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Tips for Foreigners Going to Japan

Tips for coming to Japan submitted by many people over the years–take it or leave it.



Finnish advice! 42. For all FINNS out there;

1) Don’t believe an English person saying that Japanese is hard. Though it is a bit alien in some parts, there are many things that remind me of Finnish in Japanese – use of suffixes and pronounciation, for example.

2) Don’t read any English pronunciation guides, they just confuse you. I did, pondered hard, and finally realized that most of the sounds are exactly as they are in Finnish. Only ecceptions are ofcourse “y” which is like Finnish “j”, j, u (it’s like in Swedish, yo! ^_^) and ch. Look at those only in English guides.


Much advice! 41.

1) You can impress Japanese people, if you can speak a little bit Japanese (as already mentioned beforehand several times).

2) Start practicing to eat with chop sticks, BEFORE you go to Japan. Hosts will be nicely surprised and compliment you, if you can use them well. Nearly all the food has to be eaten with chop sticks or spoon anyway.

To compliment nice food, say \”oishii\”(=delicious).

3) You can get further praisal, if you are able to sit in seiza-position (sitting on your shanks and heels; the two big toes are crossed; the back is straight). Although it is really uncomfortable, try it for a couple of minutes! You can use it in some restaurants, where you have to sit on tatamis instead of chairs.

4) Smile friendly as much as possible!

5) Japanese people rarely show any sign of anger, neither they curse (at least the well behaving). Copy that and keep your bad feelings under control! Even when you are totally mad, don\’t show it! A loss of self control is considered as \”loosing face\”.

6) Try a public hot spring bath!

It is so relaxing! But there are some things to be kept in mind: You will be naked (gender are separeted: one bath for women, another one for men). BEFORE you enter the hot water, you have to clean yourself. Just copy what the Japanese are doing: sit on a small stool and clean yourself. Soap and shampoo are normally provided. Use it! Japanese will watch you suspiciously, assuming that you might make the water dirty, so use plenty of soap and shampoo!

7) TATTOO: In the Japanese society only criminals have tattoos! Therefore it is forbidden for tattooed Japanese to use public bathtubs.

If you have a tattoo, try not to show it, otherwise the Japanese think you belong to social scum or at least you might appall them.

8) Japanese normally unwrap gifts in privacy without the presence of the donator. Most probably they will praise it on the next meeting.

9) Try green tea ice cream!

Most valuable tips have been already given by others and although I don\’t like to repeat things, I want emphasise the following:


It will save you plenty of money, if you are going to travel around. You can already order it, when you are still in your home country.

Last, but not least:

NEVER forget to express gratitude!

. [SUBMITTED BY Alex (Germany)]

Hashi Etiquette! 40.

When eating rice with chopsticks, do not put your chopsticks straight down into the rice. It is an offereing to the dead and will freak people out. Dont stab your food with the chopsticks either.

. [SUBMITTED BY Jourdan]

Nice Scent you have! 39.

If you are going to Japan in the summer and you know you are going to be outside alot, wear shirts that will not show sweat. Be preaepred for sweat, sweat, and more sweat.You can always do what the Japanese do and carry around small towels and use them to frequently wipe the sweat from your body. Besides, baggy clothes can be considered quite fashionable for both boys and girls.

Eat! 38. when you’re a guest for dinner at someone’s house make sure you eat everything. it is considered rude if you do not. your way of telling them you do not like the meal.


Make Conversation! 37. Keep in mind that Japanese might be ashamed about their sometimes a little poor english. Therefore if you start with a question \”How can I go to Ibaraki?\” it will probably result a vague \”mm.\” or: \”I\’m very sorry, my english is so very poor that I cannot help you properly on this matter\”. As you know, many Japanese are just shy about their English even though they can actually speak or at least write, rather well.


A surprising change happens when you ask in Japanese, even if it would soon become obvious that you cannot speak Japanese so much. You can always get help. Even if nothing else, try starting with \”sumimaseen..\” (excuse me..) and for example \”Watashiwa Ibaraki ikimasu..\” (I\’m going to Ibaraki..)

Then if nothing else helps, they will take you there by their car, but you will surely get some help. Trust me, I experienced something like that!


You can get so much more inside the circle when you are speaking Japanese even if it\’s a so very little and brief.


