How to drive Tokyo streets Mario Kart style

people driving go karts in Tokyo

Danny Baggs

Posted August 03, 2022


If you’re going on an overseas road trip or driving experience, make sure to take an International Driving Permit with you – especially if you’d like to try driving a go kart across Tokyo’s most iconic streetscapes. 
 
Many Australians are raring to go to Japan after its borders open to tourists after two years. It’s both an ultra-modern and ultra-traditional country, where cutting-edge technology and ancient tradition live side by side: perfect to explore on your next holiday.

There’s a catch, however: you must be part of a group tour to currently visit Japan. Luckily, RACV Members receive discounts on a wide range of Japanese tours. While you’re in Tokyo, a vibrant city full of neon signs, temples and skyscrapers, there’s a unique driving experience that might capture your attention.

As you wait to walk across the iconic Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, amongst the traditional cars and bikes you might see brightly coloured karts zip past, their drivers decked out in superhero and video game character costumes. Newcomers to the city often wonder what’s happening – and how they can join in.

cars driving along an overseas road with temples in the background

Many popular international destinations require you to have an IDP to drive vehicles on their roads. Image: Shutterstock


From Mario Kart to Street Kart

Go-karting the streets of Tokyo is one of the quirkier activities that tourists enjoy in Japan. Riders dress up in superhero outfits, play their favourite tunes through the karts’ Bluetooth speakers, and drive past Tokyo highlights in street-legal go-karts.

The experience is run by Street Kart, formerly called MariCar which provided Mario Kart themed costumes to their drivers – Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser and the rest. Nintendo, the Japanese video game company famous for their Mario series that included the go-kart racing game Mario Kart, sued MariCar in 2017 for intellectual property theft.
 
After a full generic superhero rebrand, the renamed Street Kart is careful to distance itself from Nintendo, stating on their websites that they are “in no way a reflection of Nintendo” and that they don’t provide Mario costumes (you can still get a fake moustache for your ride, though). But needing an International Drivers Permit (IDP) to get behind the go-kart wheel is one thing that’s stayed the same.

In case you’re wondering, yes: driving a go-kart as a form of transport is completely legal on roads in Japan. Under Japan’s Road Transport Vehicle Act, go-karts are categorised as both scooters and low-powered four-wheelers - as long as they’re under 50cc with turn signals, headlights, taillights, mirrors and other safety equipment.

motorcyclists and scooter riders in Indonesia

You may also need an International Drivers Permit for motorbike or scooter rides overseas. Image: Getty


How to get your International Drivers Permit (IDP)

If you might hop on a go-kart, car, motorcycle, moped or scooter on your travels in Japan or anywhere else in the world, it’s a smart idea to get your International Drivers Permit (IDP) before you leave. This United Nations-sanctioned document translates and validates your Australian driving licence overseas. It’s required to drive legally in 33 international countries, recommended for a further 42, and recognised by 98% of all countries in the world. Many car rental companies, motorbike tours and other driving experiences will also require you to present your IDP before allowing you to get behind the wheel and drive.

IDPs are issued by the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) through RACV, which is the only authorised seller of IDPs in Victoria. To get yours, apply online or at an RACV retail store. It’s quick, easy and inexpensive: you just need a current Australian Driver’s Licence and a photo taken recently in a passport size and style. An IDP is valid for 12 months from date of issue and must be used in conjunction with your current Australian Drivers Licence. Make sure to take your physical domestic driver’s licence with you on your travels together with your IDP.

You may also want to consider travel insurance that covers your driving experiences overseas. RACV Travel Insurance, which provides cover for moped, scooter and motorcycle injuries at no additional cost,# if you wear a helmet and have a valid licence for the country you’re in.

 


If you’re planning to drive on your overseas holiday, you may need an International Driving Permit.
Apply online →

 

The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions, please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. RACV Travel Insurance issued by Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd ABN 80 000 438 291 AFSL 246 548. Terms & conditions apply, refer to the PDS. Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) Ltd AR 001243563 is an authorised representative of the issuer and receives commission for each policy sold or renewed.

#Limits and sub-limits apply. Refer to the Product Disclosure Statement for full details.