The options for seeing Tokyo are varied—from busy trains to taxis and of course cheapo-friendly feet, but what if you want something different? Here’s how you can take to the roads in a real-life (but completely unofficial) Mario Kart in Tokyo and spend an afternoon seeing the sights!
“Mario Kart” in Tokyo: How it works
Using custom-built go-karts, Mari Mobility, ex-MariCar (the main name in the Mario Kart in Tokyo game) and now called Street Kart, together with a few other rental companies, offer you the opportunity to drive through the city like an unofficial game character. As long as you have one of the approved driving licenses (listed below), you can take to the streets. Most go-karts are fitted with GPS and communication bands, and you’ll be following a guide at all times, so you don’t need to worry about taking a wrong turn and ending up in, say, Hokkaido.
Before scorching the tarmac, you can stash your belongings in a locker at the shop and change into your costume, which is often included in the price. There are a variety of courses to choose from—the various branches of Street Kart and other rental companies all have different routes.
When you have decided on which tour(s) you want and are certain you have the right paperwork (see below for both), you can book with the shop of your choice online, using Facebook/Line, or over the phone. There may be options for free cancellation depending on the weather, but be sure to arrive promptly for your booking otherwise. These things are in demand!
Discount Mario Kart tickets
One of the best ways to scoop reduced-rate tickets for Mario Kart in Tokyo is by booking on Voyagin—discounts range around 30 percent. If you opt to book directly through Street Kart, you can get a discount by sharing your experience on social media.
Choosing your shop and tour(s)
Depending on how much of Tokyo you want to see and when you want to see it, you can choose from the different shops and their tour options. As well as throughout Tokyo, there are also rental shops in Yokohama, Osaka and even Okinawa. Note: All of the go-kart rental shops have their own websites/social media channels, so make sure you’re on the right site.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the major Street Kart outlets and their options for driving a go-kart in Tokyo. Note: This is by no means an exhaustive list of your karting choices.
Shinagawa #1 and #2: Two course options
There are two shops in Shinagawa, but both offer the same tours—so don’t worry about picking between the two.
- SM/S2M Course: Between 1.5 – 2 hours, takes you to Tokyo Tower, through Roppongi, to Shibuya Crossing and back to Shinagawa. It costs ¥10,000 without discounts.
- SL/S2L Course: Between 2.5 – 3 hours, takes you to Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Tower, through Roppongi and to Shibuya Crossing before heading back to Shinagawa. It costs ¥13,000 without discounts. This is a good one if you fancy some speed, as you can go quite fast across the bridge!
Akihabara #1: One course option
The first shop in Akihabara has the following course on offer:
- A1-M Course: Between 1.5 – 2 hours, takes you to Tokyo Station, Ginza, then Ueno, followed by Asakusa and Tokyo Skytree before heading back. It costs ¥10,000 without discounts.
Akihabara #2: Two course options
This shop offers two courses and has one of the shortest and cheapest, so it’s perfect if you don’t have much time.
- A2-S Course: About 1 hour long, this course takes you to Tokyo Skytree, Asakusa and Ryogoku before returning to the shop. It costs ¥7,000 without discounts.
- A2-M Course: About 1.5 – 2 hours long, this course takes you to the center of Tokyo before returning to the shop. It costs ¥10,000 without discounts.
Shibuya: One course option
This is the best choice if you want to experience driving through Shibuya Crossing.
- H-S Course: About 1 hour long, this course takes you to Shibuya Crossing, Harajuku and then Omotesando before returning to the shop. It costs ¥8,000 without discounts.
Asakusa: One course option
Though only a medium-length course, you do get to see a fair chunk of Tokyo.
- SK-M Course: This one takes 1.5-2 hours and you will drive around Asakusa, Ueno, Tokyo Dome and Tokyo Skytree. It costs ¥10,000 without discounts.
Tokyo Bay BBQ: Three course options
There’s no barbecue included, but you can choose from the following:
- K-M Course: Between 1.5 – 2 hours long, this course takes you to Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Tower and back to Tokyo Bay. It costs ¥10,000 without discounts.
- K-L Course: Between 2.5 – 3 hours long, this course takes you to Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Tower, Shibuya Crossing and Tokyo Gate Bridge before heading back. It costs ¥13,000 without discounts.
