The two deserted Japanese sex museums in *Yamaguchi* and *Hokkaido* were instantly amongst my favorite abandoned places of all time when I first visited them in 2012. They were rare, unique locations, virtually unknown at the time, tough to shoot – far from your run-of-the-mill abandoned hotel smartphone exploration. And while the one in Yamaguchi prefecture disappeared quietly sometime in early 2014, the one in Hokkaido went through quite a bit of suffering before it was finally demolished in January 2015.

*When I first visited the Hokkaido House of Hidden Treasures in November 2012* it already showed some signs of vandalism – graffiti at the main entrance, two open doors, ransacked offices as well as a few pushed over exhibits and some stolen items. From the outside the museum looked rather eerie in 2012 – none of the windows were broken, but it had a really rundown look to it, nothing a person in their right mind would enter voluntarily. ;)
In spring of 2014, less than one and a half years later, I heard word that the Hokkaido Sex Museum was a total piece of trash and barely worth the visit – quite a bit of an exaggeration I thought. Sure, it wasn’t brand-new anymore when I had been there, but how much worse could it have become in less than 18 months? Since I was busy with my own spring explorations and the museum was about 1000 kilometers away from where I live, a revisit had to wait; but when I was able to get a rather cheap flight to Hokkaido for early November I took the chance and headed north. The museum was located in a mid-sized spa town called Jozankei Onsen and in walking distance of the famous and really amazing Hoheikyo Hot Spring, so I took a train from the airport to Sapporo and from there a bus to the countryside; a bus stop conveniently right in front of the “treasure house”. It was exciting to come back to this wonderful location I had so fond memories of, but even before I entered the “treasure house” or had a good look at the building, it became clear that my experience here this time would be quite different from the first visit. Two young women in their early 20s were standing next to their car parked right in front of the museum – one of them yelling something at a guy looking through a window of the upper floor, the yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurant; a broken window, of course, as hardly any of the panes up there was still unharmed. Slightly shocked I headed over to the side entrance, where I found several of the animal exhibits lying outside on the ground, exposed to the weather. Why the heck would anybody do this? And yet this was just the beginning…
Inside, the Hokkaido House of Hidden Treasures looked even worse than from the outside. Windows and showcases were shattered, the several dozen once copulating animals were either gone (for example the tigers) or scattered all over the place – the few remaining standing ones were ripped apart, for example the moose in the second room. The further I walked, the more severe were the damages. The shooting game with the three ladies was severely damaged, the demon and the nude female doll from the Disney window stolen, the on glass painted dinosaurs with the huge manufactured dicks smashed. Sadly the lower floor didn’t look any better. The strip area was ripped apart, somebody apparently threw a cabinet on the woman in the cum shooting game, the huge mechanical penis near the wall under the stairs gone; even the religious statues in the next room were scattered, some probably stolen. The worst I felt for the stallion in the third room – no more hung like a horse… castrated; penis envy to the max!
I’ve been to quite a few trashed places before, and I’ve seen vandalism progressing, for example at the *Maya Tourist Hotel* and especially at *Nara Dreamland*, but this was a whole new level. The Hokkaido House of Hidden Treasures (HHoHT) went from an amazing abandoned photo opportunity to a pile of trash in less than two years – a big building at the entrance of a busy spa town in a country with a reputation for little to no vandalism.

How could this happen?
Well, one of the reasons is probably GoogleMaps. As far as I know they previously removed the names of closed businesses, but then they started to keep the names and just added a CLOSED remark – and even allowed users to add names of places. So if you knew the Japanese name of the HHoHT, you could find it by looking for it on GoogleMaps.
Another factor most likely was the fact that the HHoHT was on the main road in a somewhat busy spa town with thousands of cars passing by every day, especially on the weekends. The building was obviously abandoned… and I am sure once somebody broke the first window of the restaurant floor, the whole place went to hell in a wheelbarrow.
To mention the owner of the museum as a final factor might be a bit unfair as nobody should be blamed when other people trash their property, but in a country where you can keep people from entering by putting up a string of dental floss, whoever was responsible for the building didn’t put up any “Do not enter!” signs and allowed to be both main entrances to be open (to both the museum and the restaurant) – not to mention an unlocked side-door basically out of sight of the main road. During my second visit there was even a third open door… but also a handwritten cardboard sign that theft, vandalism and even trespassing would be reported to the police. The placement of the sign? At the vandalized shooting game IN THE MIDDLE OF THE EXHIBITION! Darn, seriously? After entering and walking through half the building you tell people that they should not do that? If the owner would have put a traffic cone in front of each entrance the whole collection would probably still be in good condition.

