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June 30, 2010



According to the result of the recent survey conducted by an internationally renowned organization, “Japan ranked last among the six non-Western countries in the categories of ‘Investment in existing firms’ and ‘Investment in venture firms’.” Furthermore, “The U.S. which boasted the number one ranking as the most internationally competitive country over the years handed over its seat to Singapore this year (which ranked third last year) and Japan which was ranked 17th in this category last year fell to 27th place.” As these factors indicate, Japan’s status, especially the country’s economy, has been on a steady decline. To add fuel to this trend, a swarm of critics and scholars reiterate their pessimistic views on the future of Japan in one voice from their field of specialty.

For a person who has experienced the tumultuous period of Japan during the last days of World War II and the aftermath of the defeat, it is my assessment that this is “social paranoia” which is peculiar to our country. This being the case, I referred to the phenomenon during a speech I gave last week. “Currently, there are talks that the future outlook of Japan is gloomy. Indeed, it may be gloomy but think of it this way. We are fortunate that there is still, at least, a future out there.” Instantly, I felt an uneasiness spreading among the audience so I raised my voice and continued.

“As World War II was nearing its end and the advancement of the American troops to the mainland seemed inevitable, the Japanese unconditionally accepted the slogan to unite as a nation of 100 million and fight to the very last man. When the Showa Emperor made his surrender speech to the public, many who were relieved that they do not have to sacrifice their life for the country any more trembled with anxieties and terrors when the allied occupational force took over Japan. Back then, the Japanese did not even have a ‘gloomy future.’ When compared to those days, present Japan is, in fact, heaven.”

The rise and fall of a nation happens all the time in world history. The downfall of Japan may be a critical issue to politicians and bureaucrats but if this is unavoidable, the citizens should not let the incompetent nation undermine the life they are entitled to and it is time that they consider all realistically possible options that are available (be it profession, asset management, life planning, etc.). In doing so, the best role models and encouragements come from those Japanese who, under the ongoing “globalization” trend, had the foresight to recognize opportunities in overseas countries and are achieving success and fame in a myriad of professions in the country they chose to make their dreams come true.

June 22, 2010



As I turn 83 years old today, I welcome my birthday with a special feeling. This is because when a master fortune-teller of the Four Pillars of Destiny (a school of Chinese astrology which forecasts the individual’s life based on the day, month, year and time of one’s birth) took the trouble to read my life more than 40 years ago, he concluded that the peak of my life will come at the age of 84 years old. His reading was reputed as being extremely reliable that even the former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakazone, at times, solicited this master’s advice. Having personally believed in his prediction, it means that there is only one more year to go until the long-awaited prime of my life to come.

This master is Mr. Nobuyuki Nakahara, a junior of mine at the University of Tokyo. While he was the President of Tonen General Sekiyu K.K., he was already widely acknowledged as a distinguished economist and during the Koizumi administration, his speeches and remarks as a member of the Policy Board of the Bank of Japan drew a lot of attention and his book “Who Owns the Bank of Japan” (‘日銀はだれのものか’- published by Chuokoron, 2006) became a best seller as a business publication when it went into print. Among us who are familiar with him, he draws special respect and is regarded highly as a person who has mastered the fortune telling of the Four Pillars of Destiny on the one hand while mastering Karate to the point of serving as the Chairman of the Japan Karate Association.

Frankly speaking, when I listened to Mr. Nakahara’s fortune telling long, long time ago, I took it half as a joke since the elderly age of 84 years old seemed like a far distant future and lacked reality. However, around the time I became over 60 years old, I started to find extreme encouragement in his revelation and by the time I was over 70 years old, it became a firm conviction that I even started enjoying the aging process itself.

About the time when one passes 60 years old, one starts to feel anxiety about growing old and after one passes 70 years old, the fear of death arises. However, according to my own experience, when one passes 80 years old, the outlook on life suddenly opens up vastly. Why? That is because one is already an elderly person by then so there is no reason to feel anxiety of aging anymore. Furthermore, together with a sense of relief that one has outlived the average life expectancy age and has had one’s own share of life, the number of friends who have departed to the other sphere and eagerly awaiting for one to join them there would have drastically increased which brings about a certain sense of welcoming “death.” In light of this, after I fully relish the prime of my life next year, I intend to spend my days in a peaceful state of mind while looking forward to the day I gallantly move on from the present to the afterlife.

