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51.       The First Persian Pioneer Families Settle in Japan, 1953

      The first two Persian families to pioneer to Japan were the Moghbel family (three members) and the Katirai family (four members).

      There had been Persian Bahá'í visitors to Japan previously, notably Mr. Y.A. Rafaat, who was the first Persian Bahá'í to visit Japan in the post-war period. He intended to return to pioneer


but could not do so until the summer of 1953, when the Teheran Local Spiritual Assembly transferred him.

      The Moghbel family and the Katirai family arrived with proper visas, with the intention of staying.

      At that time there were no direct flights from Iran to Japan, and no Japanese Embassy in Iran to issue visas.

      First they went to Pakistan to get plane tickets, and commercial visas as they intended to do business in Japan. The United States Occupation had ended the year before and Japan was opening up somewhat.

      The National Spiritual Assembly of Pakistan sent a cable to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo that the two Persian families would be arriving.

      After an exhausting flight by propeller plane they landed at Haneda Airport near Tokyo, March 21, 1953. They were met by assembly members Mr. Witzel and Mr. Kadota, and taken to a hotel in Tokyo where there was a Naw-Rúz party of forty people. The two families recall how happy and elated they were, and what a joyous beginning of their pioneer effort it was.

      Later that year and during subsequent years several other Persian families settled in Japan.

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      Naw-Rúz, 1953, in Tokyo. The first Persian families arrive. From the left: Mrs. Mahin Moghbel, holding Zafar; Mr. Ataullah Moghbel; Mrs. Rezvanieh Katirai and Mr. Abbas Katirai with Foad. Farzad Katirai, who was an infant, was sleeping nearby.


52.       The Faith Spreads to Other Areas

      By Ridvan 1954, there were two local spiritual assemblies in Japan, Tokyo and Hyogo Prefecture (which consisted entirely of pioneers), three organized groups, in Kyoto, Yamaguchi and Yokohama, and ten other localities where Bahá'ís resided. Bahá'í membership totaled fifty-two with most (twenty) living in Tokyo. Of these fifty-two, ten were Americans and thirteen were Persians.

      As it was a goal of the Ten Year Crusade, the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly began working on achieving an incorporation in 1954. It was granted the following year. According to Japanese law, the Faith itself was incorporated with the local spiritual assembly members listed as corporate members. After the first national spiritual assembly was elected, the same incorporation was changed to apply to that assembly and the various local assemblies listed as branches.

      Gradually the pioneers spread out. Most of the Persians were in different cities in the Kansai area, near Osaka, Dr. and Mrs. Earl went to Yamaguchi Prefecture, and Mr. Marangella, who was working for the United States government, transferred to Nishinomiya.

      Extension teaching was being done in Hiroshima, Yamanashi Prefecture and Kanagawa Prefecture. Under the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly regular meetings were established in Yokohama. Virtually all the pioneers in the years to follow made trips around Japan for the purpose of spreading the Faith. The earliest Japanese believers, most of whom became Bahá'ís through close association with pioneers, often went on teaching trips to translate for them. The new Japanese Bahá'ís became deepened in this way, and in the late 1950s and 1960s some of them arose in turn to take the Faith to their fellow countrymen.

      Because the Bahá'í teachers in those early days were mainly American and Persian pioneers, the early Japanese Bahá'ís came from a segment of the population who were internationally minded, who could accept foreign friends in what had always been considered a closed society. They were the ones who had taken the trouble to learn enough English to communicate. Among


these first adherents were business men, educators and students, all who had a larger vision than the average.

      The Japanese already had many spiritual qualities, some of which 'Abdu'l-Bahá had mentioned: "great capacity," "intelligent, sagacious and have the power of rapid assimilation," "bright and noble minded." He even said, "Japan with (another country) will take the lead in the spiritual re-awakening of the peoples and nation..." In the letters from the Guardian in the 1950s he also referred to the qualities of the Japanese: "great vision and spirituality," "sensitive to every form of beauty, both spiritual and material."

