There are quite a few ways to get around Tokyo and see the sights, but what better way to do so than by dressing up in a costume and driving around the city in a small go-kart.
I’m going to do my second ever bit of plugging here for MariCar Tokyo (Website Here), as it was honestly one of the best experiences of my life! The go-karts are just immense fun! Looking up at the tall buildings from just a few inches off the ground really gives a new scale to the city, on top of that any time you stop in traffic or at lights crowds of people line the streets to take photos, they are joking on the website when they say you’ll feel famous!
Now you can turn up on the day and see if they have any slots, but I would highly recommend booking in advance, as it’s so popular chances are you won’t find a slot by just walking into the shop on the day. Booking is really easy, I just used Facebook Messenger to chat with them and get it all arranged. Also make sure you’ve arranged the correct type of International Driving Permit to drive in Japan before you leave your country.
There are a few locations you can choose to set off from, I choose Akihabara as it was easy to get to (the shop is only a few minutes from the metro & JR stations), and also I wanted to see that area after the tour anyway. There are a few routes to pick from at Akihabara, offering tours of different parts of the city, ranging from 1-3 hours in length. My friend and I opted for a 2 hour option that would pass through Akihabara, Central Tokyo, The Rainbow Bridge, Odaiba, Tokyo Tower and Ginza. (Though at the end we wished we’d done a 3 hour route as it was that fun!).
Arriving in the store 15 minutes early gave time to make payment, fill out a quick form, and pick out a costume to wear! (Dressing up is optional, but it’s way more fun if you do!) There is a large range of costumes to choose from, a mix of video game & anime characters, as well as some Disney ones. There are also lockers, drinks machines and a toilet, so the place is pretty well equipped.
In addition for just 200 yen you can hire a GoPro head or chest cam to capture the trip! A real bargain! You don’t have to have a memory card as a few days later they’ll send you a link to download the footage. Here’s a short edit of mine that I’ve put on YouTube (Link), my GoPro head-cam had a slight issue and didn’t pick up the audio, so I’ve just added a music track over it.
Once ready to set off, your guide will gather your group and lead everyone to the go-karts, giving you a clear explanation of safety stuff, how the go karts work etc, it’s pretty short as there isn’t really much to go through, and the go-karts are ultra easy to drive. (The staff speak fluent English & Japanese) Once that’s done, it’s time to fire up the engines and hit the streets!!
The guide will take the lead for the rest to follow behind, and will keep checking back to make sure everyone is getting along ok. My guide for the day was a guy called Kenya, who is possibly the coolest & most energetic person I’ve ever met! He was a great laugh, told us lots about places as we passed them, keep checking to make sure the group was together, and when traffic stopped would often jump out of his kart to get pictures of us all, which he then later shared to all our phones when we returned to the shop.
With everyone fired up and ready he took us straight out and through Akihabara! This for me was one of the best street views, as being a district for anime & games, all the buildings were decorated with various large anime posters, screens and billboards, including a massive Sword Art Online one!
*Quick note, pictures taken here while on the road are stills taken from my GoPro head-cam footage, obviously you should not be trying to use a camera or mobile to take photos while driving! If stopped at traffic lights it’s ok to take a quick snap, but not while driving.
Passing through Akihabara was great, being the morning there was only moderate traffic on the roads so it was a fairly clear run, but lots of people were on the paths waving and taking photos each time you stopped! It really was so much fun just sitting in the go-kart at traffic lights making poses and waving back to people!
The traffic on the roads stayed light allowing for some happy cruising along at the speed limit, the go-karts are really nippy and handle really well with good firm steering. Not long after leaving Akihabara we were passing through the offices and shops of central Tokyo.
It was fun here to see that even some business people on the way to their offices were happy to stop and wave, even though they must see these tours fairly regularly the sight of a load of people dressed up in go-karts hadn’t worn off on them. Shortly after cutting through streets of office we were near Tokyo main station passing by the Imperial Palace where we’d arrived on our first day in Tokyo.
The main street cutting passed the palace grounds had more traffic and people around than when we’d arrived on that first day. As we passed through again there were crowds to wave and smile at, small groups of children who were all shouting hello and waving, and even people in taxis next to use sticking cameras out of the windows. There really is nothing else like it!