June 4, 2010



Seven years has passed since Mr. Morihiko Hiramatsu retired from the Governor of Oita Prefecture post. As portrayed in the novel of Saburo Shiroyama, “The Summer of the Bureaucrats,” he was well known across the board as a prominent bureaucrat with high aspirations and remarkable capabilities since he was a young man. However, looking back on his career, he spent only 25 years as a bureaucrat at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (including his years at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry). After serving as the Minister’s Secretariat at the National Land Agency for a year, he became the Vice Governor of Oita Prefecture, his birthplace, in 1975 upon the solicitation of the then Governor. Since 1979, he served as the Governor of Oita Prefecture for 24 years and the outstanding achievements he accomplished during his tenure is widely acknowledged.

As he was close to 80 years old when he stepped down from the Governor’s post, it may have been more than natural for him to lead the remaining years of his life in a leisurely manner with his past glories as a backdrop. On the contrary, as soon as he retired from the Governor’s post, he established a NPO organization, “Oita One Village One Product (OVOP) International Exchange Promotion Committee,” and has been playing a leading role as the President of the committee. While Mr. Hiramatsu was Governor, he advocated and launched a successful regional development program called the “One Village, One Product” movement to revitalize the prefecture. The Oita OVOP International Exchange Promotion Committee extends this effort one big step forward onto a global stage to help other nations to prosper by adopting the OVOP approach and Mr. Hiramatsu’s relentless and extensive activities in foreign countries to implement this movement have been highly acclaimed and various countries have expressed their appreciation in their own varied ways for his huge contributions.

For example, as China celebrates her 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic this year, the government chose 10 individuals as “The Most Influential Overseas Experts.” As eight of the ten selected individuals are already deceased, Mr. Hiramatsu received the honorable award as one of the valuable person who is still alive. Yesterday afternoon, a gathering to commemorate Mr. Hiramatsu’s recent accomplishment was held at the “Matsumotoro” restaurant located within the Hibiya Park. Being one of the members who proposed to hold this event, I made my personal remarks. Excerpt as follows.

“35 years ago, when Mr. Hiramatsu decided to return to Oita Prefecture to take on the Vice Governor’s post, many in the business arena who dearly revered him formed a ‘Fraternity longing to bring about the Hiramatsu administration’ and sincerely hoped that he will return to Tokyo some day to assume the post of Japan’s Prime Minister. For those who had such hopes, there probably was never a time like now when they are deeply regretting that their dream did not materialize.”

May 28, 2010



I spent three consecutive days in Sendai end of last week. My schedule there was hectic, filled with various engagements such as lectures, conferences, golf, my fan club gathering, etc. but the event which got me really excited was when I gave a speech addressing my fundamental perspective on regional revitalization in conjunction with the proposed construction of the “Anpanman” museum in Sendai and had the opportunity to exchange views with a group of Sendai citizens who were in attendance. To be honest, I have to confess that I was totally unaware until very recently that “Anpanman” is one of the most popular anime characters among infants and young children in Japan as well as the fact that several amusement facilities oriented towards children with the “Anpanman” name and theme have been built in a number of locations within the country.

This being the case, I was rather perplexed when President Ito of “Sendai Keizaikai” magazine visited my office during his business trip to Tokyo in mid March and requested me to act as an intermediary between the “Anpanman” museum and a group of Sendai citizens. According to him, a group of local residents were indicating anxieties and voicing their concerns towards the city’s plan to build the “Anpanman” museum at a location near the East exit of the JR Sendai Station. Since I was still in the dark about “Anpanman,” I had no idea what he was referring to and could only vaguely respond that I would decide what I can do to assist when I visit Sendai next time and have the opportunity of meeting with the entities involved in the dispute.

I, thus, decided to visit the “Anpanman Children’s Museum and Mall” near Yokohama Station prior to my upcoming visit to Sendai to learn what “Anpanman” is all about. Although my wife warned me that, “You will feel totally out of place,” I was fortunate that a friend of mine in Yokohama arranged to have the top executives of the museum take me on a thoroughly guided tour of the whole facility and furthermore set up a meeting with President Watanabe of the museum. What struck me most during the tour was seeing so many young children who were enthusiastically absorbed in playing with various “Anpanman” themed fun equipments and immensely enjoying themselves.