Instead it took me two rather well-timed blocks of five minutes to film the revisit walkthrough in two parts as I ran into so many people inside the museum that it was close to impossible to do a one shot walking tour without having people yapping in the background; a total of three groups during my two hour long visit – all of them Japanese, none of them in a hurry. Despite new light sources due to the massive amount of vandalism (including the open door next to the cum shooting game on the lower floor) it was a rather slow process to take pictures at the museum, especially with people running through set-up shots every now and then.
Revisiting the Hokkaido House of Hidden Treasure was one of the most heartbreaking urbex experiences ever. In 2012 I had such a great time there, exploring one of the few remaining examples of a dying Japanese subculture – in 2014 the museum was nothing but a vandalized waste of space. Not a fading reminder of a once glorious attraction, but a slap in the face of everybody being too late to see this wonderfully eclectic collection, compiled by a weird yet somewhat fascinating mind. Two month after my second visit, in January of 2015, the Hokkaido House of Hidden Treasure was demolished. On *Google Maps you can still see the building*. But believe me, it’s gone. It’s probably for the better – and if you want to remember it in its 2012 glory, *have a look here*.

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Once a massive air base and home to 13000 people, now a partly abandoned civilian airport – the Flughafen Frankfurt-Hahn is kind of a zombie facility in the middle of nowhere, more dead than alive, surrounded by countless abandoned and partly abandoned buildings.
The tax wasting drama began 1951 in Paris, when the occupying French forces decided to build a military airport in the countryside of Rhineland-Palatinate; 100 kilometers west of Frankfurt, Germany. A year later the United States took over and expanded the airfield to the seventh biggest Air Force base in Europe and the second largest in Germany – thanks to the 7356th Air Base Group. In late summer of 1953 the 50th Fighter Bomber Wing was transferred from Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico, and consisted of the 10th Fighter-Bomber, the 81st Fighter-Bomber and the 417th Fighter-Bomber squadrons; the last one being commanded by legendary test pilot Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager. Three years later the 50th Fighter Bomber Wing was transferred to France for safety reasons, the Americans being worried that Warsaw Pact forced could overrun West Germany and get hold of the wing’s nuclear weapons. Over the years many different units / squadrons were stationed at Hahn Air Base, including the 496th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, the 7425th Air Base Group, and the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing. When the Cold War ended, Hahn AB was one of seven major US air bases within 100 kilometers – and the first one to be closed. In 1991 all flying units were inactivated or transferred, and on September 30th 1993 most of Hahn Air Base (consisting of 672 apartments in 43 buildings, 25 barracks, 22 office buildings, 52 repair shops, 51 storage buildings, 343 hangars and bunkers, 23 shops, 5 schools, a hospital consisting of four buildings as well as more than 30 leisure facilities, including a golf course, a football field and a shooting range!) was returned to the German authorities, who had already decided to turn it into a civilian airport.
While current the name of the Frankfurt-Hahn Airport is borderline deceit of potential customers (it is located about 100 kilometers away from Frankfurt in another German federal state without a train or direct highway connection), the intentions were good – the remains of Hahn Air Base basically provided everything you needed to run a civilian airport, due to its remote location it came with a night flight permission, and Frankfurt Airport (the real one, 10 kilometers south of Frankfurt) was at its limits anyway. At first named Rhein-Mosel Airport and mostly run by Fraport (the same company responsible for Frankfurt Airport), the former military airport grew quickly from 19k passengers in 1997 to almost 4 million passengers in 2007 – but neither growth nor size means financial success, so Fraport sold its 65% shares to the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate for 1 EUR – and 120 million EUR in debt. In the following years the state tried to consolidate the airport, but passenger numbers dropped significantly to less than 2.5 million in 2014; a rather insignificant number in comparison to Frankfurt Airport’s 59.5 million. Despite losing about 10 million EUR per year and the state’s futile efforts to sell at least parts of its shares to investors, Rhineland-Palatinate keeps Frankfurt-Hahn running and is even investing it its future, reactivating / expanding a decommissioned railroad track by 2018 to make access to the airport more comfortable.

