Here’s how you can take to the roads in a real-life Mario Kart in Tokyo and spend an afternoon dodging banana skins and seeing the sights!
The options for seeing Tokyo are varied—from the metro to those busy trains, taxis and of course cheapo-friendly feet, but what if you want something different? Just about everyone in the world knows Mario, and his appearance in this Tokyo 2020 Olympic promo cemented his ties to the city. Whether you played Mario Kart on the N64 or the Wii, trying it for real is a dream come true. While you’re officially not allowed to throw bananas, you can dress up as your favorite character (or Batman, whatever floats your
boat kart) and hit the road, waving to crowds and seeing the sights.
Mario Kart in Tokyo: How it works
Using custom-built go-karts, MariCAR (the main name in the Mario Kart in Tokyo game) and a few other rental companies offer you the opportunity to drive through the city like (an unofficial) Super Mario. As long as you have one of the approved driving licenses (listed below), you can take to the streets. Most 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 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 MariCAR 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
The best way to scoop reduced-rate tickets for Mario Kart in Tokyo is by booking on Voyagin—discounts range between 20 and 37 percent. If you book through MariCAR, you can also get a decent 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 rental shops have their own websites/social media channels, making a bit of Google fu necessary.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the major MariCAR outlets and their options for driving a Mario Kart in Tokyo:
Shinagawa: Three course options
There are two MariCAR shops in Shinagawa, but both offer the same two tours—so don’t worry about picking between the two.
- SM Course: Between 1.5 – 2 hours, takes you to Tokyo Tower, through Roppongi, to Shibuya Crossing and back to Shinagawa. It costs ¥9,000 without discounts.
- SL Course: Between 2.5 – 3 hours, takes you to Rainbow Bridge, Odaiba, Tokyo Tower, through Roppongi and to Shibuya Crossing before heading back to Shinagawa. It costs ¥12,000 without discounts. This is a good one if you fancy some speed, as you can go quite fast across the bridge!
Akihabara #1: Three course options
The first shop in Akihabara has the following courses to choose from:
- 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 ¥9,000 without discounts.
- A1-L Course: Between 2.5 -3 hours, takes you to Tokyo Tower, then Rainbow Bridge before reaching Ginza and returning to the shop. It costs ¥12,000 without discounts.
- AB-L Course: This course includes a boat cruise in Tokyo Bay, so you can expand your transport experience even further. You’ll start off at the shop and head to Tokyo Tower before catching the boat to Rainbow Bridge and driving to Ginza. This one costs ¥15,000 without discounts.
Akihabara #2: One course option
This shop only offers one course, but it’s 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 Sky Tree, Asakusa and Ryogoku before returning to the shop. It costs ¥6,000 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: Three course options
You can pick from the following:
- 1-Hour Course: This one takes you on a drive around Asakusa, Ueno and Tokyo Skytree. It costs ¥8,000 without discounts.
- 2-Hour Course: The most popular option, this takes in Akihabara, Ueno, Asakusa and Tokyo Skytree. It costs ¥10,000 without discounts.
- 3-Hour Course: The longer option whirls you around Asakusa, Tokyo Tower, Rainbow Bridge, Odaiba, Ginza and Ueno. It costs ¥12,000 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 ¥9,000 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 ¥12,000 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 ¥12,000 without discounts.
Getting kitted out
If you’re going to zoom through the streets, you’ll need some accessories—either for safety or fun. MariCAR 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 purchase fake mustaches for the Mario look, or costumes to take home with you. Memory cards are also available if you need one.
One great element is that they 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.
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 might stop you feeling like Mario, but are designed to keep you alive that little bit longer:
- No racing allowed
- No banana-skin throwing and, of course, no red turtle shells
- 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)
- 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 ¥2,500 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 recently with people driving a Mario 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!
While we do our best to keep things up to date, all prices (and other bits and bobs) listed in this article are subject to change.
Watch this next
New Video: Top Shops for Cheap Souvenirs in Tokyo
Three varied spots for picking up unique and cheapo friendly souvenirs to take back home for friends and family.