[Update, December 25] NHK reported that Nintendo's win over the case is now confirmed. The Supreme Court of Japan has dismissed the appeal by Street Kart.
[July 8, 2020] Many people visiting Tokyo for the first time expect the city to look like an anime or video game. Of course, it’s not. However, there are certain aspects of Japanese pop culture that do reflect real life here – just stroll through Akihabara for otaku goods or Harajuku for innovative fashion and kawaii snacks. Until recently, you could even see costumed characters zooming on the streets a la Mario Kart, taking in the sights whilst angering local drivers.
Unfortunately, the latter is no more. Originally named MariCar, Street Kart led tours of the city for visitors dressed in Mario, Luigi and Yoshi onesies, letting them drive go-karts on the city streets – just like in the video games – to see Tokyo’s most famous landmarks, including Tokyo Tower, Shibuya and Akihabara.
In 2017, Nintendo sued MariCar for intellectual property infringement, eventually forcing the go-kart company to pay ¥50 million in January this year. In the meantime, the company continued to operate by changing its name to Street Kart and posting disclaimers explaining it was not affiliated with Nintendo. Street Kart also removed Nintendo-themed costumes from its wardrobe, focusing on animals and superheroes instead.
Enter Covid-19 coronavirus. Inbound tourism in Japan fell by 99.9 percent in April, at the height of the virus, and Street Kart struggled from the fallout with the lawsuit and lack of customers. On April 24, Street Kart started a crowdfunding campaign named ‘Save the Street Kart’ on the Japanese fundraising website Campfire. The fundraiser ended on June 30, reaching just ¥11,569 of the ¥2 million goal.
There haven’t been any more updates on the future of Street Kart since then. However, Japan is planning on creating a travel bubble and the Olympics are still scheduled for next summer, so it’s always possible a boost in tourism could revive the costumed go-karts in the future.