If luck’s on your side, you can save 83 percent off normal train fare, and even if it’s not, you’ll still save at least 34.

We recently got some bad news with the announcement from JR East (a.k.a. East Japan Railway Company) that they’re indefinitely suspending sales of their rechargeable e-money Suica cards, which are amazingly convenient to use when buying train tickets. Fortunately there’s something for train travelers to smile about over in JR West’s part of Japan, as the Osaka-based rail operator has announced a new random-destination train ticket that’s guaranteed to save you a ton on a train fare, even if there’s no exact promise as to where you’ll be going.

JR West will be offering a total of 40,000 sets of round-trip tickets in the latest incarnation of the Saikoro Ticket (saikoro being the Japanese word for “dice” or “die”). Officially, they’re called the Osaka-departure Saikoro Tickets, since the journeys start, and end, from the station of your choice within Osaka City.

As for where you’ll be going, that’s up to chance. When purchasing the ticket, your destination station is chosen at random from one of four possibilities:

Kanazawa (Ishikawa Prefecture), the cultural and historical heart of Japan’s Hokuriku region, famed for its gardens, seafood, and goldsmiths
Kure (Hiroshima Prefecture), an old-school shipbuilding town with acclaimed maritime history museums
Kinosaki Onsen (Hyogo Prefectue), a hot spring town with a wide variety of day-use baths and a beautiful canal that runs through the city center
Hakata (Fukuoka Prefecture), the main rail hub of Fukuoka, the largest city on Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu

▼ Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen garden, considered one of the most beautiful in Japan

The price of the Saikoro Ticket depends on the day of the week you want to depart. If you’re leaving between Monday and Thursday, the price of the round-trip Saikoro Ticket is 5,000 yen (US$36), and if you’re leaving on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, it’s 8,000 yen. Either way, though, it’s a huge savings compared to the normal cost of a round-trip fare from Osaka, which are:

● Kanazawa: 15,580 yen
● Kure: 22,560 yen
● Kinosaki Onsen: 12,280 yen
● Hakata: 30,080 yen

That means that at the very least you’ll be saving 4,280 yen (for a weekend trip to Kinosaki Onsen) and as much as 25,580 yen (a weekday trip to Hakata), or between 34.8 percent and 83.3 percent compared to the regular prices.

▼ Kinosaki Onsen

There are a few catches to be aware of, though. First, the odds of getting each of the four destinations is not even. The chance is one in three for both Kanazawa and Kure, two in nine for Kinosaki Onsen, and one in nine for Hakata (so really some sort of nine-sided die would have made more sense for the promotional poster than the six-sider it shows). Also, you must use your return ticket on the day after you use your outbound one, so the Osaka-departure Saikoro Ticket is really designed just for one-night trips.

Still, if you’ve got an unplanned day in your Japan travel itinerary following a day in Osaka, this is an amazing bargain. The Saikoro Tickets also get you discounts at restaurants and tourism attractions in the area around your assigned destination station, and you even have the option of switching your destination to anywhere closer to Osaka along the route than was randomly selected for you.

▼ In the case of Osaka to Hakata, that gives you a lot of potential places, and it appears that the Osaka-to-Hakata and Osaka-to-Kure Saikoro Tickets both allow you to use the Shinkansen.

The Osaka-departure Saikoro Ticket is being offered through a lottery system administered through JR West’s Wester app. After downloading the app, you can register for the lottery through its “Otoku ni Go” section for special promotions, and you can apply for up to three sets of tickets for the single destination randomly awarded to your group, in case you’ve got an open-minded-about-where-we’re-going-together travel companion or two. Applications are open now and can be made until August 14, and winners can use their tickets for departure dates between August 23 and October 31.

Related: Osaka-departure Saikoro Ticket official website
Source: JR West via IT Media
Top image: JR West
Insert images: Wikipedia/Japanexperterna.se, Wikipedia/Mypom9
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