Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Tokyo (Page 1 of 6)

TeamLab Planets

After the raving success TeamLab Borderless experienced during its recent opening, TeamLab had a grand re-opening of their 2016 TeamLab Planets exhibit. TeamLab Planets is also located in the Odaiba area of Tokyo. Sonia was able to reserve us two tickets for the 10-10:30 entrance slot. We arrived shortly after 10am and waited about 10 minutes to enter.

Lucky for us, the morning was overcast. The waiting area is also covered and fans had been installed to help visitors deal with the oppressive heat. As we entered the building, we were directed to stand in specific areas. During this period, we were given directions for attending the exhibit. First, we were told we would need to remove both our shoes and socks. (Honestly, in Japan, this doesn’t surprise me anymore.) Second, we were told to place all our belongs in a locker. Third, we were told we would be submerged up to our knees in water during our visit. (Wait, what?) Fourth, we were asked to use the provided smartphone cover to keep your phone dry. We followed all directions, ready to start our visit, and very curious and thoroughly confused by the water part. Until… we entered. We first walked up a long dark hallway. It was only illuminated by small blue squares on the floor. At the end of the hallway, we reached an incline that had water flowing down from a fountain at the top. (I’ll apologize now about my pictures. They are the best because of the lighting and in the beginning I had my phone in the plastic cover.)

After exiting, we were given towels to dry our feet. Only in Japan would they give each person a clean dry towel and have a return towel bin. Notice there are no towels outside of the box! I’m not sure I would want to experience this exhibit anywhere but Japan. The level of cleanliness was A+.

The second room required you to transit across bean bag cushions. It was like walking/crawling across the bead filled neck pillows. The sensory overload was really starting to get to me and make me giggle!

We transitioned through another dark hallway. This one was lined with red lights along the floor.

The next room was very similar to one of the exhibits in TeamLab Borderless. The streaming lights. They hung from the ceiling. The walls, floors and ceiling were all mirrored creating a endless amount of light.

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As we walked through, it was difficult to tell what was real and what was a reflection.

After passing through, we went down another dark passageway and came to perhaps the coolest part. It was a room filled with knee deep liquid. It was cloudy so the light wouldn’t completely scatter. Notice the liquid comes up to almost the knees of the adults in the picture.

On closer inspection, you can see koi!

The light show was pretty mind blowing and a little trippy. We stayed a good 10 minutes in the water room. Taking it all in…

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After the water room, we dried our feet with towels before entering the big color changing balloon room. This exhibit was again similar to the one at TeamLab Borderless.

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The final room was my other favorite. It was a huge room with a dome ceiling and mirrored floor. Across the ceiling, flowers were being projected. They were growing and changing and seemed to be flying past you all at the same time. I imagined I was going through space and instead of planets passing me, there were flowers. In this room, we stretched out on the floor and relaxed.

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Our time in this exhibit was much more structured than TeamLab Borderless. There was clearly a designated path to follow and workers were there to show you the way as required. We only spent about 30 minutes total in the museum. It was about an hour from the time we arrived and stood in line until we left. If I was doing this again, or planning a trip for friends, I would recommend we reserve a morning slot at TeamLab Planets, eat lunch and then visit TeamLab Borderless. It would make for a long day, but it was a long way to travel (1.5 hours one way) just for a 30 minute experience. If the thought of doing both in a day is too daunting, you could easily spend the night in Odaiba and shop in the down time. If I had to choose one over the other… hmmm. That would be tough. Probably TeamLab Borderless. More for your money (they both cost ¥2400 or $22.00). Although, I did love the crazy pool room of TeamLab Planets… either way, you won’t be disappointed.

