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Courtesy East Japan Railway Company
Courtesy East Japan Railway Company

Inside a $10K Luxury Train Ride Across Japan

Courtesy East Japan Railway Company
Courtesy East Japan Railway Company

If you’ve got a lot of time and don’t care much about comfort, you can get across Japan for less than $30 a day. But if that’s not quite your style, there is a far better—and far pricier—alternative. You could shell out $10,000 for a luxury sleeper train that will take you across the country in true comfort.

As Mashable reports, the East Japan Railway Company’s Train Suite Shiki-Shima began making voyages on May 1, and its passengers have been riding in high style ever since. The train offers 17 double-occupancy cabins, with a lounge car, a dining room, and two observatory cars.

The trip "offers you a prime view of Japan’s rich, beautiful natural scenery, the local industries of each region and the unique culture that permeates Japanese people’s daily lives," according to the railway’s website.

The seasonal trips are two, three, or four days long and cover 620 to 1120 miles in total, with all meals included, with daily sightseeing trips. The food aboard the train is coordinated with the destinations out the window, so you eat dishes prepared by local chefs featuring ingredients from the region.

A female crew member in a brown uniform stands between two twin beds made up with white sheets in the Shiki-Shima luxury suite
The Shiki-Shima luxury suite, pictured here, has two levels.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

The elite trips come at a cost: A three-day, two-night trip staying in the train’s fanciest cabin, the Shiki-Shima Suite, costs more than $9300 for a single passenger, and around $6200 per person for a couple. The same trip costs almost $4500 per person for the lowest-level double-occupancy cabin.

a view of a glass-walled train car with a bar at one end of the car, square tables with blue chairs at the other end, and a staircase leading downstairs
Courtesy East Japan Railway Company

a wood-lined interior of a train car with a table and two seats next to the window and Japanese screens dividing the room
Courtesy East Japan Railway Company

Tickets are already sold out until March 2018, but you can keep an eye out for openings on the East Japan Railway website. You'll have to submit an application for tickets, and if there is more interest than there are tickets, winners will be chosen by lottery.

[h/t Mashable]

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The Real Bay of Pigs: Big Major Cay in the Bahamas
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When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

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This 1940 Film on Road Maps Will Make You Appreciate Map Apps Like Never Before
Douglas Grundy, Three Lions/Getty Images
Douglas Grundy, Three Lions/Getty Images

In the modern era, we take for granted having constantly updated, largely accurate maps of just about every road in the world at our fingertips. If you need to find your way through a city or across a country, Google Maps has your back. You no longer have to go out and buy a paper map.

But to appreciate just what a monstrous task making road maps and keeping them updated was in decades past, take a look at this vintage short film, "Caught Mapping," spotted at the Internet Archive by National Geographic.

The 1940 film, produced by the educational and promotional company Jam Handy Organization (which created films for corporations like Chevrolet), spotlights the difficult task of producing and revising maps to keep up with new road construction and repair.

The film is a major booster of the mapmaking industry, and those involved in it come off as near-miracle workers. The process of updating maps involved sending scouts out into the field to drive along every road and note conditions, compare the roads against topographical maps, and confirm mileage figures. Then, those scouts reported back to the draughtsmen responsible for producing revised maps every two weeks. The draughtsmen updated the data on road closures and other changes.

Once those maps were printed, they were "ready to give folks a good steer," as the film's narrator puts it, quietly determining the success of any road trip in the country.

"Presto! and right at their fingertips, modern motorists can have [information] on any road they wish to take." A modern marvel, really.

[h/t National Geographic]

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