Also, if you nod while listening to them, you can get additional points. I recommend you to try it.


I wish you good luck!

. [SUBMITTED BY Jason | http://www.hanami-web.com]

Much Advice ! 36. *Bring an umbrella

*Slurp you noodles!!! It’s polite and it makes eating them with chopsticks EASIER!

*American ATM cards only work at the post offices.

*Take off your shoes before entering someones house. It’s kinds embarrassing if you don’t.

*Average cost of CD albums is $30, DVDs run about $50-$60.

*Go to Harajuku (in Tokyo), everything is cheap there.

*Watch some Japanese tv if you can…that’s some strange stuff.

*Don’t be afraid to try everything! Even if you don’t like seafood. I did and I am still alive!

*Ride the ferris wheel in Odaiba. It will be worth it.

*Don’t lick your chopsticks, it’s rude

*Get used to sqauting in public bathrooms.

*Also get used to that in public bathrooms, there is no soap or paper towels. Buy a few little towels (all Japanese people carry them) and if you are obsessive about using soap, then bring hand sanitizer

*Keep a journal, at least a short recap of every day

*Talk to people on the airplane going there…they can tell you a lot

*Don’t drive through Tokyo during rush hour

*Keep in mind they drive on the left side of the road, opposite of America

*Experience Japanese music.

*If you are staying with a host family, you don’t need to bring too many clothes, because they do laundry every day

*Bring gifts for host families! Small gifts made in your country are the best. They love beef jerky, Sees chocolate, and American brands like Tommy Hilfigar, Levi’s and Old Navy

*When someone asks you if you can play minidiscs, they do not mean those 8 cm CDs. Minidics are more like small floppy discs. It is very frustrating to have entire albums that you cannot play.

*There is a reason that the Japanese are famous for fans…if you go in the summer, it is very hot and humid, and air conditioning is rare. But don’t worry, you will soon adjust to the heat.

*Produce and fruit is just better in Japan, so try it. But don’t buy it at Ginza, where a small box of cherries can cost up to $300

*They have ice cream (soft creme) stands everywhere. Be prepared to resist.

*Experience Tokyo, but also go to the countryside, it’s beautiful

*Also experience downtown Shibuya. It is like a tornado of people that never ends

*When you first go into stores, don’t freak out when the sales clerks keep yelling the same word at you. They are just being polite

*Self guided tours are more fun than guided ones

*There is milk in Japan, so if you are a milk fanatic like me, worry not.

*Know your Japanese shoe size

*Age guessing is a national pastime. So if people try to guess your age or ask you to guess theirs, that is normal

Eat whale meat at least once

*Careful with the buttons on Japanese toilets. Be ready for a new experience if you press one while sitting on the toilet. And don’t flush anything down the toilet but toilet paper. Their plumbing is not as advanced as Americas.

*Accept gifts with both hands

*Be open to new things and you will have the time of your life in Japan!!!!!!!

. [SUBMITTED BY Courtney]


Keep it in mind that arigato, (Thank you) is the most important word in
the Japanese vocabulary, use it as much as possible.

| http://www.foxes.5u.com/]


Bring an extra pair of shoes! When I lost a heel from my only pair of
slippers, I was not able to find either a repair service nor a shop selling
shoes in my size. The biggest shoes I found were one size below my normal
size – and I don’t have especially large feet. So I had to wear those
for the rest of my stay (which fortunatelly was only three more days).



To independent travellers, a few tips!

1) Memorize and write down the Kanji for the Airport you are arriving
at, as well as
train stations if you are travelling that way. Also memorize the Kana
for them. This is
especially useful when asking for directions.
2) To save yourself money, convert prices to your currency and think if
it’s reasonable,
and save big purchases (i.e. Kimono, etc.) for last. Try to eat at “home”
if at all possible. BUDGET! BUDGET! BUDGET!

3) Learn a few essential Kanji (25 – 50 should suffice), and memorize
a good number of
Japanese phrases and vocabulary.



I have just opened a forum for all of you who are interested about coming
to Japan.

Please write your experiences and share knowledge with others: http://www.hanami-web.com/phorum-3.4.4/index.php?f=0


[SUBMITTED BY Jason | www.hanami-web.com]


If you have the great honor to be invited to stay several days at the

house of someone living in Japan, consider buying a “keitai”

phone). Because even local phone call are charged every minutes.