TeamLab Borderless

TeamLab Borderless in Tokyo opened in June. Even before the opening, it generated a lot of press coverage. I had several wabisabisole readers share articles with me encouraging me to add it to my list of places to visit. Tickets were selling fast! Fortunately, I was able to purchase two tickets for Sonia and I to visit on Monday 7/23/18. The exhibit is about 1.5 hours away in the Odaiba area of Tokyo. We originally agreed to meet early and arrive at the opening. However, Sunday night I received an email encouraging us to arrive closer to 3pm due to the crowds at opening causing a wait time of 60-90 minutes to enter. We adjusted our plans and arrived around three o’clock. We were easily able to find the building and were promptly admitted to the exhibit. With the heat, we were happy we didn’t have to wait outside to enter!! Prior to entering, information was shared on the PA system in Japanese. Simultaneously, a worker held cards written in English. My favorite card was the one warning us “you will get lost.” Yes, indeed we did!

Here is an explanation of Borderless.

Basically, it is an interactive art museum that incorporates light, projection, body movement, and nature. Needless to say, my mind was blown several times throughout our visit. I will definitely add this to the next Julia tour itinerary.

At the entrance you are submerged into darkness. The only light is from the art. But, there is art everywhere and it’s being projected in every direction. The projections would change and literally seem to grow, like nature.

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There are so many different rooms with unique projections that change continuously. It is definitely easy to get turned around or lost because everything is constantly changing. No worries though, there are plenty of workers walking around who will happily point you in the right direction.

The upstairs is dedicated to the Athletic Forest. This part of the exhibit is geared towards using your body to interact with the exhibits. The floors were uneven and covered with projections.

Animal projections moved across the floor. If you stomp on the projection, it will explode into paint splatters. This was one of my favorites. I was running, stomping, and laughing like a kid.

I tried to video it… but, it was the one that got away!

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Also in this area was a huge helium float exhibit. The balloons floated up and fans in the ceiling pushed them down. The lights of the balloons changed constantly.

There was also a swinging ladder climb – in the dark!

If you needed a break from all the activity, you could sit and color your very own creature. Your creature would then be uploaded and come to life on the walls!

It was easy to see how everyone could easily spend hours wandering through. One room had an interactive projection wall. Each time you touched the kanji, it would change into something. Here is a short clip. I’ve already been touching the figures for about a minute to create the colorful background (it was black to start). Here is a short clip of my mind being blown by butterflies!

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We returned back to the main level and went to the other highlighted exhibit. The illumination room. The lamps once again were constantly changing colors. The entire room was mirrored; creating a Borderless continuation of light.

Sonia and I both really enjoyed the experience. There are even more exhibits than what I shared with you. Some were just too difficult to capture because of the lighting. Let me wrap up with one last little spot of zen in the middle of a hectic exhibit.

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You Had Me At Pagoda

As I planned out my month of June, I anticipated Dave being home this weekend in between work travel. Because of this, I didn’t schedule an English classes for Saturday morning. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Dave is still on travel and I didn’t have English class. This gave me an entire day to plan something. I decided to shoot for the moon today and do something completely off the beaten path. I read an article recently about the top five places to see hydrangeas in the Tokyo area. Two of the places are in Kamakura, Meigetsuin Temple (where I went on Friday) and Hase-dera Temple. Another temple that was mentioned in the article was Takahatasonko-ji Temple. Takahatasonko-ji Temple is west of Tokyo. Google Maps showed me it was about 1.5 hours away and four trains.

I left at 9:45 this morning and was cruising around the Temple grounds by 11:15. It was very easy to find once I was off the train. It was less than a five minute walk and there were plenty of signs pointing the way.

I wasn’t only drawn to the Temple because of the hydrangeas blooming. As I was reading about the Temple, I learned there was also a pagoda. Say no more. I must go! Just as beautiful as I imagined.

The grounds of the Temple are beautiful. There was a small pond with huge koi and hydrangeas.

There was also a small Inari Shrine. I truly love the fact that the Japanese accept all religions. (Temples – Buddhist, Shrines – Shinto – two separate religions) If only the rest of the world could be more accepting, we would definitely have less wars.

Also on the grounds of the Temple is a path through the woods. The path is highlighted with 88 Jizo statues. They are inspired by the Shikoku – 88 Temple pilgrimage. I love the idea of the pilgrimage, but I don’t have the time or drive to complete it. Instead, I enjoyed taking a walk through the woods in the early afternoon and enjoy hydrangeas! Here is the map I followed. The little red numbers represent the statues.