      It is interesting that Japan was the first nation whose constitution outlawed war.

      In 1954 Miss Alexander was seventy-nine years of age, but as active as ever. There are reports of her joining Mr. and Mrs. Torii at a meeting of the Blind Association in Ishikawa Prefecture that year. Mr. Imagire recalls going with Miss Alexander and Mr. Torii to a meeting of the deaf and mute about that time. Miss Alexander spoke in English; Mr. Imagire translated it into Japanese; Mr. Torii (who was blind) translated it into sign language.

      Miss Alexander continued to attend as many Blind Association meetings and Esperanto meetings as she could, just as she had done when she first came to Japan some forty years earlier. She made many acquaintances and contacts during these meetings, some of whom became Bahá'ís and many of them life-long friends. That year she and Mr. Zenimoto made a teaching trip to his hometown of Saijyo, Hiroshima Prefecture, with the result that his mother became a Bahá'í.

      Mr. Michitoshi Zenimoto, who many years later was to become the second Japanese counsellor, was a student at Doshisha University in Kyoto in 1952. There were a number of blind students there and Mr. Zenimoto was helping to organize an English class for five of them. Searching for a teacher, he was referred to Mr. Torii, who, he was told, spoke English and perhaps knew of a teacher. Mr. Torii suggested asking Miss Alexander. Of course, she accepted and started a class at the school using Bahá'í books.

      Through the months, the other students gradually quit the class, but Mr. Zenimoto, by this time, was quite interested in the Faith and he told Miss Alexander that he wished to continue


the lessons. She asked him how often. He jokingly replied, "Every day." She did go to the school every day. Mr. Zenimoto recalls that one cold winter day it was snowing rather heavily. He felt sure she wouldn't go out in such weather, but there she was. As he tells the story many years later, he says, "Miss Alexander was truly my spiritual mother."

53.       A Public Meeting in Osaka and Early Groups

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      This was the first public meeting to be held in Osaka. It was in May 1954, commemorating the Declaration of the Báb. It was sponsored by the Hyogo Prefecture Local Spiritual Assembly, and held at the New Osaka Hotel. Seventy people attended.

      Mr. Moghbel is speaking. On the left side are Mr. Imagire and Mr. Marangella. To the right of Mr. Moghbel are Miss Alexander, Mr. Zenimoto and Mr. Gian Datwani.

      Two very early groups in front of the Amagasaki Bahá'í Center. All identified people are Bahá'ís.

      June 1954. (From left), children in front: Zafar Moghbel, Foad Katirai and Abbas Mumtazi. First row. Mr. Ataullah Moghbel, Mr. Robert Imagire, Mr. Gian Datwani. Middle row: Rezvanieh Katirai (with arm


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around Farzad), Mrs. Mahin Moghbel, Mrs. Nehzat Imagire, Mrs. Joy Earl, Mrs. Lachmi Datwani, Miss Agnes Alexander, Mrs. Behjat Mumtazi, Mrs. Pouran Mumtazi holding Vedad. Standing. Mr. Abbas Katirai, Mrs. Mildred Mottahedeh (who was visiting Japan), Mr. Michitoshi Zenimoto, Mr. Parvis Mumtazi, Mr. Jahangir Mumtazi, unidentified, Mr. Noureddin Mumtazi, Mr. Yadollah Rafaat, Mr. Philip Marangella standing in front of Mr. Rafi Mottahedeh, Mr. Takeshi Ishii, Dr. David Earl and Mr. Roy MacDonald.

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1955. Children in front: Zafar Moghbel, Vedad Mumtazi and Foad


Katirai. Front row: Mr. Robert Imagire, Mrs. Nehzat Imagire, Mr. Ataullah Moghbel, Mrs. Pouran Mumtazi, Mrs. Revzanieh Katirai. Middle row: Miss Yoshiko Morita, Mrs. Behjat Mumtazi, Abbas Mumtazi, Miss Agnes Alexander, Mr. Eichu Kim. Standing. Mr. Philip Marangella, Mrs. Frouz Mohtadi, Mr. Yadollah Rafaat, Mr. Parvis Mumtazi, Mr. Abbas Katirai, unidentified, Miss Lecile Webster, Dr. David Earl, Mrs. Virginia Hamilton, unidentified, Mrs. Mahin Moghbel and Mr. Aziz Mohtadi.