You visit the web site of Justin Hall (www.links.net) there are many

very interesting pages about life in Japan.

[SUBMITTED BY Strob | www.jstrob.net]


Try Curry rice, it’s delicious, I also recommend to take a bath in the
Ofuro as often as you can.



If you are embarrassed about speaking japanese

think of it this way. Say you see someone in the US who speaks another

language lets say spanish for example and they are at a store trying to

convey what they want to buy to a person who cannot speak spanish. The

person who speaks spanish try’s to convey the idea without using
english. You have probably seen this and usually the clerk will not wish
help them and might even ignore them. But take the same scenario and

put a person who can speak just a tad of english, and no matter how hard

it is to understand most people will naturally try and help them convey

what they wish to. So that boils down to: speak japanese when in
japan.. They will be able to tell you are a gaijin and won’t expect you
speak it like your native tongue. Also another idea about the business

cards, take a business card holder (you can find them in different

business supply stores) and put the business cards they give you into
If you are in a situation and you are not sure if you are doing what is

considered right, smile uncomfortably and even a person who cannot
speak japanese will most likely take pity on you. This way they will be

able to tell that what you are doing is not considered rude in America
you care if you offend them or not. BRING GIFTS! When I went, one of my

many many regrets was that I did not have gifts to give them after they

gave me many beautiful hand made gifts and ect. Also know the exchange

rate, just have a general idea, that way when they insist on buying you

something you can make sure its very inexpensive.

[SUBMITTED BY Snap from Alex
|| www.angelfire.com/anime3/aaclub]


In some hotels the room electricity is turned off
until the room keycard is inserted into a slot by the door. When you
stick the key in the slot, the lights, television and such are enabled.



Japanese can be very good cooks, so try their
exquisite cuisine and the best of Japanese recipes.

[SUBMITTED BY Achobe Emmanuel Enema]


When at a Pub or Restaurant. DON”T pour your own

beer / wine. Let your host do it for you and do the same for them.
Pouring your own tells them your an alcoholic.



Try and dress nicely! ^__^ I went dressed in my

usual American clothes and I felt very under dressed the entire time.



1) Pack lightly, chances
are you’ll be walking or taking trains a lot, and not every subway station has
an escalator. Taxis are also pretty small.
2) Get a good map book for the area where you’re going to be. Learn how the
address system works.
3) In the city, there may be interesting stores in the basements, or on the
upper floors of buildings. Look for the signs on the outside and the marks B,
1F, 2F, etc.
4) AV does not mean audio/video… it means ADULT VIDEO!
5) Not all trains stop at all stops. Pay attention to the color code on the
train when it pulls up, or you might end up on an express that doesn’t go where
you want to go.
6) There isn’t a lot of luggage space on the bullet train…

7) Although there is a vending machine on every corner, resist the urge to have
a drink all the time… sometimes a restroom is hard to find.
8) Restrooms can often, but not always be found in train stations.
9) There are homeless people in Japan, but they keep to themselves pretty much,
so don’t be afraid. There seem to be a lot in Shinjuku station(cardboard in
corners) and Ueno Park (blue plastic tarps), and under the bridges on Ochanomizu.(I
don’t know how that is helpful, it’s just something interesting I remember.)
10) In Tokyo, don’t overlook Ikebukuro! It’s got lots of good restaraunts, arcades,
movie theatres, stores, a huge underground mall, Toyota Amlux (kinda a Toyota
museum), Namco Namjatown… and it’s a lot nicer than Shinjuku (IMHO).
11) If you’re looking for things like CDs, videos and videogames, be sure to
check out the USED shops such as Liberty. You’ll get much better prices, and
usually such great care has been taken with the goods that there is no difference
from new!
12) Wear comfortable shoes! I mean it!

13) Stores open at 10am and close at 8pm. So if you want to shop, don’t become
a night-owl.
14) There is a nice english-speaking doctor across the street from the Tokyo
15) There is a tourist bureau in Central Tokyo which can be of great help in
finding the nice doctor across from the Tokyo tower.
16) The Tokyo Tower is a real tourist trap. Except for the view, it’s got no
redeeming value. The vendors are all grumpy. It is the only place in Japan I
ever saw elevator girls though… did you know they can sleep standing up?
17) You can’t walk around on the grounds of the emperor’s palace. I’ve heard
there is sometime around new years or something when the public can see it,
but otherwise there’s really no point in going around there.
18) Once you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all, IMHO.

