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James Barker




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Apr, 2008 12:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I cannot believe this topic is still going and I cannot believe someone thinks the Japanese would have an advantage in the 16th when their armor was WAY behind at that time and their cannon/gun tech was way WAY behind the Europeans at that time. The Europeans were selling all their out of date crap to the Japanese in the late 16th and 17th centuries which is why Japanese armor starts looking somewhat European; it is European armor refitted; peascod breastplates and cabasset helmets are part of tons of late Japanese armors.
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Darryl Aoki





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PostPosted: Thu 03 Apr, 2008 1:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James Barker wrote:
I cannot believe this topic is still going and I cannot believe someone thinks the Japanese would have an advantage in the 16th when their armor was WAY behind at that time and their cannon/gun tech was way WAY behind the Europeans at that time. The Europeans were selling all their out of date crap to the Japanese in the late 16th and 17th centuries which is why Japanese armor starts looking somewhat European; it is European armor refitted; peascod breastplates and cabasset helmets are part of tons of late Japanese armors.


This isn't entirely true, as I believe that the Japanese started making solid cuirasses before receiving examples from the Europeans. Additionally, some Japanese armourers manufactured copies of European armor, adding bits to make them more compatible (for lack of a better term) with Japanese armor. I remember seeing a photo of a cabasset with holes punched in the back (or front; the armorer had turned the helmet around) to hang a shikoro from.
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Bennison N




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Apr, 2008 3:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, I've seen that too. I've actually never seen Western armour used by Japanese soldiers which has NOT been somehow modified.

A traditional Japanese armour still allows for use of a bow, which previous (in history) to the sword was a Samurai's prime weapon. I've read accounts (from opponents...) of Samurai archers cutting flags from the top of ship's masts with single arrows. That sort of accuracy would suggest excellent potential against armoured horsemen.

Meanwhile, although no-one can deny their skill, Europeans had a whole separate division of the army for archers, and not many Knights were skilled in the use of bows. Therefore, European armour did not evolve for use of a bow. The range of movement available with Japanese armour would seem to be much better. And regardless of your personal opinion on Japanese weapons, Japanese armour still managed to deflect and absorb those blows... Otherwise the design would've been discarded, not continued for 1000 years with only minor changes.

I don't think a comparison of equipment is helpful for deciding the outcome of a battle like this. Both sides were excellently equipped.

I also think that the previous little divergence regarding Ninja is relevant. Samurai were bound to act honourably so as not to embarrass their employer and family. So it begs the moral question: Is sending an assassin the same thing as assassinating someone yourself?

The reason I ask is that I suspect that previous to a battle against Gaijin in big metal suits, Ninja spies and assassins would've been sent in droves. It seems a logical step for Samurai to take.

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Bob Burns




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Apr, 2008 4:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A samurai against a knight in plate armor? That's just laughable to me. The knight could just stand there and watch the samurai beat his blade into a banged up length of steel and just laugh at him. Samurai Katanas do not cut 16 gauge tempered steel.

Ridiculous topic in my opinion!

Bob

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James Barker




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Apr, 2008 7:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Now you guys are assuming the penetration power of the Japanese bow was the same as the European longbow when that is not true at all; the longbow was much more powerful and armor still defeated the European longbow for the most part and you are still ignoring the European use of cannons and gonnes at this time.

Fact is the Japanese entered into an arms race with themselves buying up European arms and armor when trade opened up.

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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Apr, 2008 8:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bob Burns wrote:
A samurai against a knight in plate armor? That's just laughable to me. The knight could just stand there and watch the samurai beat his blade into a banged up length of steel and just laugh at him. Samurai Katanas do not cut 16 gauge tempered steel.

Ridiculous topic in my opinion!

Bob


The samurai armor I saw at the Met museum in NY seemed on par with European plate armor. You can't just cut through that material with a sword. Some of the Japanese armor included mettle breast plates and other pieces in mettle. The armor covered the whole body and the only vulnerable spots where inside the elbow, back of the knee and armpits. What we can not know for either Japanese nor Europeans is what percentage of men on the battlefield were in full plate.

