compare this with anything it would be the Tokyo version of Melbourne’s Bolte Bridge – water on one side and semi-trailers in the right lane!

From there we made our way to the famous Tokyo Tower then back across Rainbow Bridge followed by Odaiba where we stopped to gather our composure and a photo opportunity with an oddly placed Statue of Liberty replica, then lastly over Tokyo Gate Bridge.

MariCar –The closest thing to real-life Mario Cart on the streets of Tokyo. The overall experience including a stick-on moustache (essential) will set you back less than $A100 for just over three hours at the wheel. If you compare this with Victoria's Phillip Island Go-Kart Circuit at $80 per half hour I’d say that’s incredible value for money and a hell of a lot more fun. I will certainly be seeing Tokyo from a MariCart again.


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