How to buy a cheap ticket to…somewhere. 

Just a few days ago, West Japan Rail (JR West) announced a new 5,000 yen (US$36.26) discount ticket for their trains, called the Saikoro TicketSaikoro is the Japanese word for “dice”, and as the name suggests, buying one of these round-trip tickets is like taking a roll of the dice, as the destination is left up to chance.

That doesn’t mean you can travel absolutely anywhere on the network, though, as the start and return station must be within Osaka City, and there are seven possible destinations, all in central and western Japan, listed below:

Shirahama (Wakayama Prefecture)
Amarube (Hyogo Prefecture)
Higashi Maizuru (Kyoto Prefecture)
Kurashiki (Okayama Prefecture)
Awaraonsen (Fukui Prefecture)
Onomichi (Hiroshima Prefecture)
Hakata (Fukuoka Prefecture)

With the regular cost of return trips to the above destinations ranging between 4,180 yen and 24,240 yen, the saikoro ticket presents a discount of 45.5-82.9 percent off regular prices. This sounded like a great deal to us, and if it sounds like a great deal to you too, follow along with us as we show you how to buy one of these random-destination tickets.

You can either purchase a ticket online, or on your smartphone, and we opted for the latter, seeing as it gives us an excuse to show off our cute cat-eared case.

The website procedure is relatively straightforward, but if you’re using a smartphone like us, just follow the steps below:

1. Register as a member of J-WEST Net (free of charge, you can do it on your computer or smartphone)
2. Download the WESTER app on your smartphone.
3. Click the URL sent to the email address you registered in Step 1 to access the WESTER app. Enter the ID you registered on J-WEST Net in WESTER and reload it.
4. Roll the die within the WESTER app and this completes the entry. The destination will then be revealed.
5. When the ticket becomes available for purchase, it will be displayed in the “notifications” tab at the top of the WESTER member page. (This can take up to 10 days)
6. Purchase the Saikoro Ticket with a credit card, specify the date of use and the train you’ll be boarding, and you’re ready to go on your trip!

Payment is by credit card only, and though the price is listed as 4,500 yen per person initially, the total cost after completion amounts to 5,000 yen per person. You can buy a Saikoro Ticket for up to six people at a time, so you can either travel alone or with one-to-five companions, with everyone receiving the same destination.

So, after rolling the die, were we lucky enough to get the most sought-after ticket of all — Hakata, which offers the biggest discount of 82.9 percent off a ticket that usually costs 29,240 yen, and even includes the option to use the expensive Nozomi Shinkansen to get there?

▼ Nope, we’ll be going to Amarube (“餘部”) in Hyogo Prefecture.

Oh well — with a round-trip ticket to Amarube Station usually priced at 12,060 yen, this was a discount of 7,060 yen so we couldn’t complain! And looking at the map, Amarube appeared to be right on the coast overlooking the Japan Sea, which is a cool location for a summer getaway.

▼ Plus, if you get Amarube (or Higashi Maizuru, Awaraonsen, or Kurashiki) as your destination, you’re allowed to alight somewhere along the way to the station instead.

The Saikoro Tickets will be sold in two batches, with the first round on sale from 19 July and the second round sold from 30 July. Tickets can be purchased from 19 July to 29 October, for use between 29 July and 31 October, with departure and return dates required to be within three days of each other.

If you’ve got your heart set on Hakata as a destination, you can always try your luck by purchasing a ticket in both rounds, as people who wind up getting two of the same destinations in the first and second rounds will be able to swap the second ticket for Hakata.

As for us, we’re looking forward to checking out the sights of Amarube and seeing what it has to offer. And if we can, we might stop off to visit the Ghibli-esque Castle in the Sky while we’re there!

Photos © SoraNews24
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