I think I was a little bit early to see the hillside covered in hydrangeas. Regardless, I wasn’t disappointed. Here are a few pictures of hydrangeas.

At one point along the trail, you have a vantage point of the pagoda.

I probably took 88 pictures of hydrangeas. However, I didn’t photograph all 88 Jizo Statues. I just took a few pictures to give you an idea of what they looked liked and how they were marked.

There were so many varieties of hydrangeas. Here are several pictures of what we’ve started calling “lace hydrangeas.” They don’t fully bloom like traditional hydrangeas. Instead they have a few blooms on the perimeter and then a cluster in the center that looks like lace.

The view from the top of the hillside was spectacular. Tokyo is way off in the background.

Here is the view from the other side. Guess what you could see on a clear day… Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately, not today.

As with all the hikes in Japan, the trail included a lot of stairs! It was so peaceful, it was worth every stair!

A few more hydrangea pictures. They truly were beautiful.

I enjoyed my day Temple and flower chasing. The sunny and less humid day was perfect for walking through the woods. Just when I was smitten with Sakura season, I’m falling bloom over bloom in love with hydrangea season! I live the blue ones!!

Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Garden

As I was looking at my list of things to do in Tokyo, I realized I still had one garden to visit from the article about finding wabi-sabi in Tokyo. I hadn’t had the chance to visit the Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Garden in Tokyo. The Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Garden is located on the north side of Tokyo, near Ueno Park.

It took about an hour and 20 minutes to get there on the train. With the rain gone, it was such a beautiful day, I was happy to be out and about.

The Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Garden was built in 1896. The main residence is a western style building that was owned by Iwasaki Hisaya, the third president of Mitsubishi. The entrance to the Garden leads directly to the western residence. Currently, scaffolding was covering the front of the residence.

The inside of the residence was spectacular. The route to explore the residence allowed visitors to go throughout the two floors.

There is a large two-story porch on the southern side of the house. The east side of the porch is enclosed.

The wallpaper in the house is valuable Japanese leather paper. I took a close up picture of the paper and the large stamping tool.

The western residence is connected to the Japanese residence. Only a small portion of the Japanese residence remains. Tatami mats covered the floors and intricate drawings adorned the walls. The views of the gardens looking out were so serene.

The third building within the garden is the Billiard Room. The Billiard Room is detached from the Western Residence. However, there is an underground passageway connecting the two buildings. The Billiards Room was designed and built like a mountain lodge found in Switzerland. Notice the high ceilings!

The grounds of the garden have been reduced to only a third of the original size. Urbanization has claimed the other two-thirds. The grounds are a blend of Japanese and Western styles. As I walked the grounds, it was easy to be transported away from the bustling city. The garden is distinctively Japanese.

My favorite structure in the garden was the gigantic lantern. It had to be at least 12-15 feet high.

Looking back at the buildings and viewing the large lawn, it is easy to see the western influence. Simultaneously, you can see how close the encroaching buildings are to the garden.

This picture might be my favorite from the day. I like it because it captures the eastern and western gardens and the western residence is in the background along with the urbanization of Tokyo. I think it nicely captures the wabi-sabi of the Gardens.

I imagine this garden isn’t visited very often, because of its proximity to Ueno Park. Most tourist want to visit the many attractions at Ueno – zoo, museums, etc. I have visited Ueno Park (during Sakura season) and honestly, I enjoyed the quiet and serenity of this park much more. I definitely found my wabi-sabi.

Time Out Tokyo

Jet lag worked in our favor for our Sunday plans. We planned to get out of the house early Sunday morning and begin our day at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. I wanted to share the beautiful Sakura in the National Garden with both Dave and the Thompsons. I also knew the garden would become very busy. We arrived about a half hour after it opened and there were already many people prepped for Hanami.

We enjoyed walking through the garden. Yet again, we were lucky with more beautiful weather.

As we walked, we enjoyed the opportunity to view so many Sakura still in bloom.