Meanwhile other parts of the former Hahn Air Base became abandoned and started to fall into disrepair. Despite most buildings being used by the Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, a police academy, and rented to private companies running a variety of businesses, a lot of them were of no / little commercial value in an area with low population density… especially the barracks / apartment buildings and their parking lots. Some have been demolished to accommodate the needs of the new civilian airport, but quite a few are still standing there, with open fences and barely visible “private property” signs.
Although other facilities in rather close proximity are still in use, most of the abandoned apartment buildings suffered severely from vandalism and consequential damages like mold; not so much externally, but inside – hardly any graffiti, but lots of smashed windows, shelves and fixtures. Some of the buildings have been boarded up after initial damages, but after 20 years of standing around without being used, you can see that whoever is in charge of the former housing area has basically given up on it. A handful of blocks were still in decent condition, but most of them looked like they were beyond repair. A few hundred meters away from the main area of abandonment we found a closed “Ringeltaube” (wood pigeon) shop, right next to and in the same building as the commissary of the Hahn AB. (I didn’t know about them either, but my sister was with the German Air Force for several years and did training at / with Lufthansa – and Ringeltaube is a chain of shops exclusively for Lufthansa employees; food and non-food.)

I guess it’s safe to say (and a bad pun) that the future of the airport Frankfurt-Hahn is up in the air – and so is the future of the remains of Hahn Air Base. Looking at the area on GoogleMaps, it is pretty obvious that the level of abandonment has increased since those satellite photos were taken – and so has the amount of destruction. While there were no signs of active demolition work, some of the apartment buildings still visible online are already missing… and the parking lot in front of the Ringeltaube / commissary is not nearly as busy anymore; it actually went down from several dozen cars to… zero. With that in mind it’s only a matter of time until all visible signs of Hahn Air Base are nothing but a memory, absorbed by Frankfurt-Hahn Airport… and nature. Let’s hope that the airport will survive the current struggle and be profitable soon – the livelihood of hundreds, probably thousands of people depends on it. And there are already enough abandoned airports all over the world… *even one in Frankfurt*!

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I’ve seen more than my share of amazing abandoned infirmaries over the years, from the beautifully old-style *Tokushima Countryside Clinic* to the surprisingly modern *Wakayama Hospital*. And while four more spectacular hospitals are waiting to be written about, I would like to introduce you to the Trust Hospital today. Why? Because it was more than just a hospital…

When I arrived at the Trust Hospital with my friends Kyoko and Dan on a sunny spring afternoon, I was very disappointed… at first. The building we saw was more or less a gutted, vandalized shell full of graffiti. At the entrance there were some wooden shelves, some frames still had doors and halfway through the building we found a boiler room, but most of the dilapidated construction was empty – my initial reaction was “The only reason I am taking photos here is because I was told it once was a hospital – and who doesn’t like abandoned hospitals?”. Trying to get a feel for whatever this once had been I took a look around without taking photos. At this point it could as well have been a hotel or something completely different like a conference center for all I knew, as there were no hints that this really had been a hospital at one point in time. The front part of the two-storey building was a spacious, rather solid concrete building with some water damage here and there; interior, doors, windows and even most internal walls long gone. Separated by metal doors another part of the building started – the floors reinforced by Euro-pallets, doors and other makeshift methods. This part looked more like a youth hostel, with narrow hallways and rather small room facing northeast, surrounded by an overgrown park. The structure as a whole didn’t make much sense – the back area was too big to house family as overnight guests of patients in treatment, the rooms were too inaccessible and not properly equipped… and the front area could have been anything. At the same time the elevator in the middle of the building was too massive for a conference center or a hotel, and it was in the solid concrete area. And then it dawned on me! The Trust Hospital had been more than just a hospital… it had been a hospital and a retirement / nursing home! The front part was the hospital part. Big, wide, massive – for heavy machines and wide sickbeds. The back with it’s now crumbling wooden floors was used as a retirement home, a perfect addition for delicate elderly as medical help was just a call across the hallway away. Why the Euro-pallets? Because kids used the building to practice their non-existing graffiti skills and to play some airsoft.
Overall the Trust Hospital turned out to be a rushed, but quite interesting exploration – as soon as the expectations went down from above average to close to zero. The setting sun created an interesting atmosphere, warm orange light against dark corners and a really eerie atmosphere, especially in the colder and darker back. The slow realization that the Trust Hospital most likely had been more than just a hospital just added to this unique experience, even though I wasn’t able to find facts about this unusual location even after visiting it. Surely not a spectacular exploration, but memorable in its own ways.

