Reporting Back from Tohoku

Tomorrow evening I will be hosting a presentation at Architectural Association School of Architecture.

It will be mainly about my report back from Tohoku supported by data and research provided by architecture students of Tohoku region (directed by Nikken Sekkei).

http://www.aaschool.ac.uk/VIDEO/lecture.php?ID=1569

The event start from 6:30pm at the AA Dining Room.

Hope to see you there.

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Japan Special on Berlin based webmagazine Horstundedeltraut

Berlin based art and culture web magazine Horstundedeltraut (http://www.horstundedeltraut.com/) has contacted AATEA straight after the earthquake, and have been updating weekly photo diary named “Japan Special”

Our Japan Special aims to build a picture of Japan that replaces the images of devastation that are today identified with it. By creating a photo album/ documentary to give support, hope and hopefully a smile, more than anything, this little action is a dedication to the people who have lost their houses, friends and families!

We can only do this with your contribution… All fans and readers are encouraged to send us pictures and suggestions to support our Japan Special and the AATEA: Are you a photographer, amateur or professional? Have you been to Japan and taken great pictures? Do you know someone who has?  

We are looking for photographers so don’t hesitate to forward this message on to everyone you know, who has been to Japan and who has lovely photographs of the country.

»> Send us an email to info@horstundedeltraut.com

I have written a piece as part of their “Japan Special” -  it is going to be series of 3 or 4 articles written from my experience in Japan this spring.

The first one is “Tokyo in the Dark”

http://www.horstundedeltraut.c om/2011/05/tokyo-in-the-dark/

I am grateful that the young people of my age full of energy and passion are concerned about the lives and suffer of the country so far away and that they are running such a sweet project for Japan.

Special thanks to Cosima Bucarelli and Gabrielle Berlin who made this happen.

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There are brief explanations on some photos if you click them.

This is still half way through.

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"

復興の方針として、集落は一律高いところに移すべきであるとか、せっかくやるんだからエコタウンだという意見もありますが、それは間違ってはないけれど、しかし一律に30メートル以下のところには建物は建てていけないというのはまったくナンセンスでしょう。そのような基本方針と、それぞれの場所がもっている適正値の決め方とのあいだにはギャップがある。そこを克服するかが課題だろうと思います。それに対して、僕たちが具体的に乗り込んでいってやれるところまではまだきていないというのが正直なところです。いろんな被災地や集落を見に行ったりはしていますが、まだこれからという感じです。

As an overall direction or guidelines of the revival, there are opinions such as all the settlements should be high above or all of them should become so called eco-towns. These ideas are not necessarily wrong but it is nonsense to say not to build anything below 30 meters. The issue is the solve the problem between such fundamental guidelines and geographical characteristics. At the same time, I understand that it is not yet in the stage for us (architects) to go in and do something. I’ve been around many damaged areas but I get the impression that it is far from such stage

"

Masashige Motoe (associate professor of Tohoku univeristy ) in conversation with Taro Igarashi (Professor of Tohoku Univeristy) from 10+1

http://10plus1.jp/serial/geja/1/

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Overall revival plans that Miyagi prefecture is proposing to the 14 cities and towns that were damaged severely.The three different proposals corresponds to the diverse landscapes of the area:

1st : Plain Type  ( exemplar towns: Natori, Iwanuma ) 
Housing, elevated highway, rice field, elevated highway, tide embankment

2nd : Ria type ( Ria means a coastal inlet formed by the partial submergence of an unglaciated river valley ) ( exemplar towns: Minami Sanriku Cho etc)
Housing, (below) disaster prevention park, (above) emergency building, emergency building, fishing port

3rd : City Type (exemplar towns: Ishinuma, Kesenuma)
Housing, elevated highway, factory, emergency building, fishing port

The fact that Sendai East Highway which runs on top of the 5-10m raised land functioned as a sort of “tide embankment” in 3.11 inspired the planners to propose elevated highways and parks. Also the idea of “emergency buildings” come from the fact that many buildings made out of reinforced concrete survived the tsunami. The ideas of lifestyles behind these proposals is to “live in the inlands and commute towards the seaside.”

genxx:

Yomiuri On-Line (読売新聞)