After leaving the gardens, we stopped for lunch and then caught the train to Harajuku. As many times as we have been to Harajuku, I have never it seen it so crowded. This was the train ride to Harajuku.

The girls made a brief stop to purchase cat ears. Because, Japan.

At one point, about half way down Takeshita Street, the crowd came to a complete standstill. We ended up having to push our way out and slip down a side street.

The crowd left us weary and in need of a break from the crowd. We decided to walk to Shibuya instead of riding another crowded train. It was actually an enjoyable and somewhat entertaining walk.

After the crowd at Harajuku, Shibuya didn’t seem too crazy!

From Shibuya Crossing, we took the train to Gumyoji. I wanted Jennifer (and everyone else) to experience Yozakura. It was yet again, a beautiful evening.

These two! Candy covered strawberries dipped in sugar.

We caught one last train home. It was a long day for the first day of a Julia tour. For the record, I think the kids won this round.

Sakura School Trip

On Friday, group of students and teachers from my English school attended a day trip to Tokyo to view Sakura. Our first stop was at Komatsugawa Senbonzakura, a park on the east side of Tokyo. I have never been to this area of Tokyo. I took a screenshot of Google Maps and the dropped pin. The park is saved with the pink heart on the right side of the photo.

To return to this spot would take about two hours from our house and at least three trains. I was glad it was part of the tour because, I definitely wouldn’t have gone on my own. As we walked around the park, one of my students told me the park was only about 15 years old. So, the trees were not very big.

Size certainly didn’t matter in this case. The trees were beautiful. The weeping Sakura was my favorite in this park. In the picture with me are two of my English students who attended the school trip.

It was fun to see so many people out enjoying Hanami.

Now that’s a playground! Complete with a net to climb and a roller slide!

The second stop was at Rikugien Garden. I visited Rikugien Garden this past November. We were a little too late to view the main Sakura attraction. The large Sakura tree had already dropped its petals.

There was still plenty to see in the garden. It was so quiet and peaceful. It’s always hard for me to believe I’m in the middle of a huge city when I visit gardens in Tokyo. There is very little city noise.

Our third stop of the afternoon was at the State Guest House of The Asakusa Imperial Property. The State Guest House is where national dignitaries are hosted when they visit Japan. We toured the inside of the property, but were prohibited from taking photos. The building was beautiful. Again, I was glad it was part of the tour because I probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise. I was able to take a few pictures of the garden. The fountain reminded me of the Buckingham Fountain in Chicago.

Our final stop was at Chidori-ga-Fuchi. Chidori-ga-Fuchi is a large moat surrounding the Imperial Palace. Visitors are permitted to rent row boats and paddle around the moat. The row boats and Sakura made for beautiful pictures in the afternoon sun.

The trip was planned in early March. There was no guarantee the Sakura would be blooming or the weather would cooperate. I think we were very fortunate to have beautiful weather and blooming Sakura.

Kombucha 101

One thing I’ve learned from my English students about the secret to a long life is to keep learning – it keeps your mind sharp. That’s why at 60+ years old, a couple are in their 80s, they are learning how to improve their English conversion. They were my inspiration to attend a Kombucha 101 brewing class in Tokyo.

Sonia found the course online through Best Living Japan and invited me to go with her. Sure! Why not? And by the way, what’s Kombucha?

Directly translated in Japanese, kombu means seaweed and cha means tea. However, that is definitely not kombucha. Kombucha is a detoxifier and a probiotic.

The drink has become very popular in the U.S. over the past few years. When prepared correctly, kombucha is a healthy and delicious beverage. It is said to improve your energy and intestinal health.

The drink is made using sweetened tea that has been fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The SCOBY looks pretty gross. Here our sensei was cutting pieces of SCOBY into each of our starter teas.

I was a bit intimidated as I watched and listened to our sensei walk us through the process of preparing the kombucha.

The first phase requires you to brew the sweetened tea and add the starter tea and SCOBY. They are put together in a large glass container, covered with a cloth, and left to ferment for 7-10 days.

