Tainted Memories

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March 16th 2016
Published: April 17th 2018
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Hello my fellow travellers!

I slept like dead during the night, though before falling asleep my feet did indeed get licked by one of the dogs, but I didn't mind, it reminded me of one of my parents' dogs who used to do that and whom I was very fond of. This day started easy with me and Ryosuke taking a walk together with the dogs, it's something that I promised I would help him with as a thanks for letting me stay with him and I'm enjoying every second of it as his dogs are very nice. On the walk I also visited the small local shrine Mukōjima Akiba Jinja. After the walk me and Ryosuke split up and I headed to the metro to go to Chiyoda.

From Tōkyō Eki, the main station, it's only a short walk straight ahead to get to Kōkyo, the imperial palace in Tokyo, it's built on the site of the former Edo-jō, the seat of the shōgun during the Edo period. It's currently the residence of the imperial family and because of that most of it aren't open to the public, except through guided tours that have to be reserved quite a bit in advance. The park area which contains the remains of Edo-jō is open to the public though and there is quite a bit of interesting sights to be seen there and a lot of history to explore.

The first part of the palace grounds that I came upon was Sannomaru, the easternmost defensive line of the old fort and one that doesn't contain many structures anymore. The first of the few structures that do remain were the first one that came into my view, Tatsumi Yagura, a two-storey high keep, the only one remaining on Sannomaru. Close to it stands the beautiful little gate Kikyōmon.

It wasn't possible to enter here though so I kept walking around the outer structure coming to Sakashitamon, a gate which was the site of an assassination attempt of Andō Nobumasa, a member of the Tokugawa Bakufu council of elders. He was attacked here in 1862 by six rōnin, samurai without a lord, from Mito. He was wounded but survived the attack and afterwards he met with the British Consul-General Rutherford Alcock, still wearing his bandages, this left a strong impression on the British delegate.

Not far from there lies another gate, Sakuradamon, which has a similar story to share. Two years earlier, in 1860, this was the site of the assassination of Ii Naosuke, one of the most influential officials in the Bakufu. He was attacked by 17 rōnin from Mito as well as a samurai from Satsuma, Arimura Jisaemon, whom managed to reach Ii Naosuke's palanquin, drag him out and decapitate him. Following the act Arimura Jisaemon committed seppuku, ritual suicide, to show that the act hadn't been ordered by Satsuma, one more samurai from Satsuma that had been involved in the conflict was later ordered to commit seppuku for the same reason.

Ii Naosuke was an important part of the fudai daimyō, the hereditary daimyō that was in charge of administration in Bakufu and he was perhaps the last one in the Bakufu administration who still displayed the old strength of it. The reason for his assassination was the Ansei Purge between 1858 and 1859 during which he arrested and executed several of the people that had opposed the Bakufu and the Treaty of Amity and Commerce which Ii Naosuke signed into effect in 1858. The signing of the the treaty made his opposition, the tozama and shinpan daimyō, petition directly to the emperor who was strongly against foreigners. This was a clear challenge of the authority of the Bakufu and Ii Naosuke responded harshly and one of those that was put under house arrest and removed from his duties was the daimyō of Mito, Tokugawa Nariaki, one of the leaders of the shinpan and tozama daimyō.

Just a few minutes walk from here another prominent statesman, Ōkubo Toshimichi, was also assassinated. He began his life as a low level retainer in Satsuma, but he would become one of creators of the Satsuma-Chōshū Alliance that would eventually topple the Tokugawa Bakufu. He was a close friend of Saigō Takamori whom I mentioned yesterday, however Ōkubo Toshimichi instituted many reforms against the ruling samurai such as removing their rights to carry swords. Because his and Saigō Takamori's views for the future of Japan had such big differences Saigō Takamori eventually led the discontented samurai of Satsuma in the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877, a rebellion that Ōkubo Toshimichi had to help suppress and which resulted in the death of Saigō Takamori. Because of this Ōkubo Toshimichi was considered a traitor by many of the samurai from Satsuma. He was assassinated in 1878 by Shimada Ichirō and six samurai from Kanazawa. After the assassination all the assassins turned themselves in and was executed.

This was a tumultuous period of time in Japan's history that became known as the Bakumatsu, stretching between 1853 and 1868 and which culminated in the Boshin War between 1868 and 1869. It's a conflict that is kind of hard to wrap my head around since everyone seemed to have different motives for their actions, at the heart of issue though was Japan's long standing isolation policy and the arrival of Commodore Perry in 1853 which began the process of forcing Japan to open up to foreign trade.

However, by the time the war broke out both the emperor and the shōgun had died and the new shōgun had relinquished his political power to the new emperor. Tokugawa still held the most power out of the many clans of Japan but as far as I can tell the provinces/clans/people that wanted political influence had the opportunity to gain it at this point in time. The Provinces that wanted to expel the foreigners had been soundly defeated by three different foreign powers in the retaliatory attacks of 1863 following an attack on an American merchant ship as well as a string of murders of foreign people. Even the emperor had reconsidered his position on the matter and the Sonnō Jōi movement that wanted to expel the foreigners had lost all steam. For me it feels as if there was no true cause left for war by this point, yet there was so much resentments and tensions that it broke out anyway, and even after it broke out it felt like it should have stopped quite quickly since Tokugawa surrendered in only four days, but even so others took up their mantle and continued the fighting. I will talk more about the different sides, people and some of the battles in future blogs as it's far to complex to cover in a single blog and I will be visiting several sites connected to this conflict.