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When I picked up urban exploration as a hobby almost six years ago, I was just another couch potato. I wasn’t very adventurous (aside from hiking by myself or with friends every other weekend in the mountains of Kansai, but that’s not really risk-taking) and the last time I had a LSR in my hand had been as a child, about 20 or 25 years prior; long before digital. For some reason I bought a DSLR and started exploring, and since nobody wrote about urbex in Kansai I started this blog, for quite a while read only by a few people other than friends and family. And then the blog picked up momentum, comments were overwhelmingly positive – some liked the writing, the fact that I was actually writing about the places and my experiences there, but the majority seemed to like the photos, despite the fact that I don’t crop or do any kind of post-production. The world was drowning in tonemapped HDR urbex photos while I couldn’t care less, as always minding my own business. Six years and something like 50000 photos later I am still baffled by the overwhelmingly positive feedback, especially about my photos – which is almost surreal to me, since I never had any aspirations to be a (hobby) photographer, but they keep turning out well; good enough for readers to leave nice comments, good enough for commercial sites to pay a small licensing fee every once in a while… good enough for the mayor of my hometown to offer me free space to present a selection of photos to the general public. (In Japan you usually have to rent space at a gallery, average cost between 4000 and 20000 Yen per day, depending on the size and the location. Some bars give up wall space for free if you guarantee a certain amount of guests on opening night.)
“Verlassen und vergessen – Moderne Ruinen in Japan” (“Abandoned and Forgotten – Modern Ruins in Japan”) is my first solo exhibition – a selection of 27 photos; 25 of them already published on Abandoned Kansai, one on the *Facebook page of Abandoned Kansai* and one premiering at the exhibition. I was very tempted to show more new photos, but I wanted to avoid revealing too many locations yet to be published here, on the blog.
The exhibition takes place at the city hall in Bürstadt, Germany – Rathausstraße 2; that’s about 45 minutes south of Frankfurt. It’s accessible free of charge on Mondays / Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. till August 26th 2015. Please leave a comment in the guest book if you can make it! :)
As I assume most of you won’t be able to see the exhibition live, I compiled the photos (minus the temporarily exclusive one) in the gallery at the end of the article. They were taken at the following locations – heavy spoilers ahead from this point on, in case you want to see the exhibition yourself!
Abandoned Dynamite Mine
Bibai Bio Center
Big Mountain Pachinko
F# Elementary School
Hachijo Royal Hotel
Hachijo Spa Hotel
Igosu 108
Katashima Training School
Landslide Mining Apartments
Landslide School
Matsuo Mine
Nara Dreamland
Nichitsu Mining Town
Okayama Hospital Haikyo
Osarizawa Mine
Red Bridge
Subterranean Shrine
Wakayama Beach Hotel
Western Village
Since I am very much interested in your feedback, I am curious to find out what you think of the selection. Did your favorite photo make it or did I miss one that deserved to be exhibited? Should I have left one or more of them out? And what do you think of the compilation as a whole?