Overall revival plans that Miyagi prefecture is proposing to the 14 cities and towns that were damaged severely.The three different proposals corresponds to the diverse landscapes of the area:



1st : Plain Type  ( exemplar towns: Natori, Iwanuma ) 

Housing, elevated highway, rice field, elevated highway, tide embankment



2nd : Ria type ( Ria means a coastal inlet formed by the partial submergence of an unglaciated river valley ) ( exemplar towns: Minami Sanriku Cho etc)

Housing, (below) disaster prevention park, (above) emergency building, emergency building, fishing port



3rd : City Type (exemplar towns: Ishinuma, Kesenuma)

Housing, elevated highway, factory, emergency building, fishing port



The fact that Sendai East Highway which runs on top of the 5-10m raised land functioned as a sort of “tide embankment” in 3.11 inspired the planners to propose elevated highways and parks. Also the idea of “emergency buildings” come from the fact that many buildings made out of reinforced concrete survived the tsunami. The ideas of lifestyles behind these proposals is to “live in the inlands and commute towards the seaside.”



genxx:

Yomiuri On-Line (読売新聞)

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Learning ( a lot ) from Tohoku

I went on a two nights trip to Tohoku between the 22nd and the 24th with some young architects, starting from Sendai, via Minami Sanriku to Kesenuma.



Sendai, the capital of Miyagi prefecture, the life seemed to be fairly back to normal at a superficial level. ( although I’ve never visited Sendai before this trip so not 100% sure)

Saturday night a storm was passing while we were heading to Minami Sanriku on a car. Flickering images of a ruined townscape picked out by the headlights were terrifying and I was slightly worried of a landslide due to the heavy rain as the car went through the trackless paths.



The day after was tremendously nice weather, sunny and calm. The owner of the guest house we stayed in as well as a friend of a friend guided us around the remaining sites of the town telling us his experience. 

Later in the day we moved to Kesenuma, where unlike Minami Sanriku large part of the town remained but half destroyed.



Seeing the site and experiencing it was one thing but listening to and discussing with the locals was another precious experience. Great thanks to Mr Oikawa, Mr Nakata and Mr Nakaki for bringing and showing me there.



After the trip I strongly believe that the world has a lot to learn from Tohoku, the spirit, the courage, the beauty, the energy and the philosophy of life.



For now, here are some images I brought back.

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Public Brainstorming Session for the Revival of Tohoku hosted by architecture students of Tohoku part 2 (Japanese ver)

Brain Stormingの時間では、話題提供として何組かの発表がありました。被災地情報を写真とタイムラインで追ったもの、エネルギーの専門家による節電と代替エネルギー に関する話題、情報管理の話、新しい種類の仮設住宅の提案、民家の改装プロジェクト、復興案に関するタイムラインをデータとして可視化するシステムの構築するアイディアなどなど話題が豊富で面白かったです。

それを経ていくつか考えたこと: 

1.     関東の学生と東北の学生の意見交換の際の議論の中にも有ったように、物理的距離を考えずして復興を考える事は不可能です。(議論の内容としては、ネットベースで情報を集積して分析した東大の学生のプレゼンに「現場感がない」というもの)現場から物理的に離れた建築家・学生達はそれを活かした話題提供をすべきではないでしょうか。 「インターネットでしかリサーチが出来なかったから」という理由づけを言い訳にせずに、逆にその距離感を活かしたリサーチ・考察を堂々と話題提供する事が出来たらよかったのではないかと思いました。 

2.     建築家・建築学生が出来る事とは恐らく 「仮設住宅の新しい形態を提案する」それは一番ダイレクトな方法だと分かるのもわかるけれど、それに疑問を感じたのは私だけではないはず。 

3.     東北地方の新しい産業の可能性に関する質問なんかが飛ぶと、会場の中で誰一人として答えられない(もしくは答える必要がないと思ったのかもしれない)というのは少し残念だった。学生のプレゼンの中でも基幹産業に関する分析に重点が置かれていた事からも分かるように、復興について考えた時「産業」は外して考えられない要素です。被災地周辺に考えられるような新しい産業のアイディアの情報提供が出来る専門家がいたら議論がもう一段界高いレベルで繰り広げられたような気がします。 