The route carried on along some really nice roads in the open part of the city near the Imperial Palace Park, which allowed from some great views of the Tokyo skyscrapers in the distance, and with the sun out and a small breeze it felt brilliant! One extra moment of fun came in the form of a massive tunnel that Kenya took us through! The sweeping curve through the tunnel with the arrow signs and lights felt really like a video game! Plus the sound of the go-karts flying through the tunnel was just so epic!
After more touring the central city, passing by places like the Dentsu HQ skyscraper, we made our way toward the bay and Rainbow Bridge! (Named due to it’s nighttime illuminations) The road from where we were wound under the bridge, before doubling back and gradually ascending to it. It was a great feeling being able to open up the go-kart a bit more along the top of the bridge. Crossing the bridge was a little cold due to the wind across the bay, but worth it as it offered great views of the city on the waters edge.
After crossing the bridge the large ferris wheel of Odaiba was ahead of us (very colourful at night), however we headed to the right away from it and toward the bay edge and the shopping malls that lined it. We stopped here for a quick break to stretch the legs and give the chance for some photo taking. Walking around the Odaiba shopping malls and out onto the waterfront while dressed in costumes was a great laugh, of course lots of people enjoyed the sight and wanted pictures, which we of course more than happy to strike so poses for.
After enjoying the view and sites of Odaiba, it was time to get back on the karts and venture back across the Rainbow Bridge, toward Tokyo Tower! Heading back over the Rainbow Bridge gave a nice view back out over the bay area and toward Odaiba.
The end of the bridge was another really fun section of track……I mean road, a long spiralling curve leading down from the top of the bridge back down to the ground below. Flying around this descending spiral was another moment that felt like a racing game! In addition it also gave another nice city skyline view of Tokyo.
After the Rainbow Bridge we spent a bit more time heading through some of the streets in central Tokyo, before arriving on an road that led straight up towards Tokyo Tower!
As we neared the tower we headed around to it’s base passing by Shiba Park, an area that I’d learnt a few days earlier disappointingly is not a park full of shiba inus, but just a nice small park, the kanji for shiba, can also mean ‘lawn’ or ‘tuft’. We took the road next to the tower and turned right into the access road at its base, parking right under the tower!
There was a little traffic on the approach to the tower, which gave Kenya a chance to jump out and run around behind us to get a great shot of the karts on the road with the iconic tower standing tall in the backdrop.
This allowed for another small break and photo opportunity at the towers base, Kenya going out of his way to make sure we all got some good photos, he was fun to watch as he was trying to get some photos from every angle he’d often end up laying on the ground trying to get a good shot!
After the pit stop at Tokyo Tower we head out from the base of it, doubling back around to see it one more time before heading onward towards Ginza! The route to Ginza was great, passing by roads lined with sakura trees still in bloom, crowds of people to wave at and pose for, and a Shinkansen flew past over a bridge as we approached Ginza.
Now having visited Ginza on foot the day earlier, I can say with 100% certainty that it is way more fun to pass through Ginza in a go-kart! Passing through the heart of Ginza looking up at all the fancy buildings really is the best way to view it.
About 10 minutes of so after passing through Ginza Kenya gave us the sign that we were on our last 5 minutes and heading back into Akihabara, not wanting to go back my friend and I did briefly consider just driving off in another direction till we ran out of fuel. Heading back into Akihabara was a mix of feelings, it was great looking up at all the anime signs, and it did mean exploration and a shopping spree was imminent, but it was also quite sad the thought of not being in the little go-kart anymore.
After winding back through Akihabara’s side roads we were back at the go-kart parking lot, walking back to the shop felt strange, walking was just not as fun as being in a go-kart. Life is more fun when you’re in a go-kart, that was the lesson learnt here.
If you’re in Tokyo, then this is something you absolutely must do! You won’t regret it! As with Tokyo Book And Bed, I’ve decided that whenever I’m in Tokyo I’ll be going back here, I’ll do a different route each time to experience go-karting around all parts of the city.