With strict travel restrictions still in place both locally and abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic, a large number of Japanese businesses that rely heavily on the tourist yen are finding themselves in dire straits right now.
For Akihabara-based go-kart rental company Street Kart, whose revenue is mostly generated from international visitors, things are particularly dire. They’ve spent years struggling to keep their business going after lawsuits from Nintendo threatened to take them off the roads, and were eventually forced to change their business name from MariCar to Street Kart, as the go-karts and costumes used were too similar to Nintendo’s Mario Kart video game.
▼ The Street Kart experience
After a three-year legal battle, Street Kart were ordered to pay Nintendo 50 million yen at the end of January. Following that blow came the coronavirus pandemic, which wiped out so much of Street Kart’s earnings they decided to start up a crowdfunding campaign called “Save the Street Kart” on April 24.
Well, that campaign wrapped up two months later, on 30 June, and out of the two-million yen (US$18,590) target goal they’d set for themselves, they raised…11,569 yen.
With only four backers after two months, this dismal result suggests there’s not a lot of support around for the go-karts. However, for some reason, the campaign to save the local business ran on Japanese site Campfire and was written entirely in Japanese; an odd approach for a service that’s barely used by locals and overwhelmingly caters to foreigners.
Still, people in Japan were quick to let their voices be heard over the result, with comments like:
“Only good-for-nothing types ride these carts anyway.”
“Why did they run this campaign on a Japanese crowdfunding site? Surely they should’ve used a crowdfunding site popular with foreigners instead.”
“They shouldn’t expect Japanese people to fund a business that isn’t aimed at Japanese.”
“Wonder if they’ll survive? If not, another business will just steal the idea later on anyway.”
“They should’ve offered lifetime unlimited rides for 10,000 yen.”
The only reward tiers offered during the campaign was a thank-you email from staff for donations of 500 yen, and an 8,000-yen tour ticket in return for 5,000 yen. More reward options may have resulted in a better result, and since the campaign ran on an all-or-nothing basis, all funds raised will now be returned to backers.
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