この3つの疑問点を踏まえた私なりの考察、若い建築の学生が出来る事: 

1の疑問点からひも解くと、当然のことながら現場レベルでは現場が一番見えます。そこから距離が遠くなるにつれて現場感が薄まってしまうのは自然です。ただ逆に、首都圏の人々には機材、資本、はたまた一番の資源である人脈を持っているであろう人たちがいるはずで、それを活かした活動をしていくことに意味があります。 

この2週間の日本滞在の間に、ロンドンと日本の間での情報誤差について再認識しました。東京に滞在した間に集まった情報量、友人や知人レベルで交わした会話から得た意見、実際に余震を体感した経験、街から感じ取れる空気と同等なものをロンドンから集めるのは不可能ですし、それを試みるのは時間の無駄というものかもしれない。震災直後の1,2週間、ロンドンでUstreamNHK, BBC, 国内外のネットニュースにかじりついたけれど比べ物にならない情報量、そして質の違ったものがここにはあります。 

AATEAのミーティングでも話し合った内容だし、分かってはいたけれども、やはりロンドンでやるならばその地理・資源・人脈を活かした活動をすべきだとやっぱり思います。現場との関わりが間接的になってしまうという批判はあるかもしれないけれど、自分達がおかれた環境や持っている資材を活かさないで日本にいる人達と同じような事をやろうとすることこそ自己満足にしかならないのでは、と このセッションを通じて更に感じました。 

2の疑問点を展開して、もう少し抽象的な話にすると、「建築家・建築学生」が復興に向けて出来る事は建物をデザインする事だけではないなと改めて確信しました。

仮設住居の新しい提案も勿論無駄ではないし、被災者に居心地のいい空間を提供するという意味では有意義なものかもしれません。でも現実としては、大手ハウスメーカーが既にが国土交通省から3万戸強要請を受けてその使命を担って既に一番効率がいい方法で大量生産されはじめているし、23年後には撤去されるのでしょう。

若い建築家の卵たちはもっと長いスパンで事の顛末を考えていくべきなのでは、と。

例えば、個人レベルで考えた時のデザイナーとしての建築家の強みと使命を考えた時に私の頭に真っ先に浮かぶのは、「造形物に本来の機能以上の付加価値をつけてクライアントを納得させること」です。デザイナーや建築家という職業は経済の原理から一歩離れたレベルでものごとを捉え、発想することが求められているし、それが許される立場にあります。

例えば今回長丁場になるであろう電力問題に対しては、陰翳の美しさを活かした建物・ライフスタイル・都市風景を長期的に提案し続けることがデザイナーとしての一つの解決案かもしれません。煌々と蛍光灯で照らされたコンビニ空間で浮かび上がる「明るい光=購買欲をかりたてる」という図式を崩し、独自の美意識をつらぬくことによってクライアントが求めている結果を導くオルタナティブな提案をし、創りだすことが建築家にはできます。

遠回りにはなるけれど、デザインとプレゼンの力で世界を変えていくという手法が私たち遠距離建築家・学生達の支援の形の一つではないでしょうか。政治家は「ものを動かす人」、ビジネスマンは「お金を動かす人」、学者は「アドバイスを出す人」とすれば、建築家は「理想主義的なアイディアを出す人」であり、それを「デザインという形で付加価値をつける」という活動で実現させていく事が出来る人種なのではないかと。

ここで、第3の疑問点「他の専門知識がある人間の必要性」に戻ります。上に書いた様な内容が建築家のプロフェッションである事は事実ですが、それを活かす為には「ものを動かす人」と「アドバイスを出す人」と超域的な協力体制を組まなければ意味がない。その為には、なるべく多くの人を巻き込んでいくべきなんでしょう。例えば地域産業の専門家や政治家なんかが適当数入ってくれたらテコ入れになるのではないでしょうか。

色々書きましたが、このセッションは一参加者としてとても有意義なものでした。普段アクセスがない東北地方の情報や被災地情報、エネルギーなどに関する情報がコンパクトにまとめられていたことがまず一つ。情報共有の温度差・地域差を肌で実感出来た事がまた一つ。交流会には長くはいれなかったものの、この時の交流が被災地視察につながるなど色々収穫がありました。

