I just got back from my honeymoon in Japan, where we conveniently timed it to coincide with the Rugby World Cup. While we were in Japan, we went go-karting on the streets of Tokyo. Here’s how we did it.
Firstly, we had to apply for international driving licences before we left. They look really crap and fake, but you need them! They cost us €15 each and were delivered in a week, once we sent off the passport photographs and forms.
Then, we flew to Tokyo! Key step in the process.
Then, we booked the karting. I went to their website and actually, they take their bookings through Facebook messenger, which I thought was really interesting and proved very efficient.
We left in the morning and were having difficulty with our Google Maps – it kept flipping around and telling us to go the other way – so we hopped into a taxi to get there from the train station. It took about ten minutes or so in a taxi from the Shibuya train station, but we did choose a Sunday, so allow more time than that if you’re doing this during the week as traffic in Tokyo can be very bad.
When we arrived, we were asked to fill out a form – pretty standard when doing an activity like this, but what amused me was there’s a part of the form where you have to acknowledge that the go karting is not Nintendo or Mario kart themed and has “nothing to do with” Mario kart. That made me smile.
Then we picked our costumes out of the available rack of onesies. I was briefly torn between a unicorn rainbow onesie – because, of course I was – and a Pikachu onesie, and I eventually chose Pikachu because I figured, you’re in Japan, you have got to be Pikachu. I can be a rainbow unicorn anywhere, anytime.
I rented a GoPro for this and unfortunately, the sound is no good, but the video was HD so no complaints here. I also got the “blogger” price, which was 1,000yen cheaper because I was doing a video on it, so happy days for me.
They showed us quickly how to drive and it was quite simple, you had a break and an accelerator, very similar to a car, and a “gearbox” that just had drive, neutral or reverse, very like an automatic car. The biggest difference was that the indicators needed to be turned off after you used them by pressing them down, that was easy to forget and some of the other drivers forgot a lot.
The format was that when on the open road, we could drive in single file, but when we were coming to a stop light we had to change to two abreast. The first person in the line would start by pulling up to the left of the lane, the second person to the right, the third person to the left again and so on. This sounds complicated but it became like second nature after a go or two.
We also did “swapping” – so they put me close to the front at the start because I was a bit nervous, but then we “swapped” so everyone got a go at every point in the line. The first two drivers would pull to the left of the lane and the rest of us would overtake them and they’d join the end. Simple!
At the end, they thank you for not dying, and I know they’re joking, but also, it’s a real possibility. I myself, while not dying, almost ran someone over when he decided that he was walking and it didn’t matter that I was already driving a go kart directly into the space he wanted to walk into.
It was a really wild experience. If you could hear the sound in the video, you’d hear me talking to myself quite a bit, saying “I can’t believe I’m doing this, this is crazy, is this real” etc. It was such a surreal experience to be driving through the busy streets of Tokyo – especially Shibuya crossing, the massive, famous crossing – in a go-kart. At one point a bus passed me and I was like, omg this is so dangerous but also, weeeee! And let’s not forget I was dressed as Pikachu. There were so many people taking pictures throughout the drive that my face was actually sore from smiling. I wonder where all those pictures of me are!
This is a part of a mini series I’m doing called the ‘Japan Bucket List’. Videos are available on YouTube and more blog posts are available on Clisare.com.