- KB-M Course: Featuring a 45-minute boat cruise, this tour will take you to Tokyo Gate Bridge, Rainbow Bridge and then on a cruise before going back to base. It costs ¥18,000 without discounts.
That’s a lot of information right there, so here’s a quick summary of what we reckon are some of the winning options.
6 of the best go-kart courses in Tokyo
|Course||Shop||Length||Cost||Areas You’ll See|
|A2-S||Akihabara 2||1 hour||¥7,000||Tokyo Skytree, Asakusa, Ryogoku|
|HS||Shibuya||1 hour||¥8,000||Shibuya, Harajuku, Omotesando|
|S2M||Shinagawa 2||1.5 – 2 hours||¥10,000||Tokyo Tower, Roppongi, Shibuya|
|SK-M||Asakusa||1.5 – 2 hours||¥10,000||Asakusa, Ueno, Tokyo Dome, Tokyo Skytree|
|SL||Shinagawa 1||2.5 – 3 hours||¥13,000||Rainbow Bridge, Odaiba, Tokyo Tower, Roppongi, Shibuya|
|KB-L||Tokyo Bay BBQ||Approx. 3 hours||¥18,000||Tokyo Gate Bridge, Rainbow Bridge, boat cruise, Tokyo Tower|
Remember: To get yourself a good discount, and for easy online reservations, we recommend booking your go-kart tour of Tokyo through Voyagin.
Getting kitted out
If you’re going to zoom through the streets, you’ll need some accessories—either for safety or fun. Rentals typically include a face-guard mask, shades and helmet, plus your favorite costume. You can also rent LED shoes, a blue-tooth speaker or a 4K action camera. If you want to look the part even when you leave, you can sometimes purchase costumes to take home with you. Memory cards are also generally available if you need one.
One great element is that the shops don’t prevent you from bringing your own cameras, costumes or anything else—and don’t charge you either, so you can use your own equipment as you please.
Recommended Tokyo Accommodation
Following safety precautions
Riding through the streets at knee-level might seem a bit dangerous when confronted with trucks, boy-racers and never-re-tested pensioner-drivers, but the rental companies do have safety measures in place. Accident insurance is included, and there are some general rules to follow that are designed to keep you alive that little bit longer.
- No racing allowed
- Dress appropriately: no heels, sandals or long skirts allowed
- Follow your guide’s advice and route, including hand gestures and speed
What license do you need?
Although it might look like a game, this adventure takes place on real-life streets and is regulated by Japanese law. Anyone wanting to drive a Mario Kart in Tokyo will need to have one of the following:
- A full Japanese driving license
- An International Driving Permit (used with your passport and home country license)
- This permit can only be obtained outside of Japan and lasts for one year from the date of entry to Japan and/or issuance. It is easy to get, for example, it can be obtained from the AAA for around $20 in America.
- It must be issued under the 1949 Geneva Convention; the permit cannot be issued under the 1926 Paris Convention, the 1943 Washington Convention or the 1968 Vienna Convention.
- A SOFA driving license for members of US military forces in Japan
- An American driving license with US military ID is also acceptable.
- A foreign driving license issued in Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, Taiwan, Slovenia or Monaco. Residents of these countries are allowed to drive in Japan for one year from entry, provided they have a Japanese translation by an authorized organization. Bring these two documents and your passport with you.
What about the non-drivers?
If you can’t drive, don’t have the paperwork or just don’t trust yourself (or others) on the road, you can still take part in the Mario Kart in Tokyo fun. There is sometimes an option for a non-driver to travel in a special tuk-tuk and convertible to take photos of the team. The boarding fee of approximately ¥3,000 may be waived if the person travels in the same car as the staff.
A word of warning before you roar off
There have been a few incidents with people driving a go-kart in Tokyo, including a hit-and-run with a cyclist and some very, very dodgy driving on very busy roads. It can’t be stated enough that you need to drive responsibly at all times. Enjoy the experience, but keep in mind that you need to be extremely careful—and also respectful of your surroundings. Some go-karts have been getting on the nerves of local residents, so try to keep the peace.
Copyright issues: Mari Mobility (the old MariCar company) recently found itself in more hot water with a certain video game company.
While we do our best to keep things up to date, all prices and other details are subject to change. Last updated in October, 2019 to reflect the Japanese consumption tax increase.