The vast majority of the children in Japan today do not seem vigorous. It is probably due to the fact that they go through nursery school, kindergarten, elementary school, etc., under the excessive supervision of the teachers who are “publicly” certified to teach children from an adult’s point of view. Whether the “Anpanman” museum is successfully launched at Sendai Station’s East exit or not, I wholeheartedly encourage President Watanabe that the museum in Yokohama continues to develop as an innovative infant educational enterprise which is designed from the “children’s point of view.”

May 14, 2010



This week, I have returned to my profession as a professor and have given lectures to freshmen students at Tama University this past Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 4:20 pm to 5:50 pm respectively and will do so tomorrow (Friday) as well. I was asked to give lectures not in four serial parts but to give the same lecture to freshmen divided into four groups. Not to mention that this is somewhat less demanding than my expectation, I, moreover, felt hesitant at having to repeat myself four times so I am exerting all my efforts to convey the content of the same lecture differently every time I stand in front of the students.

This request for me to give lectures to freshmen students came about when I was engaged in an informal conversation with the Tama University professors last fall. One of them mentioned that, “Even at our university, it has become a common occurrence where students are talking among themselves during class or even dozing off to sleep. This state of affairs is problematic.” To this, I responded decisively that, “This must owe greatly to the fact that all of you lack leadership as professors.” In return the professors urged, “Professor Noda, if you think that is the case, please do come and give your gut talk to the students as a wake up call.” This, as a result, led me to accept the special lecture program.

When I entered class last Monday at the lecture commencement time, the students already present were still in a state of hurly-burly while others continued to laxly walk into class although they should have all been seated by then. Furthermore, the students were avoiding the front row seats and filling the classroom from the back. Enraged at these unruly behaviors, I ran up on the lecturer’s podium and as soon as I go hold of the microphone, I shouted, “Be quiet!” The classroom instantly froze to a chilly silence. I immediately followed up by yelling, “Close the door!” Don’t let the tardy students come in!” to the assistant professor who was standing next to me. After the commotion had subsided, I gave a brief introduction of myself as well as the purpose of the special lecture and went on to speak passionately to touch the heart of the students.

“Don’t you realize that your parents are paying one million yen a year as tuition fee for your education?” “As a customer, demand more from your professors!” “Those of you who do not want to attend class in earnest, quit school!” “Those who choose to sit in the classroom’s corner end up being shoved to sit in life’s corner as well. Such losers do not deserve a university education.” The effect of my pointed comments brought about unexpected results. “Ever since I entered the university, this is the first time I experienced such intensity in the classroom.” “I want to alleviate my parents’ financial burden as much as possible by doing part-time work.” The students’ reactions, to my surprise, were overwhelmingly positive.

Having said this, I am currently enjoying the role of a professor who is in charge of teaching basic discipline to freshmen to my heart’s content.

March 7, 2010



I have received numerous telephone calls and e-mail messages indicating that upon seeing a very eye-catchy advertisement of “GOETHE” magazine’s April issue in the Nihon Keizai Newspaper, they bought a copy to read the article which featured myself. Now that I come to think of it, when I wrote in my last Rapport that the dialogue between Mr. Son and I is scheduled to be published in the magazine’s May issue, I should have mentioned that the April issue will be doing a comprehensive coverage of my profile.

GOETHE magazine which targets businessmen around 40 years old and I had nothing to do with each other until the editorial department came up with a question of what would be of insight to the readers when they ponder about their future. They, thus, solicited advices from prominent individuals in various fields regarding whom they will recommend as an exceptionally energetic person over 80 years old to which an overwhelming majority cited my name. This being the case, I am honored that the magazine decided to do a feature story on myself.

In the past, I have been featured in a number of publications including “Bungeishunju” monthly magazine (日本の顔; The Face of Japan - May 1992), “AERA” magazine (現代の肖像; The Contemporary Portrait - August 5, 2002) and “Economist” magazine (人間探検; Exploring Humans - November 19, 2002). However, GOETHE’s scheme to feature myself from a diverse perspective which will run consecutively in their three monthly issues (April to June) totaling 24 pages in all is the first of its kind. When my grandchildren come of age, it gives me great pleasure to think that the magazine’s articles will serve as an excellent source of reference for them to get to know their “grandpa.”