Unless one side had a significantly higher percentage of men in armor, I don't think armor would be the deciding factor.

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
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Grayson C.




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Apr, 2008 9:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James Barker wrote:
Now you guys are assuming the penetration power of the Japanese bow was the same as the European longbow when that is not true at all; the longbow was much more powerful and armor still defeated the European longbow for the most part and you are still ignoring the European use of cannons and gonnes at this time.

Fact is the Japanese entered into an arms race with themselves buying up European arms and armor when trade opened up.


Not to mention the fact that tanged arrow heads lacked the strength of socketted ones. Japanese arrows would almost certainly splinter against armour, making it that much less likely that arrows will do anything.

One can argue all they like that the samurai were these nimlbe lithe cats, but the fact is 1.) they weren't and 2.) if they were, it's like pitting a cheetah agains an abrams tank. Even if the tank doens't fire, it's still going to win.
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Christopher Lee




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Apr, 2008 4:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bob Burns wrote:
A samurai against a knight in plate armor? That's just laughable to me. The knight could just stand there and watch the samurai beat his blade into a banged up length of steel and just laugh at him. Samurai Katanas do not cut 16 gauge tempered steel.

Ridiculous topic in my opinion!

Bob


Totally agree, this time waster has already been done and redone; it is in the same catergory as the ninja/pirate debate, or vacuous hypothetical debates about if alexander the great could have won the battle of waterloo. Not only is it pointless from a historical perspective it is fundamentally irresolvable and could potentially go on forever just based upon people's personal points of view about who was faster, tougher, taller, shorter, heavier, lighter, had longer blades, stronger blades, bigger horses, faster horses, stronger bows, better diet, stronger teeth, better personal hygene and so on ad nauseum.
Can we please move on now.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Fri 04 Apr, 2008 5:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Folks,
If you do not like a topic and/or have nothing of value to add to a topic, then feel free to stay out of the topic. People obviously want to discuss it, even if you don't.

And consider this: posting in the topic only serves to continue to bump it to the top of the page, give it more attention, and ultimately help keep it going...

Happy

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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Apr, 2008 8:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Agreed. It is a worthwhile topic to discus and we also have to be aware that no matter how many times it might have come up before there are always new people joining this forum who have not had a chance to participate in this discussion.

Here is a photo of samurai armor. I don't think you would find it any easier to cut with a sword then European armor.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/15965815@N00/246610374

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Apr, 2008 8:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One way to look at a topic like this is that no final definite answer is possible and insisting on one is futile.

What can be useful is that in the discussions one can arrive at and play with interesting questions.

The disagreements themselves bring out interesting facts, opinions and misinformation that can be challenged.

The totally impossible comparisons, in a historical context, can still be interesting in a weapons design or tactical systems way in my opinion.

To give a completely different example of this type of speculation I could give the following: If aviation hadn't been invented how would have battleships evolved after 1906 ? Bigger guns, no need to worry about airpower, no aircraft carriers replacing the battleship as the most important type of warship .........

Anyway, just an example to make my point. Wink Laughing Out Loud ( Should by some odd miracle someone else thinks that this is an interesting subject it should become a NEW Topic and not derail this one. Wink )

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Bennison N




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Apr, 2008 11:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James Barker wrote:
I cannot believe this topic is still going...


Bob Burns wrote:
Ridiculous topic in my opinion!


Christopher Lee wrote:
Totally agree, this time waster has been done and redone...


LIGHTEN UP BOYS!! Mad

Threads like theoretical match-ups are a lot of fun. Everyone has their opinion.

My opinion is that there is no way in hell that a Knight can beat a Samurai every time. To add to this, Samurai are warriors first and foremost, whatever their secondary occupation is. There's no way they are going to try and cut through the armour once someone they know has tried it, they are going to figure out ways to go around the problem, aren't they? They may even see how Europeans kill each other and mimic that... kind of like how they adopted the steel armour when they saw it was good. Not better, just good...

