A 35-year-old Taiwanese tourist has been arrested on suspicion of hit-and-run after his go-kart hit a cyclist at an intersection in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward in late February.
According to police, the suspect, who has been identified as Zhang Ren Jie, was dressed as a Nintendo game character and was turning left at an intersection in the Soto-kanda area of Tokyo, around 6:30 p.m. when he hit the bicycle and kept going.
In a report on the incident, police said that Zhang has admitted to the charges against him. Police also said that the 18-year-old man riding the bike received injuries that will take about two weeks to heal.
A recent phenomenon in downtown Tokyo has been convoys of go-karts with drivers who are dressed as Super Mario characters. The go-karts and their drivers have become a head-turning sight among Tokyo's traffic, but the rental companies behind the vehicles, face growing scrutiny over safety concerns.
Rental operators let customers drive often-crowded public roads in the low-slung vehicles through Tokyo’s main and sometimes busiest streets. Although the current go-kart / mini-kart operations are legal, the Japanese government has raised concerns over the lack of safety measures being taken by five Tokyo-based operators following a spike in the number of go-kart accidents in recent months.
Central government and local Tokyo government officials as well as the Tokyo Metropolitan Police have been cautious in their comments. They are acutely aware that the majority of the customers are foreigners who view go-kart character rides as a “tourist activity” and they do not want to create any negative publicity before the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Perhaps an alternative is to have the Tokyo Metro Police dress up as characters and accompany the tourists in their Mario costumes as a way to control safety issues and also create goodwill with foreigners visiting Tokyo.