Is that Mario?  Photo: Yamashita Yohei via WikiCommons
Is that Mario? Photo: Yamashita Yohei via WikiCommons

Zipping around the streets of Tokyo’s iconic Shibuya district in a go-cart dressed as a Nintendo Super Mario character is listed as one of the 17 unique things to try in Japan’s capital. (It’s number eight.)

But maybe not for much longer. Nintendo, the maker of all things Super Mario, including the Mario Kart video game, has taken umbrage at the company providing the real-life experience of buzzing Tokyo streets as a Mario look-alike.

Nintendo filed a copyright lawsuit against Shinagawa-based MariCAR, which offers the go-kart thrills and the costumes.  In a statement issued on Friday, Nintendo said the suit filed in the Tokyo District Court alleges MariCAR breached Nintendo’s intellectual property rights.

Nintendo said MariCAR was clearly an abbreviation of Mario Kart while the costumes that were available for rent were also based on the video game’s characters.

Dressing up and hiring a go-kart for several hours to buzz around Tokyo’s public roads at up to 60 kilometers an hour has proven popular with tourists, just as the number of visitors to Japan is surging. More than 24 million people visited the country last year, a record high, according to JTB Consulting & Research.

“In order to protect the important intellectual property that we have built up through many years of effort, we intend to continue to take resolute measures in the future,” Nintendo said.

The statement did not disclose how much compensation the video game maker was seeking, but a Japanese media report indicated it was making a partial claim for 10 million yen ($US88,740).

MariCAR’s website promoted the experience as “real life superhero go-karting” in which people can dress up in their “favorite character costume”, including Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Toad, Princess Peach, Bowser, Superman, Spiderman, Ironman, Captain America or Batman.

Some of those characters are Nintendo ones while several are from other superhero franchises.

Photo: Facebook page/ MariCAR

The website included a cautionary note: “MariCAR is different from ‘Mario Kart’.” It is unknown how long that message had appeared on the home page. MariCAR issued a statement late on Friday evening saying it was yet to receive the complaint so was unable to comment on the specific legal details.

But the company said it had consulted experts and had offered its services after judging that its service did not involve unfair competition or copyright infringement against Nintendo.

“We cannot imagine the amount of burden that would arise if there is a legal dispute with a global company,” MariCAR said. “We fear that there will be a great impact on the continuation of the business as it is.”

The company added that it had heard voices of support from many patrons and would do everything within its power “to protect the smiles of customers.”

Photo: Facebook page/ MariCAR

On Twitter, one user reacted to the lawsuit news by saying it was a miracle that the company had survived until now. But another user expressed disappointment, writing: “Man Nintendo why ya gotta make it so hard to love you sometimes?”