54.       The Tokyo Haziratu'l-Quds

      At the beginning of the Ten Year Crusade, Shoghi Effendi gave several goals which were to be accomplished in Japan, among them the acquisition of a Haziratu'l-Quds which would eventually become the National Haziratu'l-Quds when the national spiritual assembly would be formed.

      The Guardian knew that it was difficult for the small but expanding

      The Tokyo Haziratu'l-Quds at the time it was purchased by the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Tokyo, 1954. It was enlarged and improved through the years.


group of Bahá'ís to find meeting places. He also knew of the impoverished condition of Japan in those years, and he therefore indicated that the Hazira could be a modest one.

      In 1954 the Guardian wrote to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo that the matter was urgent and should be accomplished that year. He sent a large personal contribution for this purpose. Hand of the Cause Mrs. Amelia Collins also contributed, as she did for all the Haziratu'l-Quds' which needed to be purchased during the Ten Year Crusade. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States made a sizeable contribution, as that body had been given responsibility for the development of the Faith in Japan in those early years of the Ten Year Crusade. Of course, all the Bahá'ís in Japan were invited to participate by contributing and according to early records, many were glad to do so. Enough money was raised.

      When a search by the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo failed to find a suitable building, a member of the assembly, Mr. Rafaat, offered to sell his modest house to the Tokyo Assembly

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      A Bahá'í group in front of the entrance to the Tokyo Haziratu'l-Quds, about 1958. Standing are Mr. Rafaat, Mr. Marangella, Mrs. Hazel Mori (who was visiting Japan), and Mrs. Joy Earl. Kneeling are Mr. Haruo Nekomoto and Mr. Kiyoshi Hashimoto.


at cost price to accomplish this goal.

      A cable was sent to the Guardian after the transaction was completed Dec. 18, 1954. He replied by cable, "Delighted Loving Prayers."

      It was the second Haziratu'l-Quds in Japan, and in the Orient. The first was in Amagasaki, Japan, donated by Mr. Noureddin Mumtazi in 1953. The third Haziratu'l-Quds in Japan was in Osaka. In 1958 Mr. Hassan Naderi donated his residence. Through the years the value of the land escalated so greatly that a little over twenty years later, the national assembly found that by selling the original Osaka property, there were enough funds to buy another much needed Haziratu'l-Quds in Osaka, and also build a new Bahá'í Center for Tokyo.

      The Tokyo Bahá'í Center, as it was called, had served the Bahá'ís well for twenty-eight years. It had played host to fourteen

      The new Tokyo National Haziratu'l-Quds built in 1982 to accommodate the ever-growing Bahá'í community. It was built on the same land as the old Center.


      A precious brocade from the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh hangs in the National Haziratu'l-Quds in Tokyo.

      The Guardian encouraged the institutions of the Faith to develop their archives. Even as early as 1937 he gave Miss Alexander a photograph of 'Abdu'l-Bahá which he said was for the archives in Japan.

      When Mr. Hiroyasu Takano made his pilgrimage in 1954 the Guardian gave him a brocade to take back to Tokyo, a sacred and precious relic which he said had rested immediately over the Remains of Bahá'u'lláh in His Shrine. The Guardian said it should eventually be hung in the Haziratu'l-Quds of the national assembly. As there was no national assembly at the time, the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly had it framed and it has been displayed in the Tokyo Hazira ever since.

      One time years ago, in 1960, Miss Alexander stayed six weeks in the Tokyo Hazira. We can remember her saying that she felt the brocade had such significance that she loved looking at it and saying her prayers near it. She said, to her, it was the holiest spot in the Orient.

      Although the brocade appears to be the whole piece, Mr. Takano recalls the Guardian dividing it into two pieces, one of which went to another country.