Around the time one is turning 60 years old, it is quite natural to feel anxiety about aging and the nearing shadow of death. However, at the age of over 80 years old, there is no need to fear about growing old since I am already undeniably an “old person.” Furthermore, with a sense of superiority that I have outlived the average life expectancy, I, in a certain context, even look forward to welcome death when I consider that many of my close friends who have passed away before me and my parents are eagerly awaiting for my arrival to join them in the afterlife.

Above is nothing but my honest feeling as I near 83 years old. Although my current schedule is jam packed and hectic like it has always been, I am spending my days in a most peaceful and fulfilled state of mind which I have never experienced in the past. In light of this, the assessment that I am an exceptionally vigorous person seems like a pleasant bias of the young generation towards elderly people in my age bracket.

February 23, 2010



In our daily lives, there are people whom we meet on a frequent basis but do not attach any feeling of intimacy whereas there are those whom we have not met for a long while but instantly feel at one with each other once we meet. Although I cannot accurately explain why this is so, I think it all depends on whether we resonate simultaneously on the same wavelength. In light of this, for those who share this special relationship, the Japanese proverb stating that “out of sight is out of mind” does not hold true.

Upon the request of Gentosha’s (publisher) monthly business magazine “GOETHE,” I met with Mr. Masayoshi Son (CEO of SoftBank) last Friday afternoon for a dialogue to be published in the magazine. At the onset of our conversation, I started out by saying that, “Many people think that you and I see each other frequently but you will agree that this is totally not the case. Although we’ve known each other for more than 30 years, I think we don’t get to meet even once a year for much of the time.” At this, both of us broke into a hearty laughter.

Believe me, this is true. When Mr. Son first visited my office in Akasaka way back when, we resonated on the same wavelength after barely speaking for 30 minutes despite the fact that we are different in virtually all aspects including age and profession. Since then, I cherish every opportunity to meet him. This being the case, we took advantage of the occasion and spoke animatedly during last week’s dialogue from the very beginning that when it ended, we realized that we had exceeded the designated conversation time by far.

This dialogue is scheduled to be published in the May issue of “GOETHE” magazine so for those of you who are interested, please pick up a copy at your convenience to read through it. This all started out at the end of last year when I received a request from Gentosha that they would like to do a thorough coverage of myself in the aforementioned magazine’s April to June issues. According to the publisher, as Japan’s recent state of affairs is extremely pathetic, they were looking for an exceptionally energetic elderly person who stands counter to the current tide. In their search, they solicited advices from eminent individuals representing various fields and an overwhelming number of those asked cited my name. This is how the offer crossed my path to which I consented.

On a related subject, upon the request of a bi-weekly economic magazine “Keizaikai,” I am currently writing a memoir of my life in their “一期一会” section starting with their first 2010 issue. Besides the fact that the article is 4 pages long and due twice a month, I am encountering backbreaking difficulties of remembering the details of what took place in my past 82 years plus finding appropriate photographs to accompany my text. With this said, I, at times, regret that I took up on this offer.

February 16, 2010



With the opening of the Winter Olympic Games, the media coverage in respective countries will be stirring “nationalism” for some time. Although I dislike this phenomenon, I further abhor the “commercialism” of the International Olympic Committee symbolized by what it cites as its creed that “the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part.”

Let’s face it. None of us chose the country (meaning nation state) to which we are born in. With some exceptions, by the time one is around 10 years old (being shown the world map and the like), we, in an abstract way, realize ones national identity and acquire “nationalism” by recognition of language, taste, human relationship, cultural practice, etc. (and in the case of Japanese) difference in the color of the skin and hair. This “nationalism” leads the individuals to fanatical excitement when their own country’s athletes win and feel deep disappointment when they loose.

By the way, what is a country to an individual? Being a member of the last generation which experienced World War II, I can attest that although the livelihood of many Japanese back then were ruined by the country, the people sacrificed virtually everything and, at times, even their own lives for the country. On the other hand, those who tried to evade the irrational duties justified by the country were considered as “traitors” and were forced to undergo hardship. In light of this, “globalization” triggered as a result of the “cold war” is a much awaited blessing for those who are capable to retain an objective and unbiased relationship with ones country.