19) Amusement parks are places young people go on dates.So are public parks,
especially at night when they are dark and private…
20) If you need to use your American ATM card, look for Citibank. Their ATMs
will take it and give you Japanese yen. But keep in mind you can probably take
out only $300 a day, which might be a different number of yen each day…
21) Save 2000 yen for the airport fee when you are leaving the country.



1. If you are travelling on a bullet train, check that you’re not in a silent cabin before you start chatting away yo your mate! ( I did this and didn’t realise until i went to get off) 2. After you leave Japan come To New Zealand!



it maybe weird, but in Tokyo and in kyoto everyone stands on the left side of the escalator, but it’s very helpful letting others in a hurry to walk up or down the right side.
-don’t be afraid to ask for directions. strangely, everyone knows where they are and how to get some where. ha…if someone asked me how to get some where in my home town i still don’t think i’d beable to give them directions. -bring cash- some cards don’t work, even over seas atms. and it’s a hassle to use traveler’s checks now these days. -you might not want to buy any DVD’s there, because many don’t work in american DVD players. -make sure you bring shoes that slip on and off easily.-keep your arms closely at your sides when walking down a narrow
street, the drivers of japan go really fast and squeeze through the tightest spots. you don’t wanna loose a arm now do ya? -make sure your luggage is small, light, and has fabric/leather/metal handles (NOT PLASTIC,it breaks and pisses you off)

[SUBMITTED BY Priscilla]


I just added link about japanese
expressions. You
might be interested about learning these before you go to Japan.

Also, take a look of my Japanese
English page. These help you great a
lot! http://www.hanami-web.com/eng/maihoumu.htm



Hello Im exchange student from philippines
i will

stay at kobe japan for 1 year My tip is dont be shy to japanese they
are very humble and friendly even thought the fashion of japanese teen
agers is a little bit strange! and dont be afraid to commit mistake in
nihongo it alright!!!



go to nansai beach its awsome man!!!!


HOMEPAGE: www.geocities.com/nihao_japan/index.html


Bring a lot of Yen!!!
Bank machines are very scarce and they may not accept your card. YOU


Don’t worry about the prices. Not everything is
priced sky-high. Thrifty spending is a good part of the fun

Bring pictures with you to Japan.
Show everyone what your country
looks like.

Don’t lick your fingers after eating and
enjoy an ice cold beer in public!




1. If you MUST go to McDs, buy a burger you can’t
buy at home (for those here on holiday), otherwise you may as well stay
at home and get fat.
2. Don’t talk loud on trains and in congested public areas.
3. Spark up a conversation by reading(or faking it)a Japanese paper or
mag. 4. Matsuya and Yoshinoya are better value than McDs
5. If coming on holiday, check out JR rail passes before leaving home.
Save big bucks there. 6. After Japan, travel to NZ. Its great.
[SUBMITTED BY Paul (a kiwi)

TIP! 16. When you buy [expensive] things in Japan…be sure you claim everything at the airport…Although you may get taxed tremendously, you won’t mind.. You could be in a heap of trouble if you don’t.  Arigatou at all times when someone opens a door…. gomen nasai then a slight bow if you bump someone.  You can never be too cautious with your language…don’t say anything that you are not 100% about the meaning. Osaka and Tokyo has two different dialects so don’t
mess up. When finding yen on the ground.. don’t keep it.. it could be counterfeit. If you go to an American type restaurant, don’t get too much..I doubt you want to pay 4.00 for a big mac.. oh yeah.. be nice to the elders..
[SUBMITTED BY Raven Rogers]

TIP! 15.  Remember that males bow with their hands at their sides, and females bow with their hands crossed over in front. Also, don’t introduce yourself, your family, or very close friends with “-san” or any other title. This will seem rude. And don’t rely on their English entirely if you are going there. Many people think that “they all know English in Japan”, because it is required
curriculum throughout much of Japan. But like in America, just because you took those four years of Spanish in high school, it doesn’t mean you can actually speak Spanish accurately. If you can, get business cards made while you are there. Business cards are very important and often exchanged. Also bring inexpensive, but thoughtful gifts (something from America would be very good). These should be given to people who have been a great help to you in some way. They hold America in relatively high regards, and they also are often as
interested in talking to you as you would be in talking to them.