Hands of the Cause, and a member of the Universal House of Justice. Countless meetings had been held there. But the Bahá'í Center was becoming too small, and, alas, too shabby to project a good image of the growing Faith in an ever more prosperous nation.

      In 1982 it was torn down and a handsome three-story building erected on the same land, using the funds from the sale of the Osaka property and special donations from dedicated Bahá'ís.

55. The First Asian Regional Teaching Conference and Further Expansion

      By April 1955 the number of localities where there were Bahá'ís remained about the same but there were now a total of sixty-four believers — of whom twenty-five were pioneers, eleven Americans and fourteen Persians.

      The Asia Teaching Committee of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States informed the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly that the first Asian Teaching Conference would be held in Japan. The Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly selected the date, the location, and made all the arrangements for the conference, which became known thereafter as the "Nikko Conference."

      In the Guardian's Message to the twelve national conventions that year, 1955, he reviewed some of the accomplishments of the Ten Year Crusade, and he announced that in 1957, thirteen new national assemblies were to be elected, among these would be one in Japan. It was to be a regional assembly with its seat in Tokyo. He assigned Hand of the Cause Jalal Khazeh to act as his representative at that future national convention.

      There were only two local spiritual assemblies in Japan in 1955. Six more would be needed to form the basis for the national spiritual assembly. They would have to be formed by Ridván 1956 in order to elect delegates to the national convention. In addition to Japan, the regional area would consist of Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, so there also needed to be


local spiritual assemblies in those countries. It was very challenging to the small group of Bahá'ís.

      In September 1955, at the close of the Nikko Conference, it seemed almost impossible to form so many more local assemblies in so short a time, but by determined teaching efforts, confirmations, even miracles, it was accomplished by April 21, 1956. Eight local spiritual assemblies were formed either by election or by joint-declaration in Japan and four other assemblies, Kwangju and Seoul in Korea, Tainan in Taiwan, and Hong Kong, were elected to make a total of twelve. All the assemblies had pioneers as members, but the majority of the Bahá'ís on the assemblies were native people of the various countries.

      To go back to 1955, that year Mr. Noureddin Mumtazi

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The Asian Teaching Conference at Nikko, Japan, 1955.


pledged a piece of land in Ashiya as the first endowment in Japan, to fulfill one of the goals which the Guardian had given to be accomplished during the Ten Year Crusade. The land developed a legal problem and did not come into the possession of Mr. Mumtazi, and therefore could not be registered in the name of the national assembly. He passed away in 1960. His son Rouhollah Mumtazi fulfilled the pledge of his father by donating a piece of land in Shiga Prefecture in 1969.

      In 1955 there was the first mention of the Faith in Nagasaki since the time Miss Alexander visited there in the 1930s. Miss Inatsuka of Tokyo had gone there to visit family members. Dr. and Mrs. Earl went to Nagasaki from Yamaguchi, where they were living, and joined Miss Inatsuka. She had arranged for them to meet some people to discuss the Faith. But it was not until several years later that there were enrollments in the city.

      In 1955 Miss Alexander, with Mr. and Mrs. Torii, attended an Esperanto meeting in Tokushima, Shikoku Island. They then

      Hand of the Cause Mr. Zikrullah Khadem, the Guardian's representative at the Nikko Conference speaking to the friends.


went on to Takamatsu for a meeting of the Blind Association. Then on to Kochi for three meetings of the Blind Association. In Kochi a newsman interviewed Miss Alexander and the article was printed. It was the first mention of the Faith in Shikoku Island.

      The same year the three of them went to Ichikawa and Fukui Prefectures for meetings of the Blind Association. Miss Alexander said her association with Esperantists and with the Blind Association offered many opportunities to speak of the Faith, often to very large groups.

      In 1955 Mr. and Mrs. Aziz Mohtadi settled in Nagoya and succeeded in establishing a community which could form a local spiritual assembly the next year.

      In 1956, with the needed number of local spiritual assemblies formed, and the proper number of delegates elected, the Bahá'ís looked forward to the formation of the first National Spiritual Assembly of North East Asia.

