Locals lament the reappearance of the controversial go-karts.

Back in 2019, just before the pandemic, the annual number of overseas tourists to Japan peaked at a record high 31.9 million, before dropping drastically to 4.1 million the following year, and then 245,000 in 2021.

Needless to say, businesses that relied heavily on income from international tourists suffered greatly in the past two years, with many falling silent indefinitely. One of those businesses was Street Kart, which runs go-kart tours in Tokyo where participants — made up almost exclusively of international tourists — dress in character onesies while driving the vehicles.

Originally known as MariCar, until they were sued by Nintendo for intellectual property infringement in 2017 and ordered to pay 50 million yen as a result in 2020 (US$430,000 according to currency rates at the time), the business ended up being so out of pocket during the pandemic it ran a crowdfunding campaign to help stay afloat, but received very little support.

The crowdfunding campaign, largely aimed at locals, attracted only four backers in two months, and out of the two-million yen ($18,590) target goal they’d set for themselves, just 11,569 yen ($107.53) was raised.

▼ It would appear that locals are more interested in officially endorsed Mario experiences, rather than faux ones that get in everyone’s way.

The dismal support reflects the dismal view of the go-kart tours held by a large number of locals, many of whom find the modified vehicles to be noisy, annoying and dangerous. This view isn’t totally unfounded, given the numerous accidents caused by drivers of the go-karts on unfamiliar roads.

So when the go-karts disappeared from Tokyo in 2020, given there weren’t enough international tourists around to book them, a lot of people in Japan mistakenly thought the business had shut up shop for good.

However, with the reopening of borders to international tourists from 11 October, overseas visitors have returned to Japan, and as a result, Street Kart sightings are back on the rise. People have been taking to Twitter to share photos of the go-karts, and a lot of them aren’t so happy to see the vehicles on the roads again, saying:

“Do foreign tourists realise these karts worsen noise and air pollution in Tokyo?”
“It’s not just Tokyo, I’ve seen them in Sapporo too.”
“These karts won’t ever be regulated until a death occurs.”
“Tourism may be important, but accidents and traffic delays also have a negative impact on the economy.”
“Nintendo must be pissed off to see them back, they wouldn’t want their brand associated with an accident.”
“Make it legal to throw turtle shells at these guys.”

While it might be tempting to throw Koopa Shells and Banana Peels in the path of these vehicles, it’s best to give them a wide berth and keep out of their way. If you do want to experience the real world of Nintendo in Japan, though, you might want to travel out of Tokyo and down to the Kansai region, where you can visit Super Nintendo World and stay overnight in the former headquarters in Kyoto, where the company began almost a century ago.

Sources: Jin, Hachima Kikou
Photos © SoraNews24
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