And I too would recommend learning katakana first.


14.  1) .Like someone already mentioned below, it’s good to fill your disembarkation card in airplane. If you don’t know some part, you can always ask the flight attendants
in the airplane. They will surely help you. (Like most of all Japanese, they are
true professionals in customer care!) Even though you might want to flirt with
them, I must warn you that it might prove to be useless since they are not
allowed to do so.
2.It might be difficult to make footage with large video camera in the public
places, like railway stations. You need some kind of warrant if you want to do
so, I believe. I often tried that and got in constant trouble with the police.
If you have handicam or some small inconspicuous camera, it might be significantly
more easier though.
3. Go to sit in the park or crowded street and see people passing by. It can be
really wonderful experience, and this is the best way to see many Japanese
people and learn about the looks of real Japanese. Eventually someone will also
come to chat with you and practice English. Especially high school students are
very keen to chat with foreigners in English.
4. Use as much Japanese as you can. Don’t worry about making mistakes, it won’t
be probably serious. Even if you only know few words, use them. Japanese people
will notice that you are interested about their country and respect your efforts
5. Remember that Japanese consider it rude to give them money in public place.
Giving tips is NOT Japanese tradition. If you necessarily have to give someone
money, you should give it in brown envelope. (There are special brown envelopes
in Japan designed especially for this, they are rectangle shaped)
5. Instead of giving money when showing someone gratitude from their kindness
(or from good customer service), bring small gifts or souvenirs from your
country. Japanese will love these.

6. Take big bunch of your name cards with you. (You will probably notice that
you didn’t bring enough) Sharing these might surprise you with many New Year
cards in change. Oh, when exchanging a name card, show proper care for other
participant’s card. Don’t fold it, write to it, or make it a cone. By doing it,
you show a hint of negligence. Examine it with obvious interest, and then put it
to your inside pocket. This is one very traditional rituals.
7. If someone welcomes you to visit their home, don’t bring flowers. The hostess
will probably will say how beautiful the flowers you brought are and will put
them in visible place, taking off the original decoration which looked much
better.. Bottle of some good sake might be better idea.
8. If you go out with your Japanese girlfriend, it might be good to keep in mind
that Japanese are usually bit shy to kiss in public, while French kisses are
mostly out of the question. Holding hands is considered as a sign of caring and

There you, go, I hope you find at least some of these ideas useful! Ganbatte ne! [SUBMITTED BY Mr. Jason || Homepage: http://hanami-web.com


13.  1) When
eating noodles in public or private, SLURP like there is no tomorrow! Elsewhere
you might get stares but in Japan it is a compliment to the chef.  NB Only
slurp noodles not anything else, that is just plain rude! (On a recent school
exchange to Tokyo, a boy was slurping his BREAD! Imagine the stares!)
2)When you receive your disembarkation card (on the plane if you are a Non
Japanese citizen) fill it in on the plane to avoid hassles at Immigration
3)ALWAYS carry your passport with you as law states that any person in Japan
(citizen or not) must have ID on them at all times. This prevents hassle with
the police who are notoriously harsh.
4)Revolving sushi restaurants are NOT the only cuisine Japan has to offer. Try
yakitori tents near temples or Raamen bars. Cheap, delicious and filling!
5)Always say “Itadakimasu” before eating and “Gochisousama
” after eating WHEREVER you are. Native or not, it is considered
polite. [SUBMITTED

12.  Many
younger Japanese people can read and write some English, so you might be able to
get wriiten directions or something similar in English for you. Be patient and
it may not be very good quality, but you can usually understand it if you try. [SUBMITTED
BY Yashiko]

11.  Make sure
when you are first introducing yourself you bow just a little bit.  Most
likely, the person you are introducing yourself to will bow as well.  This
is to show respect and it kind of says “thank you for acknowledging my
presence” if I’m correct. [SUBMITTED BY Kdallas]

10.  Bring lots
of film. Take pictures of everything the sparks an interest in you or else you
will regret it.
-Don’t be afraid to talk to someone to ask the time, for directions, etc.
-If you know Japanese, use it.  Speak it as much as you can.
Learn new phrases or words and try them when the opportunity knocks. Its a fast
way to learn. Also, if you meet a Japanese person and you become friends with
them, ask them what things are.

