Some people say it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination. That’s a pretty good attitude to have in life, but even the most philosophical travelers will have to admit that money is important too if you’re hoping to take a journey of greater than walking distance.
Luckily, if you’re neither picky about destinations nor flush with cash, West Japan Railway (JR West) is ready to send you on a journey at a pretty huge discount. So where are they going to send you? Nobody knows, because this is the Saikoro Ticket we’re talking about, saikoro being the Japanese word for “dice,” and just like with the results of those cube-shaped randomizers, your destination is a matter of chance.
Photo: JR West
That’s not to say you’ll be completely in the dark as to where you’re going, since the possibilities are these seven stations in central and western Japan:
● Shirahama (Wakayama Prefecture)
● Amarube (Hyogo Prefecture)
● Higashi Maizuru (Kyoto Prefecture)
● Kurashiki (Okayama Prefecture)
● Awaraonsen (Fukui Prefecture)
● Onomichi (Hiroshima Prefecture)
● Hakata (Fukuoka Prefecture)
The Saikoro Ticket costs 5,000 yen round-trip, with eligible starting points being anywhere inside Osaka City. So in exchange for a randomized destination, how much are you saving? A lot. Unlike some other discount tickets, the Saikoro Ticket doesn’t lock you into slower trains, and instead allows you to take special limited expresses and even the Shinkansen if your destination is along the bullet train line. Ordinarily, round-trip tickets of that caliber from Osaka or Shin Osaka Station would cost:
● Shirahama: 11,400 yen
● Amarube: 12,060 yen
● Higashi Maizuru: 9,180 yen
● Kurashiki: 13,360 yen
● Awaraonsen: 13,380 yen
● Onomichi: 17,300 yen
● Hakata: 29,240 yen
So you’re going to be saving, at the very least, 4,180 yen, and possibly as much as 24,240 yen, representing discounts of between 45.5 and 82.9 percent off the regular ticker prices.
The destinations’ odds aren’t completely even. For five of them, Shirahama, Amarube, Higashi Maizuru, Kurashiki, and Awaraonsen, you have an equal chance of 16.7 percent. Onomichi is a little lower, at 13.9 percent, and Hakata, the major rail hub of downtown Fukuoka City, is the rarest Saikoro Ticket destination, with a 2.8-percent chance. But with all seven stations located in interesting sightseeing areas, there’s really not a bad result in the bunch.
There’s also a way to slightly boost your chances of getting Hakata as a destination. The Saikoro Tickets are set to be offered in two batches, and if you get the same destination both times, you have the option to swap the second for Hakata. Of course, you can also elect to keep your tickets as-is and have the same destination twice. There’s also an added bonus to getting Amarube, Higashi Maizuru, Awaraonsen, or Kurashiki as your destination, since those Saikoro Tickets allow you to get off at somewhere part-way to those stations instead.
▼ So, for example, you could instead take your Saikoro Ticket journey to the hot spring town of Kinosaki in Kyoto (using the to-Amarube ticket), Tanabe Castle (Higashi Maizuru ticket), or the prefectural capital cities of Fukui (Awaraonsen ticket) and Okayama (Kurashiki ticket), famous for dinosaurs and peaches, respectively.
Photo: JR West
An especially nice aspect of the Saikoro Ticket is that you can purchase it for up to six people at a time, and everyone in the group is guaranteed to get the same destination. So not only will you be able to travel with family or friends, if you’re lucky you could be collectively saving over 145,000 yen.
The first round of Saikoro Tickets can be purchased online here, with the second batch to become available on July 30. The tickets can be used between July 29 and October 31, with your departure and return within three days of each other. Really, the only potential downside is that you have to start and finish your Saikoro Ticket trip in Osaka.
Sources: JR West, PR Times
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