The second phase is when the fruit juice is added to the fermented tea. The fruit adds flavor and carbonation. The tea from phase one is strained, the SCOBY removed, and about two cups of tea are reserved as starter tea for the next batch. For each jar of tea, 10-20% is fruit juice and 80-90% is fermented tea. The jars are sealed and allowed to sit at room temperature for 2-4 days. After that time, the kombucha can be refrigerated and enjoyed within the next 7 days.

As part of the class, each student was given a jar with starter tea and a piece of SCOBY. This would allow us to make our own initial batch.

On the way home from Tokyo, Sonia and I stopped in Yokohama at the Daiso. We needed larger glass containers for the fermenting process and elastic to keep the towel covering the jar in place. I had plenty of sugar and oolong tea to make my sweetened tea.

After brewing my tea, I let it set until it cooled. I didn’t want to scald my SCOBY. Once the tea was cool, I mixed them into my new glass pitcher. I added my cover and will check back in 7-10 days.

I’m genuinely curious as to how this will work out. I think I’m going to make strawberry flavored kombucha for my first batch. The strawberries will add desirable sweetness and adequate carbonation. Perhaps, I will be more bold if the kombucha does indeed taste delicious. The two glasses we tried in class today were very good. She offered us guava and peach. A couple of my friends in America have told me about their brewing successes. If you have any tips to share, please let me know! I’ll keep you updated on my progress as the kombucha brews. Kanpie! Here’s to intestinal health.

PS. The other two things to a long life include taking a walk everyday and eating sushi.

Tokyo Tourists

Dave received an invitation to the Kanto Plain Seabee Ball. The ball was held on March 10, 2018 at the New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo. We decided to enjoy the weekend in Tokyo. Unfortunately, the New Sanno was full for the weekend. Instead, I booked us a room at the New Prince Hotel in Shinagawa. We arrived Friday afternoon and checked into our hotel. The room was on the club level. Being in the club level granted us permission to use the Club Lounge. Besides the amazing view, the Club Lounge provided breakfast, snacks, and alcohol beverages after 5:00 pm. We were happy we decided to make a stop for happy hour on Friday. Because who doesn’t love free snacks and beer with a great city view!

We spent the rest of the evening exploring the area around Shinagawa Station. You just never know what or who you will see in Japan!

The place where we stopped for dinner had a true local flare. Like tiny sardines in my grilled rice ball and the homemade Japanese pickles served with our beer.

When I attempted to order a second beer, some how I managed to order two – of different sizes. Clearly, there was a bit lost in translation. Fortunately, Dave helped me drink the extra beer. Team D for the win!

Saturday before the ball, we took the train to Shibuya to walk around and shop. It’s always fun to be tourists in Shibuya Crossing.

This cute puppy was outside a coffee shop. He was there with his owner for several hours. We passed him on both Saturday and Sunday morning. Kawaii!

The Seabee Ball on Saturday night was a blast. I had the chance to wear my favorite gown and Dave looked extremely dapper in his mess dress. I love fancy date night.

No ball in Japan is complete without a sake barrel to open.

And traditional music performance.

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We took a group picture of all those who represented SRF. Not too bad of a turn out and everyone looked amazing.

The rest of the evening included dinner, speeches, and dancing. Lots of dancing and so much fun! Kanpie!

Mori Art Museum

The rain arrived overnight as promised. This created the perfect day to visit the Mori Art Museum. The Mori Art Museum is located in Roppongi. It is actually in the same building as the Tokyo Sky View. Sonia and I planned a trip to the museum and then lunch. The Museum currently has an exhibition by Leandro Erlich – Seeing is Believing.

The exhibition was contemporary and unique. Several of the exhibits were interactive, creating an even more impressive experience. Here is a picture of the explanation of the exhibit. To truly understand his intentions of his art, please read the third paragraph. He creates art that challenges our perceptions.

The first exhibit was the floating boats. I didn’t read about it before entering. It took Sonia pointing out that there was no water for my brain to comprehend. Please note, the boats were also rocking adding to the impression that they were in water.

Here is the explanation.