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The Partly Submerged Water Power Plant is one of the most famous abandoned places in Nara, probably in all of Japan. And everybody seems to approach it the same way: drive to the middle of nowhere, rent a boat for a ridiculous amount of money (something like 8000 Yen!) a few hundred meters down the Kitayama River, take photos from the water, leave – a few brave ones actually enter the building, but even those guys all get the same shots; boring! So Ben, Chelsey, Ruth and I approached the unusual setup from a different angle… the land side.
Getting to the Partly Submerged Water Power Plant by land isn’t an easy task and requires some planning – and since I hadn’t seen anybody done it before us, we didn’t know what to expect or if we would be able to get there after all. The road leading to the plant is blocked by barriers and warning signs from both directions, impossible to pass by anything bigger than a bike. On foot you should also discard the option from the west as you will run into a landslide or two sooner or later on this unmaintained, unpaved, basically abandoned road. If you approach from the east, the road is basically a mediocre, flat hiking trail. A nice walk if you wear decent shoes. If not, they may fall apart. Like Chelsey’s. As soon as we picked up the rental car in the morning and even before we had driven one meter, the sole of her shoes started to come off. But instead of making us drive through the Osakan suburbs for hours to pick up another pair at home or a store that would open hours later, Chelsey just smiled and said “I need some duct tape!” – tough chick, the kind you really want to have on an urbex trip like that. (Since the nearby 24/7 kombini didn’t have any, the shoes were later fixed with free package tape at a supermarket in the countryside… and then started to fall apart on the way to the plant. So why did I tell this story? Because it was hilariously funny to everybody involved, a key moment of this exploration, and as a huge sign of respect to Che-Che who raised even more in everybody’s appreciation.)
We were walking along that more or less trustworthy dirt road for about 20 minutes when all of a sudden I felt eerily cold, as if a dozen ghosts rushed through my body; or at least how I image twelve rushing ghosts would feel if they would exist. I ain’t afraid of no ghosts, and I obviously don’t believe they exist, so there must have been another exploration. I looked up and saw a tunnel ending mid-air about 20 centimeters above my head – then I looked into the other direction… and there it was behind me, down in the water, the Partly Submerged Water Power Plant. We decided to explore the tunnel first and I had a very bad feeling about it, the place just didn’t feel right. After a while we reached a sharp drop with a sketchy looking ladder somebody left behind. Up there was a concrete reservoir construction very reminiscent of the *Kyoto Dam* I explored years before this adventure. Since I stupidly left my tripod in the car (not expecting tunnel systems to shoot in…) I wasn’t able to take any pictures there, so I left with Chelsey while Ben and Ruth pushed forward; basically confirming the Kyoto Dam thing from above, while I continued on to the dirt road to see the rest of the construction, obviously severely damaged, but nobody would ever need those concrete pipes again. Not since the 1960s, when the Nanairo Dam was constructed, slowly damming the river behind it from 1965 on, flooding several valleys and everything below a certain level, including this older water power plant, apparently built between 1929 and 1931.
A couple of minutes later our group was reunited, so we headed down to the power plant to have a closer look. There we even found two boats we could have used for the short ride of maybe 20 or 30 meters, but none of us felt lucky… or like stealing a boat. The sun was already setting and the light was quite difficult from that position, so after a couple of minutes we headed to the dirt road again and back to the car. Personally I never thought this location was very interesting, but approaching it by land and finding the massive concrete leftovers at the slope above the plant gave it a new spin – and as a group experience it was just incredible fun. There are many factors that make or break an exploration… and company is definitely one of them!