I mean, what kind of fighting is that? Slash away at armoured areas... hoping your sword blade is stronger than the steel plates? That's NO-BRAIN fighting. Surely you give a class of people bred for hundreds of years, solely for fighting, more credit than THAT? And that way has got to be incredibly expensive, what with all the swords you will WASTE...

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Apr, 2008 1:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Tic wrote:
Most medieval armies were consisted of men at arms,who came from lower layers of society.
They were standard infantry,wearing everything from everyday clothing to heavy armour.


Just to clear up this extremely common misconception, "man-at-arms" was not the term for the run-of-the-mill expendable common soldier in medieval Europe. Instead, it signified the armored and mounted elite, which modern people would usually call "knights." This is not even a product of the modern penchant for precise classification--the elite was simply what the men-at-arms were according to the genuine medieval definition. So please start using the term in the correct sense rather than repeating the mistake perpetuated by so much bad literature and so many games.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Apr, 2008 7:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On the subject of armour and how to attack it, one can find the Japanese point of view (well, one point of view at least) in these videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9HR7TTOReE towards the end
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEeW-CFyJVc right at the beginning

Risuke Otake is the chief instructor of one of the oldest schools of kenjutsu, and I'm willing to take his word about the ways to attack Japanese armour. Some of these could work against European plate armour depending on the specific type... But I still believe the samurai would have a harder time adapting to the European armour than the reverse.

Anyhow arguing that the Japanese armour is more supple, lighter, but still equally as protective as the European one is fundamentally flawed in my opinion. It is an insult to the intelligence of European armour makers, who knew of all the techniques used by the Japanese and actually chose not to use them when they turned to plate armour.

The whole comparison is flawed in fact, because Japanese weapons and armour evolved in a relatively isolated context in a rather conservative culture. If pulled out of this context, it's not astonishing to see them perform less. They take into account limitations that were not applicable to Europe, I imagine, for example climate, land use, resource limitation (quantity and quality of iron, workforce), perhaps even less heavy horses?

The problem in this topic is that no conclusion will ever be satisfactory. If we conclude that the Japanese warriors would consistently loose to their European counterparts, plenty of people will consider that an insult to Japanese people as if it implied they were less strong or less intelligent. Of course this is not the case, and the reason can very well be that the context imposed limitations on what they could do. But very few people acknowledge that and seem to think the warriors are the only one that matter even though the whole society and land is leveraged to equip and train them.

So we'll find plenty of tricks that Japanese warrior could use to overcome the material limitations, in turn making him look more skilled than the Knight, which of course is not perceived well at all, and rightfully so, by those familiar with the sophistication of European techniques. Which is pretty much what Bennison did in his last post, with all the talk of a "class of people bred for hundreds of years, solely for fighting", that applies exactly to European warriors as well Happy

Of course the arranged freeplay proposed here will not solve anything, because the individuals will not be statistically significant and will not fight to death. So there will be rules and opinions about which attack is valid, and we'll be exactly back to square one. Frankly I can't blame kenjutsu practitionners that refuse to take part, and I don't really see what the WMA guy has to gain either appart from some fun sparring and media attention.

It's quite likely that all this has already been said earlier... Well, it bears repeating Wink

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Apr, 2008 3:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Once Japan started trading with Europe we see Japan adopting a lot of European weapons and armour but we see very little European adoption of Japanese gear. Either the Europeans were too conservative to adopt foreign ideas (a notion that is demonstrably false) or Japanese gear and tactics were inferior to what the Europeans were already using.
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Kelly Powell




