MariCar in Osaka – Real life Mario Karting

I first saw a video of Mario Karting (in Tokyo) on Facebook few months ago and it has been on my bucket list ever since!

Well, here’s my video and I hope that it will make it to your bucket list.

March 2017 – I’m glad to strike this off my bucket list and I’ve unlocked another achievement in my overseas travel – this is my first time driving overseas ^_^

Before I begin, please note that driving the go-kart requires you to have an INTERNATIONAL DRIVING LICENSE. Singapore’s driving license is not international and you will just have to visit Automobile Association Singapore AA Singapore and pay $20 for the international license which will be valid for one year. Unlike other countries where you can just show any driving license, Japan is pretty strict about this and without it, you will not be allowed to drive or rent any car.

Booking/Reserving

MariCar Osaka operates everyday and they have 3 timings – 1PM, 4PM and 7PM.

To book, you will have to send them a facebook message (preferred) or fill up a form in their website. Payment is not required at time of booking.

Price: 8,000Y (2,000Y discount if you give a review)
              9,000Y (2,000Y discount if you give a review)|
** Price has been revised since my visit back in March 2017.

If I don’t recall wrongly, the maximum capacity is capped at 18 pax per session.

It is advisable to book way in advance as it can get super popular during peak timings!

Location

Address: 3 Chome-1-10 Ohiraki, Fukushima Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 553-0007, Japan

It is located approximately 15 minutes from Nodahanshin Station, Sen-Nichimae (Pink) Line.

TIPS: If you are planning to go for the 1PM session, consider having breakfast at Endo Sushi (which has the best otoro sushi i’ve eaten in my life) which is located about 25 minutes walk away. Kindly note that the shop does not open on Sundays.

Look for the “MariCar” signboard along the main road. If you see this car park ramp, you are at the correct place. Turn in and walk further and you should be able to spot their office.

You can also spot their bright red Volkswagon car at the entrance of their office.

The good thing about MariCar Osaka is that even if you do not have a driving license, you can join in the cosplay and join the driving contingent in the comfort of this open top Volkswagon. A small fee is payable but I’m not sure of the amount.

Preparation

You will be advised to arrive 20 minutes before your scheduled time to fill up the forms, make payment and choose your costume and accessories!

Do come early as most of the non-mario characters only have 1 piece each. If you are planning to choose yoshi, mario or lugi, rest assured because there have like more than 5 sets of each.

Lockers are provided in the premises (free of charge) and there is one toilet available for use too.

In case you want to choose your character beforehand, here are some photos that I have taken, some of which I do not even know their name =/. Please note that at the end of the day, the availability of each character is highly subjected to their washing schedule and the choice of the people from your previous session!

 

Also, the costumes are all free-size (on the huge size) and I could wear it over my thick jacket (it was quite cold 8 to 10 degrees). I ended up looking pretty oversized because of the extra clothes underneath but I guess it doesn’t really matter since I was Yoshi, a dinosaur. =p


Briefing

After we were fully dressed up, we were given gloves and goggles.

Wearing of goggles is compulsory and you will have to wear then over your hoodie. It helps to keep the hoodie in place.

Also, if you chose a costume with a huge headgear like Yoshi, you may find that your hoodie has a higher chance of being blown off due to the huge head which increases the contact surface area against the wind. During the drive, I had to use one hand to press down Yoshi’s head to prevent it from flying off.

The briefing of the car was given in good English by a staff.

He told us how to turn on the engine/lights, use the left and right signal indicators and also about the accelerator and break pedal (which is common sense). The seats are also adjustable forward/back, allowing you to decide how stretched-out you prefer your legs to be.

The only difference I faced with the go-kart was that the acceleration was on the right pedal (using right leg) but the break had to be done on the left pedal, using your left leg. Usually when I drive auto-cars in my home country, I control my acceleration and break pedal with just my right leg so it took a while before I got used to it.

The kart is also diesel operated so do be prepared to breathe in the fumes.

Also, no seat belts or helmets were required for this go-kart. It did feel a little unsafe but I guess it should be fine since it is Japan and I did come back home in one piece..

The Actual Drive

After the short briefing, we were assigned to our karts and off we go!

Note: There’s a small pouch within each kart (between your legs) and I brought my mobile phone, portable wifi device, powerbank and cable along.

My GoPro was chest-strapped, sacrificing Yoshi’s visual to give the best point of view for my video.

My honest thoughts on the experience: 

I felt that the ride was extremely bumpy but I guess that’s how Go-Karts are on real roads. The wheels are small and the vehicle is light and this means that any uneven-ness of the roads can be felt by quite greatly. At times, you will have to drive over drain covers, reconstructed roads and stripes. Also, the vehicle constantly vibrated (due to the engine) and you might feel a little uncomfortable but you will get used to it after a while.