In the age where many countries are actively seeking and accepting foreigners who are deemed beneficial to the national interest, the number of talented Japanese in a variety of professional fields who have opted to live in overseas countries overcoming the language and custom barriers are increasingly on the rise for the past 10 years or so. On the contrary, Japan still remains to be an extremely exclusive country. Even if the country changed course and became an open society whereby accepting foreigners, I do not think that current Japan is equipped with the attractiveness to motivate talented foreigners to move to Japan and encourage them to take leading roles in their expertise.

Is Japan, symbolized by the Ozawa syndrome, a decent and wholesome country? I, who am turning 83 years old this year, have a strong resolution to part with this country anytime if goes beyond the limit of my tolerance and I am constantly making preparations to do so in case such a time comes.

February 3, 2010



Not many Japanese can give an answer when asked which university in the country is currently attracting a lot of attention. I feel that this reflects the lack of presence of universities within the Japanese society. However, for those who work at universities and related institutions as well as with those who are interested in the university arena, many would most likely cite “Akita International University (AIU).” This institution was established as a public university corporation in 2004 with the initial enrollment of only 150 students. Furthermore, it is devoted wholly to humanities (liberal arts) which is considered as the biggest obstacle to attract applicants from senior high schools.

Among the 750 or so universities in Japan, AIU ranked as the number one university in terms of post-graduation job placement rate, second place (after International Christian University) as “a small but highly esteemed institution,” and 14th place (after Sophia University) in providing “high educational achievement.” This is according to the most recent university rating survey conducted by the “Sunday Mainichi” magazine. According to the 2010 edition of the Japanese University Ranking published by Asahi Newspapers, AIU ranked 7th (after Doshisha University) in the category of “evaluation by university presidents,” first in the category of “senior high schools’ evaluation of newly established universities” and again first place in the “number of study abroad students among newly established universities (degree seeking)” with 147 students outdoing Nagasaki University of Foreign Studies (31 students) and Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (30 students) by far.

I became the member of the founding committee of AIU upon the request of Governor Terada of Akita Prefecture for several years during and after my term as President of Miyagi University and together with committee Chairman Mineo Nakajima (currently the President of AIU), we aspired to establish a university which may be small in scale but profoundly unique. With this said, I am extremely pleased and honored that AIU has achieved such remarkable academic acknowledgements mentioned above only a few years after the first class of students graduated. Last Tuesday afternoon, I attended the President’s Advisory Board meeting of AIU held in snowy Akita and chaired the gathering on behalf of Chairman Yasushi Akashi who was unable to attend. The current status of AIU is that of a public university corporation which relies heavily on educational subsidy provided by Akita Prefecture. During the meeting, I had the opportunity to engage in active and productive discussions with each committee member regarding the future organizational management of AIU so that it can further take huge strides towards wholesome growth as a more independent entity.

Do keep an eye on AIU which achieved impressive accomplishments as a result of pursuing uniqueness!

January 26, 2010




An event to announce that actor Ken Watanabe won the “(Sakaguchi) Ango Prize” this year was held on January 19th at the Hotel New Otani. As the Chairman of the
award’s nomination committee, I attended the event and gave a speech which included the nomination and selection process of the award. Prior to the announcement ceremony, I had the opportunity to converse with Mr. Watanabe for 30 minutes at the waiting room. The impression he left on me fully lived up to my expectation that he is an individual with a dignified and reliable personality which I have sensed by seeing him via television and other medium. During our conversation, I brought up the topic of his latest film “Shizumanu Taiyo” (The Sun That Doesn’t Set) and commented, “I am amazed at how Onchi (main character played by Mr. Watanabe) endured numerous personnel transfers meant as a persistent harassment on him by the firm. If I was in his shoes, I would have thrust my resignation after two or three of those vengeful acts.” To this, Mr. Watanabe with a gentle smile said, “If I were him, I would have quit at the very first personnel transfer.”