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PostPosted: Mon 07 Apr, 2008 2:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While I have to go with europe on this match up.... a good solid condotteri is going to fight in a way that the samurai would consider uncouth(ganging up, not running off the field to collect the head bounty.... using pavises and swine feathers to keep cav off of their crossbowmen) I got to say that the common misconception here is that the samurai is going to use his katana as primary weapon....they had pretty good two handed morning stars and great axes and great swords(no dachai?) along withtheir pikes lances and spears.
While euro heavy cav would be better then the japanese equivilent, the japanes had better light cav and would cause pretty good damage to infantry and should be able to keep away from the slower euro cav.....Maybe even taking a page from the mongols and false retreat them until they got them spread out and then kill their horses from under them.
I would say that they were equal when it came to pikemen....Did the japanes have the equivelent to the landshnekt(sp) or other pike chopper units?
One thing that has not been brought up....Did the japanese have better field sanitation then the europeans? Since disease killed more soldiers then weapons ever did, would they be better off in a prolonged campain?
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Paul B.





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PostPosted: Mon 07 Apr, 2008 6:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think everyone is ignoring the deciding factor in such a contest, which would be the tactics used. The Japanese would be at a decided disadvantage tactically, as their standard offensive tactic was to charge and then fight man to man. But note that samurai used much lighter spears than the standard western lance. Knights charged en mass - forty men deep was considered ideal - and the shock action of the larger men with heavier armor on much heavier horses would be decisive in the initial press of the combat. Essentially, the samurai would get mulched under in the front line, not being trained for that kind of shock assault. Afterwards, the western knights would still have a greater advantage because they used shields. Even on foot, sword to sword with no other factors, a trained warrior with a sword and a shield is going to defeat a man with just a sword. Allowing for differing levels of skill, it won't mean he will always win, but the odds will favor the man with the shield, especially if his enemy has no experience fighting against one.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Mon 07 Apr, 2008 12:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are actually several detailed accounts apparently of pitched battles between Spanish and Japanese forces, including Samurai, in the 16th century. Not just Waco pirates. A couple of excerpts were printed in the Book "Samurai William", about the Englishman William Adams who lived and died in Japan and ended up reaching high status as an advisor to the Shogun.

http://www.amazon.com/Samurai-William-English...0374253854

From the descriptions in the book, it sounds like the Spanish came out on top of the land engagements decisively. There is one long description of a Spansh defeat, a pitched battle in Nagasaki harbor between a large Spanish trading vessel, and the forces of a local Damiyo. The Capitan of the Spanish ship had overseen a massacre of Japanese troops in the Phillipines after they had gone on a "rampage" killing filipinos. His arrival in the Portuguese port in Nagasaki with a huge cargo of extremely valuable silk was ill timed and a series of incidents led to a concerted boarding attempt. Apparently for three days the ship tried to get out of the harbor fending off repeated full scale attacks from the Samurai, who finally managed to board the ship and set it on fire on the final day, only to have said Capitan blow the magazine killing all aboard.

I know there is also a detailed account somewhere of a ship-board battle between English sailors and marines vs Japanese pirates. IIRC the Japanese apparently got the drop on the English sailors by boarding the ship under friendly pretense of a parlay, and then attacking from sheathed swords, but then were forced into the hold with bills and 'pikes' after which small cannon were brought up to finish them off with grapeshot.

Several other smaller engagements with English, Portuguese and Dutch soldiers were mentioned in Samurai William. The book also mentioned that the Dutch apparently employed Ronin mercenaries as bodyguards in Indonesia.

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 10 Apr, 2008 11:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kelly Powell wrote:
While I have to go with europe on this match up.... a good solid condotteri is going to fight in a way that the samurai would consider uncouth(ganging up, not running off the field to collect the head bounty.... using pavises and swine feathers to keep cav off of their crossbowmen)


Duh. Where did you get the idea that samurai would consider such things uncouth on the battlefield? Before the (relatively) peaceful Tokugawa era, such dirty tricks were considered perfectly acceptable by the Japanese warrior aristocracy, and in fact they were widely used in war. Remember the chevaux-de-frise deployed at the Battle of Nagashino? Or Yoshitsune's dirty tricks at...well, almost every battle in which he commanded the Minamoto forces?


