There are a lot of must see sights in Tokyo, so sometimes it is easier to take a tour. There are bus tours, bicycle tours and even walking tours. But last night we took a different kind of tour; a Mario Kart tour. Maricar is a tour company that conducts go kart tours on the streets of Tokyo. Zipping around the largest city in the world, during evening peak hour, we hit all the major tourist attractions: driving over the rainbow bridge, the Shibuya scramble and the Tokyo tower.
It was a surreal experience; it actually felt more like the videogame than driving in the real world. There were large sweeping ramps, colourful roads and lots of bright flashing lights. All of your focus was on following the person in front of you. I was paying less attention than I normally would to other cars, my side mirrors and traffic lights (slightly worrying in retrospect). Then throw in the fact I was in a country where people are more liberal about riding bicycles on the road and pedestrians cross roads without fear. But there I was, driving a go kart at 80 km/h on the busiest streets in the world, my only form of protection the headpiece of my Yoshi onesie, without a care in the world. At least for the first hour or so.
The reality of the situation set in when my go kart accidentally slipped into neutral at a set of lights. When the lights turned green everyone sped off, while I was stuck revving my engine in the middle of the road not moving an inch. So there I was lost in the middle of Tokyo, in a go kart with less safety features than a Dreamworld ride. It felt like the longest 10 minutes of my life watching cars and trucks serve around me while I waited for the guide to come back and find me. Another hairy experience was a poorly timed merging manoeuvre that caused a Japanese man to abandon the normally strong cultural norms against displaying anger as he yelled at me out of the window of his Prius.
But it wasn’t all bad; in fact for the most part it was a really awesome experience. Most drivers were quite courteous; I doubt the same style of tour would work back home in Brisbane. When we stopped at traffic lights people waved, took photos of and with us, and there was the occasional high five.
I’m not going to lie, this was scary, but like good scary. Sure there were times when I thought I was going to die. But there were also times where I thought, damn that was a sick powerslide, as we weaved through the back streets of Tokyo. Maricar is one of the more unique ways to see Tokyo; giving you not just the normal sight seeing experience, but also a good sense of just how busy a city of 35 million people can be.