Nintendo stopping "Mario go-kart" Tokyo street racing
A few years ago, a tour agency in Japan came up with a daring idea: recreating Super Mario video game in real life, and offering the experience to overseas tourists that are urged to fill their itineraries with unconventional "only in Japan" type of fun. Cause "Japan is crazy".
In the past 2 years, almost every friend coming to Tokyo from abroad wanted to do this experience together and asked us if we can get more information about it. We could only say a double no to that. "You sound so opinionated and angry", we heard in response. Yup, probably.
Yesterday, Japan Times published an article stating that Nintendo Co. filed a lawsuit against Tokyo-based go-kart service MariCar for alleged copyright violations. Apparently, Nintendo had issued warnings to MariCar over the past several months but saw no response, which is just another display of company's lousy business values. In response to our friends' comments about our general grumpiness regarding Mario go-karts, here's a shortlist of general perceptions shared by people living in Tokyo:
This is not a "local" experience. Why would anyone ever say that this is "the most local thing to do in Tokyo"?! If you want a local traffic experience, rather board a popular train during the rush hour and share some love with people closest to you.
Tokyo streets are not "made for (Mario) go-karts". They are not made for motorcycles either. Nor cars. They are honestly made for bicycles. Cycling in Tokyo is the utmost exciting activity, as you are part of the street (not sidewalk) traffic, and you can enjoy wonderful interactions, as well as explore not too steep hills and valleys around the city. Cycling in Tokyo is absolutely fantastic, full of great sights, adrenaline, and cheerful communication with other commuters. This video shows what we mean here.
If for a second you start thinking this would make you appear cool, just think again...
Most people in Japan are not into cosplay. Just because your view of Japan was shaped based on anime and video-games, it doesn't mean that everyone in Japan screams "otaku" culture at every corner. When you dress up and drive that go-kart up the street, you are perceived as an intrusive geek, even by the local cosplay community.
When you recklessly race your go-kart friends, you have a much greater impact than you think. You share the street with daily commuters who struggle getting to right places at right times due to congested traffic and oh-so-many traffic lights on the way. In Japan, it is very rude to be late (even by minutes), and while you're zigzagging your vacation fun-time, someone else might be getting into a great load of inconvenience because of that.
"In Japan you can do whatever you want, no ones care about it" is generally true, but only as long as you don't disturb others. People don't care about what you're doing with your time, but they will get annoyed if your activities influence their flow of happenings.
Tokyo streets are designed to let cyclist through and locals are in most cases carefully leaving side space to by-passers on bicycles. We took this background picture while riding a bicycle close to Tokyo Tower a while ago, and had no way to slide by the crowd as this group of go-karters spread over the street like they own it. Since these toy car engines are loud, there's no way they can hear anyone asking them to move. A bit further down this street we witnessed a situation of a car honking at them to move away, and the group perceived it as an encouragement of their activities. Once again, this wasn't a recognition of coolness, it was a request to move the fuck away. If you want to be cool in Tokyo, be like the guys from the Gaman Spirit video we linked above (once again here).
It should be the duty of the Japanese Government to reconsider traffic laws that allowed this activity in the first place. It is also a shame that tourists can have access to this reckless street activities with their international car drivers license, while some foreign people living in Japan often cannot translate their home country licenses to even ride a moped on Japanese streets. Another thing that is just a little bit off is that go-kart drivers are not required to wear helmets, following the rule that any vehicles with 3+ wheels are exempt from protecting their heads. Thus the funny hat party appearance...
We hope that Nintendo will finally put end to this activity and prevent irritating encounters like these in the future.
If you are coming to Japan and considering the "Mario go-kart" experience, please think again!
And if you want to do something really cool, rent a bicycle and go for the best possible Tokyo ride!