To make sure you’re all caught up with my Japan blog entries, start here:
- How we booked 12 FREE tickets to Japan
- The perfect starter card to travel for nearly free
- The mad rush to get ready for Japan
- Flying ANA + our first few hours in Tokyo
- How to book a large AirBNB for a big group
- One day in Tokyo
- All Things Osaka
- Kyoto AirBNB for 19? No problem!
- Visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Kyoto Days: Historical Ninenzaka
- All things Kyoto
- How we booked 3 free nights in Tokyo
- Japanese Efficiency: Two lost and found tales
If you ask me a year ago that 12 members of my family would fly to Japan for FREE, I’d say you were crazy. But, yes, we did it! Twelve of us flew to Japan for FREE (click here). Now if you’d ask me a year ago if I’d ever drive in Japan, I’d say, “are you kidding me? I don’t even know what MariCAR was, so I’d tell you I had no clue. A couple of good friends of mine suggested we book MariCAR – basically, a Go Karting experience. You get to drive around Tokyo in a Go Kart. You also have the option to use or wear a character costume.
Driving in Japan was the last thing in my mind. The opportunity came so we just had to go for it. And this was what he had to do book this Go Karting experience.
How do you book a MariCAR Go Kart experience?
- Find a Go Kart company
- Choose a day/time you’d like to book (ranging from 1-3 hours were the ones I saw)
- Choose the locations you’d like to drive around (ours included Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo Tower, Roppongi)
So once you’ve found a Go Kart company and a package that works for you, do you just pay for the package online and then show up? Not really. In order to drive in Tokyo, these are the things you need to make sure to have:
- Current Driver’s License – I have this.
- Passport – I have this one, too.
- Obtain International Driving Permit (IDP) – what?
I couldn’t book a MariCAR package without sending a proof of my International Driving Permit. I need to have an IDP before I’m quoted and booked the package.
Word to the wise. You have to bring these documents with you. Not a picture copy. Not a printed copy. But you have to bring the original documents otherwise you will not be able to go through with your booking on the day of your visit.
Where do you get your International Driving Permit
For me and Ethan, we went to a nearby AAA (Triple A) office. Here’s a link to AAA’s International Driving Permit information. We were told that we needed to bring our US Passport, driver’s license, and 2 passport-size IDs. You can get your pictures taken at AAA, but even AAA advised me to get it elsewhere. It’s cheaper at Costco (around $5.00), so we got our passport pictures taken there.
Once I had my pictures, I took them to AAA and began the IDP application process. It was really quite simple. I filled out a form for the permit, paid $20, provided my picture, and the lady that helped me was done within 20 minutes.
Once I had my International Driving Permit, I was able to proceed with booking my MariCAR package.
Choosing the MariCAR company
Nancy did the research and suggested I check GoVoyagin.com. So I did and I ended up choosing RMaricarGarage (click here). Our schedule was so tight that we booked our Go Kart package just a couple of days before our trip to Japan. We also pushed our MariCAR experience towards the end of our trip. The other companies offered 3 hours of Go Karting. I didn’t want to drive around for 3 hours. RMaricarGarage had a package that worked with our schedule, and it was for a two-hour tour. If I am not mistaken, this was the link to the tour that we booked. It was for $66.35 for two hours.
Here’s what’s included:
• Go-kart rental • Tour guide driver • Fuel (no need to refuel) • GPS and portable speakers (subject to availability) • Accident insurance • Costume License check, costume change, guidance, Go-kart driving, and photo transfer are included in the total tour time (2 hours).
What’s Not included
• Vehicle insurance (we paid minimally, I believe just 500 yen. I had forgotten but I remember it wasn’t that much).
Go Kart day finally came
We were in Japan for 11-12 days, and we chose MariCAR towards the end of our trip. We took a train towards Roppongi. Out of the six members in my family, Ethan (my 18 year old) and I were the only ones who booked this tour. The rest of the family accompanied us towards RMaricarGarage.
I was expecting the “garage” to be located in an industrial district but it wasn’t. We went inside what looked like a building for business and residents, and up to the 2nd level. Once we entered, we saw all the available costumes for us to choose from. Ethan chose Pikachu, while I chose Nemo.
What else to wear
Our visit in the Spring was quite pleasant. We only had one day of steady showers (in Osaka), but the rest of the days were sunny. Not exactly warm which was perfect. Why did I bring this up? Riding a Go Kart is like riding a convertible vehicle with the top down. You are exposed to all the different weather elements. It was a pleasant afternoon, no need for gloves, beanies, or scarves. Others suggested to bring those because it’s better to be prepared for the weather. Especially if you plan on driving at night. The temperatures tend to drop considerably.
The MariCAR Orientation
Our 2pm appointment came, and a few others joined us. We watched a video of what to expect. We then headed downstairs and walked a couple of blocks to their garage.
There were two pedals. Right foot to accelerate or step on the gas. Left foot for the brake. MariCAR Go Karting is not a race. It’s a tour around Tokyo. We are not to venture off on our own or race with others. We had to follow our guide who led us in front. When approaching a stop light, she lifted her hand and put two fingers up meaning we are to line up in to two lines. When driving, we lined up in one line and followed one another.
What a blast
I shared this experience with my Ethan. We had no idea how fun it was going to be. I mean, come on! We drove around Tokyo.
We drove through Shibuya Crossing four times, Tokyo Tower, Roppongi, and I’m sure I missed a few other key spots. A few other tourists took pictures of us and we gladly obliged. We also witnessed a local parade.
We took pictures and videos and it was great that we were able to document this experience. I highly recommend this and without any hesitation, I highly recommend RMariCARGarage. Go find them at GoVoyagin.com.
Here’s a link to the video that I took while we drove around Tokyo! https://www.facebook.com/jason.francisco/videos/vb.1020522676/10217362367424078/?type=3