When we were planning our trip to Japan, one of the first things we wanted to do was to go go-karting in Tokyo. Because what better way to experience this amazing city than by driving through it? Plus, us video game nerds jumped at the chance to experience something like Mario Kart in real life!
To be honest, any time someone asks me about the most unique activity I’ve done on my travels, go-karting in Tokyo is always one of my answers. Always. And I’m a pretty indecisive person! The same goes for my husband and our close friend. We still talk about it nearly two years later.
Street Kart is NOT associated with Nintendo in any way, and expresses such in great deal. While we all know it is basically real-life Mario Kart, Nintendo did win a law suit over the comparisons that Street Kart (previously MariKar) has made.
What You Need to Know about Go-Karting in Tokyo
You MUST have an international driver’s license. Or you’ll be incredibly disappointed when you show up and can’t drive one of the karts. Getting an international driver’s license is actually one of the easiest things to do. US residents can visit their local AAA office, show their US license, pay $20 and be good to go. Don’t worry, there’s no additional test or anything. But you ARE responsible for knowing the rules of the road wherever you are going.
It’s one of the more expensive activities to do. I know, I know, I’m all about traveling on a budget. But I also advocate for splurging when it’s necessary. Let me promise you that this is one of those occasions. But they usually offer you 10% off if you give them a review online or post on social media!
You cannot throw bananas behind you when driving the go-kart. You’re laughing right now. Me too! But in all seriousness, because it’s synonymous with the video game, part of the waiver you need to sign says that you can’t throw bananas. I kid you not.
You will be with a guide. So you don’t need to worry about getting lost or getting stuck somewhere with your go-kart. The tour operators keep the groups relatively small, and lead you throughout the city. They are there to answer any questions you have and help if needed!
Go-karting is pretty easy. Honestly, the hardest part about driving the go-kart is remembering to turn off your signal, because it doesn’t do it automatically! Other than that, the controls are simple.
DO NOT use your phone while driving. It is against Japanese law because it is unsafe to do so. Your tour guide will let you know if you are able to take photos at red lights. Your guide will also be taking photos along the way to share with you at the end. I also highly recommend a GoPro to capture your own video!
What to Expect on your Tour
There are several different spots in Tokyo where you can start a tour with Street Kart, and some of them have multiple options available. So make sure you check to see where your tour starts and what sights you will see along the way. We chose to do the 2.5-3 hour tour from Akihabara.
You’ll need to show up to your tour location 10-15 minutes early so you can sign your waiver, pay, and choose a costume. Of course, costumes aren’t required, but they sure are fun! So why not? Any Mario-related costumes have been removed from their inventories, but you’ll find other characters such as Marvel superheroes, Pokemon, and even Harry Potter. Leave any large belongings in a locker – there will be no room for them in the go-karts.
Once the group is ready, you’ll head over to the karts and get a brief tutorial on how to drive them, plus basic safety tips and driving rules.
It’s time to ride!
Famous Landmarks on the Tour
As I mentioned before, the landmarks you will see will depend on which tour you choose, but these ones are fairly common to most of the tours.
One of the most iconic landmarks of Tokyo, this red tower is a sight on many of the go-karting tours in Tokyo. Reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tokyo’s version is smaller and bright red.
The Imperial Palace
Similarly to the White House in Washington DC, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo is situated back from the road, surrounded by gardens. While you may drive by in your go-kart, if you truly want to see it better, I suggest going a different time.
Yes, the Rainbow Bridge is a real place! Unfortunately – or fortunately? – it’s not some psychedelically colored bridge that goes into the abyss. But you also won’t fall off a hundred times. The bridge got its name for the colorful paint and the lights it has at night.
The Japanese Statue of Liberty
You probably thought the Statue in Liberty was the only one, right? Well it isn’t! France gifted a much smaller replica to Japan in 1889 as a symbol of their friendship. The statue is located in Odaiba, which was actually one of the places we stopped on our go-karting tour.
Tokyo is divided up into several different districts, each with their own culture and flair. The Ginza district is the 5th Avenue of Tokyo. It’s where you will find the most expensive designer shops. Even if you don’t have the budget to shop – window shopping is free! Plus you’ll see lots of women in traditional kimonos in Ginza.
Akihabara is another district in Tokyo, this one filled with all the anime that Japan is famous for. You’ll find shop after shop of collectibles and electronics. At night, it is lit up with the lights from all the buildings.