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Misasa is a small onsen town in the mountains just behind Tottori’s coast line, famous for its radon rich spring water and the Sanbutsu Temple, a temple complex with one of its buildings built into a cliff. Interestingly enough, radon is a decay product of radium – colorless, tasteless, colorless, but radioactive. Despite being generally considered a health hazard, radon rich waters are keeping several spa towns all over the world alive; and Misasa is one of them, avoiding the demise other second tier onsen towns are fighting against for decades now. Well, the city center of Misasa does… the Misasa Plateau, about 200 meters above the city on a mountain ridge, was less lucky though. While the Misasa Country Club survived Japan’s rough 1990s, the Misasa Plateau View Hotel and the Misasa Plateau Family Land, combined known as Misasa Plateau Radium Garden did not – and neither did several company and family retreats in the area; while some are still frequented by their owners, about one in four are not, decaying on steep slopes along scenic mountain roads and paths.
My trip to Misasa in the spring of 2012 marked the end of a rather *bad Golden Week* – and even though the *Sand Dune Palace* and the *Saikaibashi Corazon Monorail* weren’t exactly highlights of my exploration career, they were still better than what waited for me at Misasa. It took me hours to locate both the hotel and the amusement park on the then blurry GoogleMaps, but I went there with high hopes – otherwise I wouldn’t have made the long trip, including a costly train ride, a bus ride and a long hike up a friggin mountain along vaguely labelled hiking trails. Finally reaching the plateau, I only found some roads, some rubble, some debris and some more or less intact structures here and there. It took me a while to figure out on location what happened and how the pretty much gone hotel (part of a story for another time) and the pretty much gone theme park were related. Both looked really interesting the one time I saw them on a Japanese blog, but now they were gone. The upper area with the three storey hotel, all the arcade machines and the go-kart track were carefully leveled and I took quite a long rest in the shadow on that brutally hot spring day, barely a cloud in the sky. After taking photos of some of the smashed leftovers (piled arcade games, UFO catchers and pachinko machines), I made my way down some wide, but rather overgrown steps, past a rotting totem pole and several signs indicating that the Misasa Plateau Family Land had been a pay as you go amusement part. The final couple of steps were on a sketchy looking metal construction, but since it was the only way down to the lower area, I took the risk – though it turned out there was not much left to see. Basically just a wooden hut, filled with all kinds of left-behind stuff, and a huge parking lot, mostly covered by various kinds of debris and garbage. At one point I saw a guy in a car there, but he seemed to mind his own business, later harvesting some roots or whatever.
Overall the Misasa Plateau Family Land was a really disappointing exploration, given the amount of time, money and effort I put into it. But that’s urbex – sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug. Not every abandoned theme park looks like *Nara Dreamland*… But to end this article on a lighter note – when I had a look at the area on GoogleMaps again recently, I found out why the upper area was neatly leveled… solar panels! The Misasa Plateau Family Land is a solar park now, which is absolutely fantastic news. Japan has an energy problem, and this is definitely a step into the right direction!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about exploring the abandoned *Lower Terminus of the Yubara Onsen Ropeway* (if you are interested in the history of the place, please read that article first as I don’t plan to reiterate it). It was quite easy to find, quite easy to access, quite easy to explore.
The upper terminus was a little less known and a little harder to find (or at least it was three years ago, when GoogleMaps wasn’t nearly as detailled in the countryside as it is now), but obviously a worthwile destination to be combined with the lower terminus, if for nothing else but convenience – like most people we got to Yubara Onsen by car, so the difference in elevation wasn’t much of a problem. Finding the half-overgrown building though was a bit of a challenge as it was behind a corner after several left or right decisions walking up a slope from the road below.
Arriving at the upper terminus, we were rewarded by a stunning view of the surrounding mountains, including a massive storage reservoir. Half a dozen coin-operated binocular were once lined up here, but only the Nikon labelled poles were still there. The building itself was much more vandalized and delapidated than the valley station, which didn’t give us a boost of confidence, given that it was forming a platform over the slope – when that thing goes down the mountain, you don’t want to be on there for the ride! It looked like a typical ropeway building, with a small restaurant at the entrance and the platform and machinery room at the far end of the construction. Sadly there wasn’t much left, except for a rusty cash register, a broken wooden chair and some machinery on the ground floor. The metal stairs leading up to the control room were very rusty, a couple of footholds actually missing; and I really hope that nobody got hurt when that happened. Being a rather big guy myself I took it as a warning and refrained from climbing up there, hoping that one day I would be able to explore a less risky ropeway control room. (My patience was rewarded just a couple of weeks later during a solo exploration trip to Tottori prefecture at a virtually unknown station there. Stay tuned, it’s one of many great stories yet to come!)
Overall the upper terminus of the Yubara Onsen Ropeway was an easy, rather unspectacular exploration on a sunny spring day – nothing too exciting, rather relaxed actually; a pleasant, yet not very memorable experience, but one I’d repeat at any time, if for nothing else than spending an hour with friends in the countryside.

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