Going for-real Mario Karting in Japan is a popular tourist (and local) activity for gamers. Akiharabara-based company MariCAR (which "is in no way a reflection of Mario Kart and thus prohibits use of turtle shells and banana peels") includes costume rental and race time down specially-marked lanes. All you need is a legal driver's license from anywhere in the world and you're ready to go.
But Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has recently raised concerns about the safety of the attraction, thanks to the unwitting double standards to which the go-karts are not being held -- specifically, the lack of seat belts.
As the go-karts are on the road near other traffic, it has been deemed necessary that they be held to the safety standards of either a car or a motorcycle. Treating the karts as motorcycles or motor scooters would render seat belts legally unnecessary, but would require the riders to wear helmets.
Since only license holders may rent karts, they've been treated as cars, which means no helmets are necessary. But new rulings will require the karts to have both seat belts and a rear brake light.
Extra rulings are expected to be discussed as soon as this month.
MariCAR Akihabara already has several standards set out concerning usage of their karts, and are unswerving with their "NO LICENSE NO DRIVE!!" rule. Feedback on the decision from locals and regulars seems predominantly positive.
MariCAR will continue to provide their go-kart tours during the rulings.
Kara Dennison is responsible for multiple webcomics, blogs and runs interviews for (Re)Generation Who and PotterVerse, and is half the creative team behind the OEL light novel series Owl's Flower. She blogs at karadennison.com and tweets @RubyCosmos. Her latest story can be found in My American Nightmare.