Four days later, amid the intense attention of the whole nation, Secretary General (of the Democratic Party of Japan) Ozawa’s inquiry by the prosecutor was held and as soon as the questioning which lasted for 4 hours was over, Mr. Ozawa proceeded to hold a press conference and defiantly denied his involvement in the alleged fund raising scandal. I have met Mr. Ozawa in person quite some time ago and my first impression of him, contrary to Mr. Watanabe, was that he is an arrogant yet chicken-hearted man. Mr. Ozawa has aged with the passage of time but when I see him on television or in photographs, his face looks increasingly like that of a “tyrant” and I am appalled by the lawmakers of the Democratic Party of Japan who subserviently follow their boss like a herd of sheep. In conjunction with this, was there ever a time when the whole media spoke in one voice of “Ozawa bashing?” The members of the DPJ who are irritated by such criticism have started to claim the necessity to regulate the freedom of speech but such absurd doings by the DPJ will inevitably be a suicidal act of this immature party.

On the other hand, who wants the comeback of the Liberal Democratic Party that has become the “emblem of corrupt political power?” Under such circumstances, I look on with keen interest as to how the Japanese democracy will steer itself to find its final destination.

Correction: My friend, Mr. Hiroshi Urakami, called me regarding the last Rapport and informed me that “Mr. Ozawa is a graduate of Keio University (not Waseda).” Oops! With due respect, please take note of this correction.

January 20, 2010


“Hey, Ishikawa, time to show your guts. We are going to war with the public prosecutor. Can’t loose this one.” “Sure boss. As a secretary, my service is at your disposal in time of need.” This conversation sounds exactly like an exchange between yakuza (Japanese gangster) members. However, in this case, “boss” refers to the Secretary General of the Democratic Party of Japan which won a sweeping victory in last year’s general election and became the majority party while Ishikawa is his former secretary and currently a lawmaker. Furthermore, when the boss and his subordinate are both graduates of Waseda University, one of the most prestigious universities in Japan, Japanese with a sense of decency cannot help but frown.

Huge headlines of “Ishikawa arrested” ran on all of the January 16th morning papers. As I was in the midst of a business trip that day, I skimmed through all the major newspapers at the hotel’s restaurant during breakfast. Among them, the article with the aforementioned metaphorical conversation featured in Mainichi Newspapers left the most impression within me. It was just the other day when I was giving a speech in Tokyo to business executives, that I, as usual, diverted from the main topic and touched upon the “Ozawa issue” by commenting, “If even a secretary can get away from being arrested, the tycoon of the ‘Hatoyama puppet government’ will not only put pressure on the prosecutors but will eventually extend its authority over the judiciary which harbors the awesome possibility of Japan becoming a one party autocracy which ruled Japan before World War II.”

So far, what is different from prewar Japan is that the political authority cannot suppress the “freedom of speech” but how credible is this? When I was the President of Miyagi University, I was invited to give speeches at various locations in the Tohoku region (a strong hold of Ozawa) and I had the opportunity to dine with notable individuals afterwards. On such occasions, when the conversation touched upon Ozawa, the voice of the person whom I was speaking to suddenly, as if not to be overheard, toned down. Furthermore, Mr. Ozawa, as if to boast his power, led a 600 member delegation to China the other day, a modern version of the Japanese envoy to the Tang Dynasty. Of the 600 members, 160 are current DPJ legislators who, at heart, may not agree with what Ozawa says and does but are powerless to speak against him.

The people of Japan finally said no and rejected the Liberal Democratic Party when the over half a century rule of the majority party malady reached a terminally ill condition and expected the Democratic Party of Japan to remedy the malaise. It is ironical that the DPJ, of all people, is taken over by an individual who is the embodiment of the most repulsive predisposition of political power. So what is in store for the future of this “yakuza nation?”

January 1,2010


According to the media, a new year is about to dawn while politics and economics are still in a state of stagnation. As for myself who have lived in accordance to my own principle and belief, “This year will be another great one for me regardless of the state of the country!” is my positive stance as usual.

I eagerly look forward to living another year with utmost vigor. Being a member of the generation which has lived before, during and after World War II, I will take special and constant note to be humble with gratefulness to the blessed state of affairs that prevail currently which was unimaginable back in the old days.

I extend my new year’s greeting to all of you with genuine hope that this year will be a “great one regardless of the state of the country” for everyone of you.

Kazuo Noda

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