You Can Drive a Real-life Mario Kart Along the Streets of Japan

You Can Drive a Real-life Mario Kart Along the Streets of Japan

Love playing Mario Kart on your Game Boy? Make your gaming dreams come through in Japan where you can dress up in different costumes and hop on a Mario kart of your own!

I grew up playing the Mario Kart console game. I revelled in being Mario or Yoshi, zipping through landscapes and navigating obstacles. Many years down the road, I still fondly recall the impossibly catchy theme song that played during the races. So imagine my delight when I discovered that I could actually drive a Mario-Kart in real life. It still feels so incredibly surreal!

mario kart japan

In recent years, there has been a rising phenomenon of Mario-Karting along the streets of Japan. I kid you not! On my recent trip to Tokyo, I decided to see it if was worth the hype and of course, live out my childhood fantasies. I checked out Maricar, Tokyo’s most reputable Mario-Kart association, and decided to go with Samurai Kart, their subsidiary located in the district of Asakusa.

There are four time slots to choose from – 9.30am, 12.30pm, 3.30pm and 5.30pm – with each tour ranging from 1-3 hours. I opted for a two-hour experience at 3.30pm, with the hopes of there being lighter traffic. Booking is easy: you can either book through their website or via third-party OTAs. There was a special discount going on and I paid around JPY7000 (~SGD86). This included costume rental, two guides that will follow you throughout the journey, as well as optional face masks, shades or helmets. You can also opt to rent a Go-Pro camera that will be strapped to your head or chest.

The best part? Your guide will also act as your personal photographer and take lots of pictures along the way (ours helped us take more than 50 photographs!) – completely free of charge.

mario kart japan

Upon arrival, we had to sign an indemnity form and it was off to choose our costumes! Choose from a wide array of costumes – the usual suspects of Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Yoshi, as well as other cartoon characters such as Nemo, Buzz Lightyear, Pikachu and more. The fitting room is spacious and home to a giant mirror, perfect for you to try on each costume till you find one that’s to your fancy. If you wish to take your time to try on the costumes, I recommend arriving early so as to avoid eating into your session.

After choosing the costumes, our guides brought us down for a lesson on how to drive the go-karts. Do note that you’ll need an International Driving Permit for this experience, which means that you’ll have to be a certified driver and at least 18 years of age. More on this later! Driving the kart is much like driving a car in an automatic transmission, with two accelerator and brake pedals. The catch is that you’ll be driving along real roads amongst everyday traffic and will thus have to be alert at all times!

Each group can cater for up to six people but luckily for us, there was nobody else booked in the same time slot. This meant that we were in for a private tour of sorts! We were instructed to drive in a single file, flanked by one guide at the front and one at the back. When encountering a red-light, we were to align our carts next to each other. The instructions were simple and easy to understand. After a quick practice session, we were off!

Image credit: SAMURAI KART ASAKUSA

 

Our tour would bring us through the districts of Asakusa and Ueno, all the way to the iconic Tokyo Sky-Tree. Think of it as a sightseeing tour on wheels!

Feel free to take lots of pictures when your go-karts are stationary at the traffic light. However, do keep an eye out for the changing lights to avoid holding up the cars behind you.

mario kart japan

Our guides took plenty of pictures for us – and from all angles too.

Here’s a selfie with our fun-loving guides. Kudos to them!

mario kart japan

Before making our way back to the shop, we stopped by Sumida Park, a tranquil riverside park with a splendid view of the Tokyo Sky-tree. Our guides helped us snap a couple of shots before giving us some free time to wander around the area. I felt that this was an especially nice touch and offered a good opportunity to stretch our legs after an extended period of driving.

mario kart japan

And of course, how could we resist breaking out the classic Mario pose?

Upon arriving back at the shop, we changed out of our costumes and were presented with a photo souvenir. What a great finishing touch! Childhood dream, fulfilled.

How to get there & what to bring

The shop can be reached with either:

  1. A 5-minute walk from Asakusa Station via the Tsukuba Express
  2. A 10-minute walk from Asakusa Station via the Tokyo Skytree Line, Toei Asakusa Line and Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, or
  3. A 5-minute walk from Asakusa Station via the Tobu Skytree Line.

I recommend dropping by the Sensoji Temple and Nakamise Shopping Street before making your way to the Samurai Kart shop. Simply key the address – 3-25-31 Nishi-Asakusa Taito ward Tokyo, Japan – into Google Maps and you’ll be all set.

The shop is really easy to spot; just look out for the big ‘SAMURAI KART’ sign and the go-kart stationed right outside.

Do take note that closed-toe footwear is mandatory; anyone turning up in slippers or sandals will not be able to participate. You’ll also have to bring your passport and International Driving Permit. There are two types of International Driving Permits that are accepted for this activity:

  1. A driving license from Belgium, France, Germany, Monaco, Slovenia, Switzerland or Taiwan, on top of an official Japanese translation provided by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) or the respective country’s embassy or consulate in Japan
  2. An International Driving Permit based on the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic. Those based on the 1968 Vienna Convention are NOT valid.

For Option 2, do note that these permits are only valid for one year from the issue date.

Aside from all that, I highly recommend this Mario-karting experience for anyone looking for a novel activity to try. After all, where else will something like this be possible? Like Mario always says in the game – here we go!

Samurai Kart Asakusa

Address: 3-25-31 Nishi-Asakusa Taito ward Tokyo, Japan
Phone number: +81 3384 11860
Email: [email protected]
Website

About Author

E-lyn Tham
E-lyn Tham

Having a strong conviction that getting lost is just another adventure in itself, E-lyn takes particular delight in wandering stranger lands, inhibitions and fears thrown asunder. There’s so much left in the world to see, and there’s nothing she would like better than to spend her days dreaming whimsical, thinking adventure, and laughing curious.

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