Mario Kart in Japan: Can You Still Do It Today?

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Since the release of the first Super Nintendo game in 1992, Mario Kart has become a global sensation.

The Nintendo spin-off franchise is now colossal and reportedly worth more than $38 billion.

Once upon a time, you could go to Japan’s capital and experience this phenomenon in a live action, cosplay Mario Kart experience.

Mario Kart in Japan
Mario Kart in Japan

Not part of that official franchise, unfortunately, the well-known original experience in Tokyo no longer exists.

But can you still do it? Or something like it?

Here, we will highlight what you can do in Japan in terms of a Mario Kart experience.

What Happened to the Mario Kart Experience?

Nintendo are renowned for protecting their assets and will even take individuals to court for violating their copyrights.

This experience fell victim of such action in 2020, when it was confirmed that the company providing the “Mario Kart” experience had been sued for fifty million yen.

This, in the time of a global pandemic, saw the end of this original tour.

Is Street Karting Still a Thing in Japan?

Yes, it most certainly is! Since travel has now almost got back to its baseline in Japan, other companies have now emerged and there are a number of experiences in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and other places throughout the archipelago.

Although these are likely to refrain from making any connection with Nintendo, you can still dress up as your favourite cartoon character and tour the streets in real go kart day, or night.

What Do You Need to Take Part?

Street Karting is incredibly good fun, but it takes place on the real streets of major Japanese cities.

Resultingly, you have to have a licence to do it, as well as the right travel insurance which will cover you in such situations. A full Japanese licence is one option.

You can also be in possession of one of the following:

  • International Driving Permit – used in conjunction with a home-country licence & passport
  • A Foreign Driving Licence – issued in certain countries around the world
  • A SOFA Driving Licence – US Military members serving in Japan

How Much Does Street Karting Cost?

Depending on where you go, costs for a one-hour experience range from approximately $40.00 to $130.00 per person.

This is not available for children, so all tickets are adult prices and most include costume rental.

You might consider that most of these providers will not have Nintendo costumes for obvious reasons, so if you want to dress like Mario then you can always buy your own from a local store.

Is Street Karting Safe?

While there have been incidents reported, the general opinion is yes – it is safe.

People generally have a lot of fun but, like with anything else, it is only as safe as the behaviour of those participating.

Remember to drive responsibly and follow all the given instructions and directions and don’t go off track.

You will drive in close proximately to general traffic and this can be quite intimidating.

However, if you drive with the due care and attention then it can be a fantastic experience for everyone.

Where is the Best Place to Street Kart in Japan?

In terms of choice, Tokyo is the clear option given that there are five different areas where these tours happen.

Areas include:

  • Tokyo Bay
  • Shinjuku
  • Shibuya
  • Akihabara
  • Asakusa

Akihabara includes the city’s gaming and Manga district, whilst Tokyo Bay tours Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower.

What Safety Precautions Should I Take?

Driving safely is precaution number one.

This means driving responsibly on the busy streets and, although it could be tempting, no racing is allowed. It’s a street karting experience, not Mario Kart.

Considering the circumstances, remember to dress as appropriately for a Go-kart as possible. Things to avoid wearing might include footwear, such as: sandals, flipflops, or heels.

Long, loose garments like lengthy skirts or long scarves could also be dangerous. Finally, keep to the speed limitations set by your guide.

Can Non-drivers Take Part in the Event?

Sadly, they will not be able to take part directly. Some companies will allow a member of your party to drive along with them and take pictures.

Others may even provide this as a paid service or let your friend jump in with them.

Otherwise, anyone not driving a kart can find a decent spot in the route and take some pictures from there.

Whether you’re in Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka, you will certainly find a nice place to take some time and photographs as the tour passes.

Final Thoughts

Given the controversy, you might expect that some kind of live “Mario Kart” experience would be a thing of the past. Evidently, this is far from the case.

There are a number of providers in Japan and a number of different tracks to navigate. If it is your desire to dress up as your favourite character and traverse the roads of Japan in a Go-kart, you have plenty of options.

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