Tokyo is known to be the capital of weird and cute things to do and we found just the coolest thing to do during our recent trip there: real life Mario Kat. Yes, it’s legal to drive a go kart on the streets of Tokyo and yes you dress up as Mario brothers characters and yes you can take photos and videos. Having been to Tokyo several times already, I wasn’t all that interested in the typical touristy things but this was so unique that it became something I really looked forward to doing.
The company we went with was MariCar: http://maricar.com/ It’s best to contact them through facebook and they usually respond within a couple of days. There are 3 courses to choose from, a 2 hour course that goes through Tokyo Tower, Roppongi, and Shibuya Crossing (6000 Yen or USD 60) or the course that visits Rainbow Bridge, Odaiba, Tokyo Tower, Roppongi. There is also a 3 hour course that goes to Rainbow Bridge, Odaiba, Tokyo tower, Roppongi, and Shibuya Crossing (8000 Yen or USD 80). Didn’t know what to expect, we decided to go with the 2 hour option that goes to Shibuya.
The meetup point is their office about 15 minute walk from Shinagawa station and you know you are there once you see all these Go-karts parked right in front!
Our appointment was at 5 and most people were already there trying on different costumes by 4:45pm. Most people end up choosing to be either Mario or Luigi so I decided to be something less common: Bowser…!
Even though it was late September, Tokyo was still very hot and humid so it really felt uncomfortable (even though cute) to be in an overall, oh well!
We followed our team leaders to a parking lot to get set up and get familiar with the Go-Karts and traffic rules on Tokyo Streets.
It took about 30 minutes for all of us to be up and running and finally it was time to go! I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. It was a bit scary trying to get out of the parking lot when cars were coming at us without reducing their speed. I also wasn’t used to driving on the opposite lane and be lower than every car on the street. The first 20 minutes were relatively nerve wrecking trying to get used to the Go-Kart and making sure I don’t get hit by real cars on the road.
However, I quickly realized that Japanese drivers are quite nice and 99% of the cars on the road tried to avoid us by driving in a completely different lane.
Our first stop was Tokyo Tower, which was about 30 minutes from Shinagawa (where we started). We got separated from the rest of the group on the road but the company was really good about having 3 guides to follow the group (one in front, one in the middle, and one at the end) so we never had to get worried about getting lost.
While driving on the road, most pedestrians were so amused by us that they would wave at us and try to take pictures and videos of us. Talk about being a celebrity!
The best part of the trip was undoubtedly driving through the Shibuya Crossing. For those of you who don’t know what that is, Shibuya Crossing is the big multi-way crossing in the middle of Tokyo that show up in all the movies. It was also featured in the movie The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, except the main character had a race car instead of a Go Kart 😛 The best part of the whole evening was probably when we drove around Shibuya, not once, but 3 times! They totally make it worth awhile for you and your camera
Things You Should Know Before Going:
This was really an experience of a lifetime and the best way to explore Tokyo. If i could go back to Tokyo I would try a different course during the day. That being said, if you want to do this in Tokyo, make sure to do the following to avoid disappointment!
- Make sure you have a driver’s license in your own country and be comfortable driving on the street
- Get an international driving permit (in the US, you can easily obtain this from AAA for 30 bux)
- Contact Maricar way in advance as they are quite popular and are in high demand
- If you come in the summer, be ready to sweat!
- Bring a face mask if it’s not too hot, the fuses from the karts in front of you can be quite strong
- Give yourself 3 hours for a 2 hour course (1 hour for changing costumes, setting up, returning the Go-Kart, paying, getting photos from them, etc)
- Bring a GoPro because you can go quite fast (~40 miles/hour) so it’s hard to take videos and photos with your phone or like me…camera
- If you don’t don’t mind going at top speed on the road, then try the courses with Rainbow bridge as you floor the gas driving through it!
- Ladies! Do not bring a big purse with you as the Go-Karts only have a small pouch for your phone and keys
- Try to come during non-rainy season as they cancel the events if it rains! (You do not want to get soaked anyway)
- Enjoy and be safe! Follow Japanese driving rules and road etiquette