これは第1回ということで、第2回、3回も開催したいとの学生側の希望が最後に示されていたので、この規模の集まりをオーガナイズするのは相当大変でしょうが今後の展開に期待です。


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Public Brainstorming Session for the Revival of Tohoku hosted by architecture students of Tohoku

Coming back from Nagano on a sunny Sunday afternoon, my destination was the main building of Nikken Sekkei. The company is one of the largest architectural firms in Japan and have been hosting a number of students from Tohoku as “Open Desks”. ( like interns) The students have been working on a research project on Tohoku after the earthquake and there was a large scale brainstorming session organized that day.

The explanation of the event was as below:

「震災を身近で体験した東北の学生と、離れているけれども震災に対して何か考えたい関東・関 西・その他地域の学生、社会人の交流の場をつくろうと考えました。Ust中継を利用して仙台-東京-他地域を結び、震災の現状についての情報を共有し、災 害知識の専門家を交え、被災地の長い今後に向けた、分野横断的なブレインストーミングを予定しています。」 

"We wanted to create a space for communication between the students of Tohoku who actually experienced the earthquake close by and other students and non-students across Japan who would be interested in thinking about the earthquake. We will be using Ustream live to join Sendai-Tokyo and other areas to share some information on the current situation of the earthquake disaster, as well as inviting some professionals on disaster management and will planning a interdisciplinary brainstorming sessions for long term future of the disaster stricken area.

The room was filled with more than 200architecture students and architects, seemingly coming from all over Japan.

The event opened with a short introduction by Mr Senhiko Nakata, associate professor of Miyagi University Architecture Department, who has been supporting the architecture students of Tohoku ever since the occurrence of the earthquake. Then it was passed on to the group of students from Tohoku that have been working on the research as “open desks” of Nikken Sekkei for the past 2 weeks.

The student-led presentation was based on the topographical and demographic research that were crucial for the regional understanding of Tohoku and the damage caused by the catastrophe. Macroscopic research was showing the current day reality of Tohoku area in relation to the rest of Japan while the microscopic one was consisted of series of case studies of towns taken from diverse geographical conditions; Sendai Plain, North and South Rias.

Photos taken from the material provided for the event

I wouldn’t go into the details of each case studies but perhaps take out some interesting points.

Micro Research 1 Sendai Plane : The most populated area where the largest city Sendai is also located.

- The Toubu Highway worked as a breakwater - many lives were saved beyond this point.

- Damage: Areas that were hit the worst by the tsunami, Miyagino and Wakabayashi areas, have had 50% of the inhabitable land under water.80% of the agricultural land were destroyed and it will take a few years to recover. Not a huge ratio of industrial land was damaged but the crucial damage on the factories around Sendai Port was critical as they may well effect the world economy.

Micro Research 2 South Riyas Area : The area contains two towns that are most far out from the prefectural capitals thus take most time in the recovery: Rikuzentakada and Kesenuma.

-  “Dependent population” which means “population of non productive age (0-14& 65+) / population of productive age x 100” is very high in this area. 60-80% while Tokyo is 14.8%.

- Damage: 100% and 96% of the fishing sites (major industry of the area) of Rikuzentakada and Kesenuma are flooded. It is a major loss for Japan as a country  considering the fact that the amount of the catch is the 9th in the country.

Micro Reserach 3 North Riyas Area:The area is surrounded by a mountain range and the there are some difficulties in transport system.

-Temple and Shrines : Students realized the weird coincidence that the tsunami flood stopped just by the shrines or temples. This story reminded me of Shinichi Nakazawa’s well known book Earthdiver (2005) which explored the psychogeography of Tokyo according to the map of the Jomon period , I will write about it in more detail later on in this report.

- Damage: Miyako area was one of the areas that was relying on their electronic industry. However 7 out of 11  factories are severely damaged or gone. In Kamaishi, 9% of the population are lost while 20% of the houses (3727buildings) are destroyed or gone. There will be a great number of housing needed in this region. 