      Miss Agnes Alexander at the Nikko Conference. She sent this photograph to the Guardian with these words written on the back, "Agnes roars the Cause of God!" Miss Linfoot, chairman of the conference is sitting at the table.


      In 1957, at the Guardian's instruction, one of the goals of the national spiritual assembly was to propagate the Faith throughout the other islands of Japan. It was in relation to that goal that Mr. Labib moved from Hiroshima to Nagasaki in Kyushu Island, and Mr. G.V. Tehrani settled in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

      Mr. and Mrs. Katirai visited Awaji island, and also made several trips to the island of Shikoku, resulting in the declaration of the first Bahá'í in Takamatsu, in October 1957, an eighteen-year-old student, Teruyoshi Ando. He is not to be found today. As had happened in other places, often the early believers did not really understand the greatness of the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, and although they were sincere at the time, they would move, leaving no address, or simply cease activity. But then, by contrast, there were those who, knowing little, declared themselves, and through the years gained and deepened in knowledge of the Faith and remained steadfast and loyal adherents.

      In the late 1950s Dr. Earl visited Sendai and other goal cities for some extension teaching.

      Mr. Mumtazi, who was living in Kobe, during 1956 and 1957, went to several islands and towns; Uno Island, Te Island, Nao Island, Himeji, Okayama, Itami, Akashi and other places.

      It was not easy in those days. Mr. Mumtazi wrote of his experience teaching in Akashi. He went alone, knowing no one, speaking no Japanese. He could not find any place to have meetings. He happened to meet the manager of a Buddhist Temple, Mr. Tadasu Miyazawa (see Ch. 69), who allowed him to have meetings in one of their rooms. After a year of regular meetings, several people became Bahá'ís, including Mr. Miyazawa. In 1958 an all-Japanese local spiritual assembly was formed there. It was the second all-Japanese one. Nagoya was the first, in the Ridvan 1957 election. Mr. Miyazawa remained a faithful Bahá'í until his death in 1971.

      The first Japanese believer in Kobe, Mr. Rihei Sako and Mr. Mitsuteru Oka, another Kobe Bahá'í, accompanied Mr. Mumtazi on several teaching trips.

      Mr. Hassan Naderi moved with his family to Osaka, in April 1956. After settling there, he became greatly discouraged as he couldn't communicate and he had no business. He bought a house in Osaka for himself and his family where all the meetings were held. Then in 1958 he donated his house to the national spiritual assembly. As is described elsewhere, that donation


had a great effect, making it possible many years later to build a fine National Haziratu'l-Quds. Mr. Naderi indeed did great service to the Faith in Japan.

      In 1957 Mr. William Maxwell, the national spiritual assembly chairman, who was pioneering in Korea, made a circuit teaching trip visiting Tokyo, Akashi, Osaka, Nishinomiya,

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      Seventeen of the nineteen Japanese Bahá'ís who attended the Nikko Conference in 1955. From the left: Miss Sadae Takeuchi, Miss Yoshiko Morita, Mrs. Suna Mori, Mr. Haruo Nekomoto, Miss Yoko Majima, Mr. Yuzo Yamaguchi, Miss Isao Sakamoto (Zenimoto), Mrs. Katsuko Ishii, Mr. Saichiro Fujita, Mrs. Kaneko Zenimoto, Mr. Takeshi Ishii, Mrs. Yuriko Furukawa, Miss Yukiko Inatsuka (Hosoda), Mr. Michitoshi Zenimoto, Miss Sumiko Nonaka, Mr. Hiroyasu Takano, Miss Kotoko Mochizuki (Honma). Missing from the photograph, but attending the conference, were Mr. Gekie Nakajima and Mr. Takeo Hasegawa.


Takamatsu, Hiroshima, Nagoya and perhaps other places.

      In 1957 the Bahá'ís in Hiroshima had extension teaching activities in Kure, Iwakuni and Atsuyama.