9. If you are beginning to learn
Japanese – learn Katakana FIRST!  Hiragana will be almost useless unless
you have a sound Japanese vocabulary, which you probably won’t have.  And
it is difficult to guess the real meaning, because Hiragana is almost always
used in conjunction with difficult Kanji.  On the other hand, Katakana is
used for many borrowed words, which usually come from the English language.
You can sound these out and guess the meaning, most of the time.  Plus you
won’t feel like a total illiterate!  Katakana saved me more than once on my
first trip to Japan.  [SUBMITTED BY Tigerboy  || Homepage: www.tigerdude.com

] [Editor’s Note: We
recommend learning hiragana first unless, like the above says, you are going to
be in Japan.  Then katakana is of more immediate use.  But either way,
you should learn them both well!  🙂 ]

8. Whole wheat bread is very
hard to find in Japan.  I suggest buying a bread maker from back home

and bringing it, along with the ingredients to make the bread, with you. [SUBMITTED
BY ?]


1) NEVER eat pickled jellyfish unless you are feeling
particularly brave.
2) McD’s, though expensive, will be a godsend when you want to eat REAL American
food (at least as American as you’re going to get)
3) Try to go to a hot spring. You’ll thank yourself for the trouble when you get
out of the spring.
4) Be very, VERY careful with the doors. The panes are made of paper, you know.
5) If at all possible bring an American friend with you. You’ll maintain your

6) Japanese people are probably the best hosts on the planet. They LOVE having
you there. Go with the flow, and TALK to them! People like shopkeepers and hosts
LOVE it if you use even the most rudimentary Japanese i.e. Thank you, nice to
meet you, hello, etc.
7) Don’t eat octopus balls. (NO not like THAT, they’re fried octopus dumplings!)
8) DON’T forget to pack shirts! Trust me I speak from experience!
9) The bathrooms are strange. Get used to it. Public bathrooms are often coed.
Get used to this as well.
10) Be sure to leave room in your suitcase for all the stuff you bring
BY A.G. ||

6. It is considered rude to take
food out of the common bowl (the bowl where everyone gets their meal out of, ex.
rice bowl) with the side of the chopstick that you’re eating out of [that you
put in your mouth]. This spreads germs and it is disgusting! Instead, use the
opposite end (the blunt or thick side) and use that to reach for rice.
Also, do not chomp up your food. Rest your chopsticks every once in a while.
This will make you look like a pig if you do this!
Also, if you are staying with a Japanese friend, always bring a souvenir or a
gift. Don’t make it expensive because you will probably expect them to pay you
back with a gift!  [SUBMITTED
BY Theingi] 

5. Ways of doing things:
a) All homes and most buildings are shoeless, that is, you take off your
outside shoes at the genkan (entrance) and don pink inside slippers with
flowers on them [There are also other varieties of course].
b) Although this is changing with the younger generation is can be considered
impolite to drink or eat while walking! c) It is not rude to slurp your
noodles d) It is rude to bathe inside the bathtub — you must
first bathe outside the tub and then once clean, relax in the tub! If you want
to ignore this last one, it is probably ok; no one will know (unless you are
really, really dirty!) e) don’t stick your chopsticks directly in your sticky
rice because that means the rice is for the dead!   

4.  Things in Japan are very
expensive.  A user mentioned even McDonalds which is considered
“inexpensive” can be 2x or 3x what you would expect to pay in your
home country. But there is hope!  Things won’t be as cheap as back home,
but if you look around there are usually places that sell things for a
reasonable price.  Also there are many 100 yen stores where
everything is only 100 yen – similar to the dollar stores in the US 


is very difficult to obtain antiperspirant in Japan. Deodorant, sure – but
that’s it. [SUBMITTED
BY James Leatherman ||
Homepage: www.scaffadaffa.com

2.  Learn what people who are
coming to Japan are asking and their answers by joining the email discussion
list at www.jet.org

1.  Most everything that you need,
you can find in Japan — But it may cost you!  (I made the mistake of
bringing too many things that I could have bought here) 

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Enjoy & Happy Sharing!

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