Quote:
I got to say that the common misconception here is that the samurai is going to use his katana as primary weapon....they had pretty good two handed morning stars and great axes and great swords(no dachai?) along withtheir pikes lances and spears.


So did the European man-at-arms....


Quote:
While euro heavy cav would be better then the japanese equivilent, the japanes had better light cav and would cause pretty good damage to infantry and should be able to keep away from the slower euro cav.....Maybe even taking a page from the mongols and false retreat them until they got them spread out and then kill their horses from under them.


Ehm. Most European armies at the time also had decent contingents of light cavalry, mind you. For example, an 11th-century Norman in full armor (hauberk, helmet, and shield) was still perfectly mobile enough to scout and raid behind the enemy lines, while later on--when armor had become more complete and rather heavier--the men-at-arms frequently took off their armor to engage in classic light cavalry raids and scouting expeditions. We haven't even begun to mention the hobelars, the mounted crossbowmen, the jinetes, the muntatores, and all the other sorts of light cavalry available to medieval and Renaissance European armies...

If anything, it was the Japanese who would have suffered from a lack of light cavalry. The samurai were heavy cavalry, mind you, in spite of their use of bows--these bows were not only used in skirmishing actions, but also to shoot ahead at the enemy in an all-out charge.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 10 Apr, 2008 11:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul B. wrote:
The Japanese would be at a decided disadvantage tactically, as their standard offensive tactic was to charge and then fight man to man.


Only if you believe the fictional romances more than the historical sources. At least by the 15th century, the samurai had learned to operate in massed, disciplined formations--there was no other way for them to survive when armies were rapidly increasing in size and sophistication.


Quote:
Knights charged en mass - forty men deep was considered ideal


Charging en masse was indeed the preferred tactical employment for European men-at-arms, but definitely not all of them fought in formations forty men deep. The only evidence we have for formations this deep are (possibly) mentions of Teutonic Knights using "swine-head" formations in the 13th century or so and of several German formations charging in deep wedges in the late 15th century--note that both examples point to Germany, at the far eastern edge of what most people would consider the core cultural area of medieval Western Europe. Elsewhere, we see plenty of evidence for shallower formations that saw its culmination in the thin en haye lines of 16th-century French gendarmes.


Quote:
Afterwards, the western knights would still have a greater advantage because they used shields.


Again, it depends on what kind of "knight." A Norman miles would have carried a large shield, and so would have a Crusader. But the shield became steadily smaller and lighter until the adoption of full plate harnesses prompted their abandonment in the 15th century. So not all of the men-at-arms that the samurai faced would have had shields, although it might be argued that the later men-at-arms in full plate might actually be better protected than earlier ones who still had to carry shields....


Quote:
Even on foot, sword to sword with no other factors, a trained warrior with a sword and a shield is going to defeat a man with just a sword. Allowing for differing levels of skill, it won't mean he will always win, but the odds will favor the man with the shield, especially if his enemy has no experience fighting against one.


1. Try to read the numerous threads on "longsword vs. sword-and-shield" and similar topics on this forum.

2. Massed combat operates under somewhat different parameters than the ones that apply in single combat, so even if your assertion was true it would not necessarily be applicable to a massed encounter on the battlefield.

3. Realistically, an early man-at-arms would probably have carried a spear as well as a sword to use in conjunction with the shield when fighting on foot, while later ones would usually have carried a poleaxe or a similar polearm as the primary weapon for close combat on foot. Similarly, the samurai would have had the choice of many other weapons beside the sword, including the naginata, the spear, and the bow--all of which were more likely to be the weapon of first contact than the sword.


This topic is tiring me, because it seems practically impossible to get people to believe that it's...well, impossible to resolve the question in a decisive manner if we're just pottering around on theoretical grounds. Why isn't anybody else taking Jean's approach of looking out for sources that describe actual large-scale confrontations between Japanese and European armies within the period in question?

(I'm guilty of the same mistake, but at least I have a simple explanation: I'm lazy. And in any case I'm trying hard not to draw any hasty and overly definitive conclusions myself.)
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