      By 1958 Mr. Labib had extended his activities to Fukuoka and Sasebo in Kyushu Island.

      In those early days the Faith was spread largely through the efforts of the pioneers. As mentioned before, virtually all the Persians and Americans made periodic teaching trips to other islands or to nearby towns which were goals of the national assembly or local assemblies.

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      Mrs. Joy Earl, early American pioneer to Japan, speaking to the conference. Seated from the left: Mr. Rouhollah Mumtazi, Miss Virginia Breaks (pioneer to the Caroline Islands), Miss Yukiko Inatsuka and Mr. Michitoshi Zenimoto.


      Gradually, as the Japanese Bahá'ís gained in knowledge and experience, they began to teach independently. One of the early Japanese Bahá'ís to do travel-teaching was Mr. Masazo Odani, who had become attracted to the Faith after hearing Mr. Khadem speak. Mr. Odani made a three-week teaching trip by himself in August 1957, to Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Shikoku Island and Kyushu Island.

      Mr. Gekie Nakajima, an Osaka Bahá'í, also went on teaching trips; probably the most memorable was to Hokkaido in 1957 with Mr. Rouhollah Mumtazi, (see Ch. 67).

      Due to the teaching efforts during the late 1950s, by 1960 there were Bahá'ís in thirty-three localities twice as many as there were in 1956.

      By 1959 there were about a dozen publications in Japanese which included the revised edition of "The Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh" and "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era." There was also a prayer book and several pamphlets.

      A great achievement in 1959 was the purchase of a site for a future Mashriqu'l-Adkar near Tokyo. The new national spiritual assembly spent much time consulting on how to achieve the goals which had been given by the Guardian just four months before he passed away.

The First Asian Teaching Conference, 1955

      The Nikko Conference, correctly designated as the Asian Regional Teaching Conference, was held at the Palace Hotel in Nikko. It was sponsored by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States and its Asia Teaching Committee. The Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo was the host.

      Hand of the Cause Zikrullah Khadem was the Guardian's representative. Miss Alexander attended in her capacity as


Auxiliary Board member. The other Auxiliary Board member attending was Mr. Carl Scherer from Macau.

      As it was a regional conference, Bahá'ís from the Pacific and other Far East areas were invited. About sixty adults and several children of pioneers attended. Most attendants came from Japan of course, but also as far away as Guam, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Iran and the Caroline Islands. Miss Charlotte Linfoot represented the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, and was the conference chairman.

      The conference had a two-fold purpose; first, to expedite teaching plans that would bring into existence a sufficient number of new assemblies to ensure the election of the new National Spiritual Assembly of North East Asia. The other purpose was to give impetus to the teaching in all the nearby countries.

      There were many speakers at the conference. Mr. Khadem spoke on the Will and Testament and the Guardianship; Mrs. Mamie Seto on the Covenant. Miss Linfoot spoke on the goals of the Ten Year World Crusade, which was then in its second year. Mr. Hiroyasu Takano told of his pilgrimage during which the Guardian unfolded his hopes and goals for Japan. A highlight was having Mr. Saichiro Fujita tell of his years with 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Fujita was soon to leave Japan for the Holy Land at the Guardian's invitation. He stayed there, not to return to Japan again.

      In September that year, there were sixty-three Bahá'ís in Japan, of whom thirty-nine were Japanese. The rest were Americans and Persians who had responded to the Guardian's call for pioneers. Special efforts were made to assist all Japanese to attend the conference. Of the thirty-nine, nineteen attended.

      It was a "first" for many of the Bahá'ís attending. They had had no experience of being surrounded by Bahá'ís and living in a Bahá'í atmosphere. The loving spirit of Bahá'í brotherhood which prevailed touched the hearts.

      The conference sent a greeting cable to the Guardian and received a reply before the last session. "Deeply appreciate sentiments fervently praying unprecedented victories. Deepest love, Shoghi."

      The conference, and the prayer of the Guardian, did indeed bring about "unprecedented victories" and it marked a turning point for the Faith, not only in Japan, but in all of North East Asia.


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