At the beginning, I was really fearful as it was the first time I am driving overseas. I was also the second last one of the contingent (there was one staff behind me) and I felt the constant need to speed up and catch up with the group. As a result, I accelerated and beat a red light (wait, how did I pass my driving test?) and received a friendly caution from the staff to obey the traffic rules at all cost.

TIP: Please put your own safety as top priority and even if you are separated from the group, do not panic. The staff at the back will contact the staff in front and the group will wait for you.

To the best of their ability, the staff in front will always try to manage the contingent well. e.g. If the green light is about to change red, he will choose to stop and not accelerate to cross.

Embrace the ‘fame’

Since we are “all dressed-up” as cartoon characters as part of this maricar experience, we will be treated as mascots while we drive down the streets. People will be taking photos of you, not just the walking pedestrians but also drivers. There was one car that kept honking at us at the traffic light and I was wondering what’s wrong and it turned out to be he wanted a photo of us. People will be waving to you and the least you can do is to wave back at them. There was one random person who pretended to be waving a flag when we drove pass while his friend reached out his hand to us – for a high-5 shot. It was pretty fun and exciting but that was after I was confident enough to let one hand off the steering wheel.

To be honest, smiling for photos is not my cup of tea but throughout the 2 hours tour, I felt the obligation to be the Yoshi mascot that people wanted me to be. Beyond that initial awkardness, it was pretty fun!

Note: there was a stopover at Osaka Castle where we parked our karts and went for some photo-taking and had a 10-minute toilet break. All of us were the center of attention for that stopover break at Osaka Castle. It was pretty crazy to have people staring and taking photos of you..


Taking photos while in the go-kart

After driving for a while, you will realise that the red lights in Japan can be quite long.

You should only attempt to use your phone when your go-kart is stationary.

It is quite a tedious process though – removing your gloves, opening the zip of the small pouch, take out your phone for a selfie or photo and reverse the actions before the light turns green.

If selfies ain’t your thing, you don’t have to worry too as the staff will also take photos at random intervals during the tour.

All photos can be ‘airdrop’ to your iPhone when you are back in the office.

I’m not sure how they will send the photos if you’re using Android though, I didn’t ask =p

Anyway, as it was a Saturday, the place surrounding Osaka Station was super crowded and traffic was slow too!

There were times where I could travel up to 60km/hr (when the traffic lights were all green) but most of the time, you will be hovering around 40km/hr because of the traffic.

If you are a fan of speeding, this might not be your cup of tea though.

The drive was very enjoyable as they brought us from the quieter/scenic areas (around Osaka Castle) to the busy and bustling shopping streets of Osaka/Umeda area. It allowed us to experience and explore two different sides of Japan in one single drive.

Furthermore, we even entered an underpass and made a U-turn with the Go-Kart (my first u-turn in a go-kart).

The distance tracked from my phone’s motion tracker was 20.5km and the entire journey was 1 hour 50 minutes, close enough to 2 hours.

After the Drive

Upon returning to their office, you will be asked to perform a series of social media updates (Like their page + Share their page + Leave a Review) in exchange for a refund of 2,000Y. Very interesting marketing strategy they have but pricing them at a 2,000Y discount is something too good to miss. Well, I did leave my honest feedback and I obviously enjoyed it so much that I spent 5 hours to edit this video.

The photos of your session will be ‘airdrop’ to your iPhone and they even printed a photo souvenir for us!

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Apart from the lack of safety equipment (helmets/seatbelt), I felt that the tour was well-organized (note: my session only had 7 participants) and all the staff were friendly and helpful. The staff that stands out the most is the one in the pikachu suit. He was hyper and enthusiastic throughout the tour and you can see him dancing around at times. He was also the main photographer and he played a big part in creating the atmosphere for this mario-karting cosplay tour.

“Once is not enough” is their tagline and I guess I kind of resonate with it.

I shall attempt to try all locations of MariCar!

The Mt Fuji one at Kawaguchiko (Fuji MariCar) looks damn awesome from the photos with Mt Fuji as a backdrop! I hope I will get a chance to try though I just visited Kawaguchiko in May 2016.

They have branches in Tokyo (Note: MariCar is not the only company that do street-karting experiences in Tokyo) and Okinawa too.

Just FYI: Sad to say, MariCar is currently facing a lawsuit from Nintendo with regards to the copyright infringement and we don’t know how long they will last so do try it soon before the cosplay gets removed or the price increases due to extra royalties. Read more.


 

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and the writer paid for all expenses relating to this activity.

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