The next group of artwork were of clouds shaped like countries. The exhibit stressed how we as humans try to make order out of the chaos. We seek to find images in clouds or create constellations in the millions of stars. The same can be said about country borders. Although they seem permanent, over time they also shift and change shape. Pretty poignant, huh? The images were created using ceramic ink on multiple layers of glass. Can you identify the countries?

If you said, Japan, France, United Kingdom, and Germany, you are correct!

One of our favorites was the changing room. It was a changing room design with a mixture of mirrored and non-mirrored walls. The non-mirrored walls allowed you to pass through. It was like a dressing room maze.

A couple of other pieces really spoke to me. I loved this one of the house with roots. The intent was to show how intertwined cities truly become with nature. To me, it was more personal. I reflected and thought it illustrated our life. That is our house that we create into our home wherever we move. Then with each move, we rip our home out of the ground. Most of our roots come with us, but we can’t help but leave some behind.

I also loved this piece illustrating the effects of climate change on buildings. It was constructed in Paris for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Convention.

The main attraction of the exhibition was the mind bending building. It truly looks dangerous and gravity defying!

What in the world!?! How is this possible? With a huge mirror!

The art exhibit was one of best I have seen in a while. I truly enjoyed the experience. Afterwards, we went back down to the fifth floor and had an amazing lunch and even better conversation. Pretty good adventure for a rainy Thursday.

Tokyo Take Two

Thursday morning we woke up to a wintery mix. We took our time getting organized hoping the weather would break. The weather was still messy by the time we finished breakfast and checked out of our room. Oh, well. That’s one of my rules. “Don’t let the weather stop you.” Instead, we stopped at the closest Family Mart and invested in lightweight umbrellas. Perhaps, the best purchase of the day!

On our agenda today was exploring Asakusa. Asakusa is located on the NE side of Tokyo. We were in the SW corner. It took us about 40 minutes on the train to transit over.

Our first stop was to visit the Sensō-ji Temple. Sensō-ji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo. It is very significant and attracts 30 million visitors every year. Cindy and I accounted for two of those visitors today.

The Temple is huge. I was especially excited because I haven’t been to this temple in over a year. Last time Dave and I visited was during Tokyo marathon weekend. At that time, the pagoda was undergoing renovations. I was able to see the pagoda for the first time today!

The snow, the pagoda, and the temple made for a magical experience. Check out all the people!

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I’m so glad we made the trip over to see the Temple. It truly is a magnificent structure and the gardens are amazing even in the rain/ snow.

Cindy was able to have another stamp added to her book at the Senso-ji Temple and also at the Asakusa Shrine.

Since we were in the area, I wanted to take Cindy to see another of my favorite Shrines. The Imoda Shrine or Lucky Cat Shrine. It’s so cute and the coupled cats are said to bring good luck and love to marriages. Who doesn’t need a little extra of either?

My favorite thing to discover at certain Shrines is the “May Peace Prevail On Earth” signs. The sign coupled with the serenity of the Shrine and the beauty of gardens truly makes my heart happy. I can’t help but believe that every one of the wishes tied on the prayer wall are wishes of peace, goodness, and well being.

By this point in the day, we were starting to get chilly and wet from the winter mix. We worked our way back to the shopping area around Asakusa. We shopped for a few items and then worked our way to Shibuya. We had one shopping spot to visit before heading home. My favorite. Tokyu Hands.

The only thing holding us back while shopping was the reminder we still had to get back home with all of our purchases!

Today, without intention, I treated Cindy to a true wabi-sabi experience. The weather was definitely imperfect, but the opportunity to see the Temple and pagoda in a little bit of snow was pretty fun. Of the 30 million visitors, how many had a chance to experience it in snow? She was such a trooper. I teased her at one point and said I was glad she was my sister in law from Chicago – otherwise, we might not have left the hotel! To her, this was a messy winter day at home!

We worked our way home and enjoyed a cold beer and Garrett’s popcorn as an appetizer to the white bean chicken chili Dave made this morning in the crockpot. Ahhhh. After two days in Tokyo, there’s no place like home!

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