 It was a great amount of data well organized considering the fact that the students only had 2 weeks since the start of the internship.I wonder how they counted the number of broken or vanished buildings - should have probably asked.

They concluded that they wish to scale the research up so that it would eventually portray the level of the “real experience.” I imagine that is what the participants who are not from Tohoku are expecting and possibly what the students of Tohoku themselves are aiming to picture, it should be the most interesting and could trigger some even more interesting discussions.

The second part of the session consisted of the report from site, Q&As, small presentations and a little bit of discussion amongst the different groups of participants. I will report about this and my own view on this whole event in the next article.

Whist writing this article, an earthquake happened : 23:10pm, scale 3 in Tokyo.

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Political Tasks

 Last week I was watching a TV program called Live Prime News on BS Fuji TV which focused theme was “The recovery from the great earthquake - Political task”.Two members of non-government party, Yoshimasa Hayashi of Liberal Democratic Party and Youichi Masuzoe of New Renaissance party was discussing their views on the post-earthquake political matters.

As it is widely known, there has been much criticism against the current government on the deficiency of the crisis management. The two politicians’ argument and criticisms were personally very clear, valid and constructive so I summarized some interesting issues they raised…

 

-        The need of the opening of information and the clearer route towards the public.

The priority of the government in the state of crisis is the opening of information to all – the two politicians point out the fact that this has not been done in an adequate way. On top of it, there have been too much and diverse sources of information that caused some complexity: Prime Minister, Minister of Economy and Industry, Chief Cabinet Secertary and Tepco (Tokyo Electricity). The source of information should have been unified so that the unnecessary confusion should have not happened.

 

-        The support fund should be accessible to the victims ASAP?

The use of 120 million yen support fund gathered has not yet determined properly. This is because of the difficulty of over consideration about the “fairness” of the distribution. As it is hardly possible to make the “fair” decision, the government should possibly start to distribute at least half of it and to balance the sum out later on by the other 60 million. The faster they can provide the victims with the support, the better it is.

 

-        The increase and decrease of support towards the current Government

The ratio of support towards the current government rose by more than 15% from 19.8% (March 10th) to 35.6 %( March 17th) and the number has been slowly decreasing since towards 27%. Masuzoe sees the raise of number not because of the popularity of the current government party, but as a natural counter action in the nationwide crisis of this scale. Citizens would rely on whatever power that might be able to improve the situation. The fact that it is decreasing again, according to Masuzoe, is slightly problematic as we are still in the middle of the crisis.

 

-        Learning from The Great Hanshin Earthquake? – Crisis Management of the Government

In terms of crisis management, there was much to learn from The Great Hanshin Earthquake (1995). However, sadly, some decisions and actions the government took were worse than the previous catastrophe. For example in the case of Hanshin, the government and the major party were working much better together. They made a consensus and relied on each other. This time, few days after the earthquake, Prime Minister Kan suggested “grand coalition” meaning the political alliance of government party and non-government party in order to get over the crisis. The answer from the representative of non-government party, Tanigaki of Liberal Democrat was a “no”. Masuzoe and Hayashi pointed out the manner in which this was done were very rushed and thoughtless, as if the government party merely wanted some to share some responsibility rather than a true collaboration.

-        Awareness towards what is said out in the International Media

Masuzoe brought out a major French paper, Le Monde, as he has been reading it since the 3.11. For example there have been caricatured pictures of Japan and the nuclear appearing regularly on the paper since the earthquake: An ill looking Japanese woman in a nuclear patterned kimono or a firefighter working to stop the plant withrejoicing his salary rise due to the crisis. Others included the fact that “Fukushima Daiichi” becoming a “proper noun”, political use of the imagery of Fukushima in German election etc etc. He alerted the viewers and the government of Japan to take this situation seriously as it will probably become worse resulting of a serious Fuhyouhigai (financial damage caused by harmful rumours or misinformation ).

