Why play a video game when you can drive Tokyo in a Super Mario Kart?

The new Super Mario Run game will take on Pokemon Go later this year but our writer goes one better – dressing up as the gaming icon for a go kart tour of Tokyo

Tyres screech. Children scream. Men cry … I’m causing a scene on the streets of Tokyo. Perhaps it’s my shiny modified ride, all flashing indicators and gutsy exhaust. Or my cool ensemble of blue dungarees, tomato-red top and oversized cap. Or maybe it’s my new moustache, dangling limply from my sweaty upper lip.

For today, and for one day only, just call me Mario. Super Mario, in fact – gaming icon and the planet’s most-cherished Italian plumber. Over the next three hours I’m touring the neighbourhoods of Tokyo in a pimped-up, road-ready go kart.

Hot on the heels of Pokemon Go, coming to a mobile screen near you this December, is Nintendo’s latest game, Super Mario Run. And if, like me, you’re tragically into the characters, you can skid around Tokyo’s sights and streets dressed up as your favourite star.

Our writer dressed as Mario and her boyfriend as his sidekick, Luigi
Hannah dressed as Mario and her boyfriend as his sidekick, Luigi Photograph: Hannah Summers/The Guardian

My boyfriend – bless his blue and pea-green jumpsuit – has agreed to ride along as Mario’s sidekick, Luigi. Forget roleplay, we’re all about the cosplay. It’s a thing here. We’re taking a private tour, but group bookings are available: Princess Peach, Bowser, Donkey Kong – the whole crew can join in the fun.

We begin in suitably “geeky” Akihabara, where shops are crammed with gadgets and speakers scream out Japanese pop. After a brief safety demo we’re off, our guide Kuzuoka leading, then me, with Luigi at the rear. A group of American tourists stops us at the lights. “You’re going to be more famous than David Hasselholff,” they shriek.

The crowds start to descend minutes later. As we cruise the highway, skimming along the grounds of the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, runners lapping the park stop mid-stride, briefcase-carrying men beg us for a wave and drivers pull over attempting a through-the-window selfie.

Super Mario character driving around Tokyo on go karts.
‘You have a new perspective 10cm off the tarmac at a breezy 40mph.’ Photograph: Keith Tsuji/Getty Images

If Tokyo makes you think of a traffic-crammed metropolis, you have a new perspective 10cm off the tarmac at a breezy 40mph. Cars give us space, and we navigate peaceful back streets.

On to the big sights, including the one of the world’s busiest junction’s, the famous Shibuya scramble crossing. The lights change and we floor it, nipping beneath the neon-lit buildings to a raucous applause from open-mouthed onlookers.

Next up is Harajuku, the fashion hangout where kookily dressed teens usually pose for pictures. Not today. As we crawl through tree-lined Omotesando Avenue, well-heeled shoppers emerge from Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hugo Boss, whooping as we return their waves.

The language barrier keeps conversation short and vaguely snappy: “Karting, it tires,” Kuzuoka tells me, via Google Translate on his phone. He’s right. Even my costume can’t hack the pace; as we cross the final flyover my moustache takes off, landing on the windscreen of the car behind.

A fully versed city tour this is not – but who needs the big sights? Trust me, in Tokyo it’s better to be the main attraction.

Three-hour tours from ¥6,800 (around £51) per person; book at facebook.com/akibacart

Hannah Louise Summers

The GuardianTramp

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