 

The Key-Words for the Recovery


In the end of the program both Masuzoe and Hayashi were asked to come up with a key word towards the recovery of the situation.  (Picture above)

Hayashi : 「現実的楽観」= Realistic Optimism

“We need Jishuku the Jishuku: to self-control the self-control”

The word “Jishuku”, meaning self-imposed control, has been prevalent since 3.11. People were asked to “Jishuku” their own personal desire in order to support the situation. For example, the Japanese tradition of “Hanami” = Cherry blossom appraisal party, were limited to smaller scale and the parties in the evening were told to “Jishuku” in order to

Hayashi asserts that now we are in the stage to stop the whole Jishuku business and to start being slightly more optimistic.  Moreover, this attitude of Jishuku of Jishuku is crucial when considering the economic revival. (The restaurant business was severely hit by the whole Jishuku atmosphere as no one came out to eat and drink)

Masuzoe: 「司令の一元化」 Unification of Information and Orders

Referring to the confusion of information and governmental orders, Masuzoe draws emphasis on the necessity to create a single clear path.

What should have happened and what should improve is the format of governmental organization facing this particular crisis. For example there should have been a clear division of work between, say, minister of economics and industry, minister of earthquake issue, secretary of the chief cabinet secretary. The former two dealing with the nuclear and the earth quake issue the latter two supporting the whole organization and structure. What has been happening is that this sort of job and responsibility division weren’t successful. Masuzoe asserts that this is due to the lack of ability in communication. The reliance of the people on site was lacking, thus the governmental tops that were meant to be “defending the goals” were instead “out in the field” which caused further confusion in the communication and order. Masuzoe questions, why the governmental heads could not have said “I will trust the people appointed on site, ask me the decision making when there is a possibility of severe risk, in which case I will take the responsibility and make the decision.” Lack of communication resulted in the lack of a reliable relationship between the top of the government and the on-site people, analyses Masuzoe. There should be clearer structure on the routes of communication and order, which is still a crucial issue when thinking of the revival from the 3.11.

Excuses and the Updates on Earthquakes

The points above are only some of the few issues they were raising in the 2 hours program. I possibly need to clarify again that both Hayashi and Masuzoe are part of the non-governmental party and thus it could be that they might be over-critical towards the current government. I have to admit that I was not much aware of the political situation of Japan recently but still, even for me, it was one of the clearest and constructive discussions on the fundamental political issues that I saw on TV for the past few weeks.

In terms of earthquakes, there had been several earthquakes over the past two nights that I personally were aware of. (According to the data there seem to have been more but I’m writing through my own experience) One was around 2:37 am last night and 2:09 am the night before. The strengths of the shakes were both 2 out of 7 in Tokyo.

There was slightly larger one around 11 am on the Saturday 16th. 3 or 4 in Tokyo.

My friend was trapped in a tunnel of Shinkansen (bullet train) and was telling me how it was scary when the vehicle suddenly stopped, the lights turned off and there started an announcement notifying the passengers about the huge earthquake in Kanto (region around Tokyo). On top of that none of the passengers had internet access due to the tunnel, even though the shake wasn’t that big, it should be quite horrifying experience.


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Some “bright” news…I’ve uploaded an imagery of “dark” Shibuya 3 days ago.Today, at least  all 3 advertising screens were turned back on again.
This is probably one of the consequences of the country-wide power saving alert being weakened until early summer.
The “dark shibuya” was somehow slightly charming to me, but it’s reassuring to see the city turning back to how it used to be.

数日前、「暗い」渋谷の画像をあげましたが、今日夕方頃通りがかってみたら、節電警戒が少し緩んだからか、こんな感じでした。 やっぱりスクリーンがあるとなしでは大違いですね。
暗い渋谷も新鮮でしたが、街が少しづつ元の姿に戻っていくのは安心感があります。

Some “bright” news…I’ve uploaded an imagery of “dark” Shibuya 3 days ago.Today, at least  all 3 advertising screens were turned back on again.

This is probably one of the consequences of the country-wide power saving alert being weakened until early summer.

The “dark shibuya” was somehow slightly charming to me, but it’s reassuring to see the city turning back to how it used to be.



数日前、「暗い」渋谷の画像をあげましたが、今日夕方頃通りがかってみたら、節電警戒が少し緩んだからか、こんな感じでした。 やっぱりスクリーンがあるとなしでは大違いですね。


暗い渋谷も新鮮でしたが、街が少しづつ元の姿に戻っていくのは安心感があります。

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