Between the two gates stands the main gate to Kōkyo, Kōkyo Seimon, and it's famous stone bridge Seimon Ishibashi. The gate is under guard and it's not allowed to enter the bridge, since I couldn't really progress further in that direction I decided to turn back now and instead cross into the remains of Edo-jō, today it's known as Kōkyo Azuma Gyoen, the imperial palace east gardens. On my way back though my eyes fell in a very impressive equestrian statue standing on the other side of the road and I decided to check it out.

It turned out to be a statue of Kusunoki Masashige, he was a samurai in service of Emperor Go-Daigo during the Genkō War fought 1331 to 1333 and he is often hailed as a paragon of virtue and loyalty and he was even considered the patron guardian of the kamikaze pilots during World War II. The Genkō War was fought against the Kamakura Bakufu which had been ruling Japan since 1185 instead of the emperors. Unfortunately I won't be visiting Kamakura on this trip but I probably will in the future, I will however visit some sites connected to Kamakura Bakufu so I'll expand on them later.

Emperor Go-Daigo and Kusunoki Masashige won the Genkō War thanks to the aid of one of the generals of Kamakura Bakufu, Ashikaga Takauji, who deserted his leader and helped bring about the demise of the Kamakura Bakufu. After the victory came a brief period where the emperor once again ruled Japan, it became known as the Kenmu Restoration. Unfortunately for Emperor Go-Daigo and Kusunoki Masashige, Ashikaga Takauji wasn't content with being a servant and in 1336 he declared himself shōgun and founded the Ashikaga Bakufu. Emperor Go-Daigo and Kusunoki Masashige fought him but was ultimately defeated in the Battle of Minatogawa in 1336, Kusunoki Masashige, his brother and all his clansmen died while Emperor Go-Daigo managed to retreat to the religious sanctuary of the mountain Hieizan.

What followed was a period known as the Nanbokuchō period, one of the strangest in a series of strange ruling constellations in Japan. It might not tie in to Kusunoki Masashige, since he was already dead by then, but I'll tell you about it anyway because it was so weird. Basically after Ashikaga Takauji defeated Emperor Go-Daigo he went to the undefended Kyoto and installed a new emperor, Emperor Kōmyō, on the throne. However, since Emperor Go-Daigo was still alive and kicking he set up his court in Yoshino instead. This wasn't completely new though, there had technically been a dual emperor's court system in effect since 1272 when Emperor Go-Saga wanted power to be alternated between his two sons' family lines on a 10 year rotation, but it never really worked in practice.

The one that occurred under the Ashikaga Bakufu was different though as it saw both sides having continuous emperors and it stayed in effect until 1392 when the northern Emperor Go-Komatsu defeated the southern Emperor Go-Kameyama and forced him to abdicate. In 1911 though, seeing how having double emperors for a long period of time might seem like a bit of a stain in the history books, an imperial decree declared that the emperors of the northern court was false usurpers (though still descendants of Emperor Go-Saga) and that the southern emperors were the ones with legitimacy. Because of this Emperor Go-Komatsu is officially considered an illegitimate emperor up until 1392 after which he is considered the legitimate 100th emperor of Japan, just to keep things perfectly confusing.

Anyway, near the statue of Kusunoki Masashige I picked up a green tea flavoured ice cream which I ate while traversing the park up to the gate Ōtemon which marks the entrance to Kōkyo Azuma Gyoen and so I finally entered into what remains of Edo-jō. Next to the gate stands a shachihoko, a mythological being with a body of a carp and the head of a tiger, you'll often find these on the roofs of Japanese castles as they were thought to protect the castle from fire with their ability to call down rain.

Next I came upon the three old guardhouses that still exist, Dōshin Bansho, Hyakunin Bansho and Ōbansho, these guardhouses are where the garrison tasked with protecting this part of the castle were stationed. Hyakunin Bansho simply means 100 persons guardhouse which was very accurate since 100 samurai from the four main branch families of the Tokugawa was stationed here. Ōbansho means great guardhouse and was the most important of the three since it was the final checkpoint and it was only occupied by high ranking samurai. Between them is the site of a former gate, Nakanomon, which no longer exists, just the walls that used to lead up to it.

Of the Honmarugoten, the main palace, nothing remains today but it used to be a really massive complex spanning much of the current gardens. It used to consist of three main parts, Ōomote, the great outer palace, Nakaoku, the interior middle, and the Ōoku, the great inner palace, which contained the private residence of the shōgun and his women and which was strictly off limits to others.

Close to there stands a beautiful tower named Fujimi Yagura. It's one of only three of the originally 19 keeps remaining and used to be a popular tower for the shōgun to reside in because of the view of the famous mountain Fujisan.

Just a short bit from there stands a small solitary memorial stone, almost hidden among the vegetation, with an information sign next to it. Unless you take the time to read the sign you might very well miss that you stand at the site which marked the start of one of the most interesting and well known incidents in Japanese history, at least in my view. This memorial stone stands at the former location of the Matsu no Ōrōka, this was a corridor in the former palace where Asano Naganori, the daimyō of Ako, attacked Kira Yoshinaka after an insult. For this the fifth shōgun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, ordered him to commit seppuku, which he did. His province was confiscated by the shōgun and his men became rōnin, this gave birth to one of the greatest feats of loyalty and revenge in history. In a couple of days I will visit Sengaku-ji, the temple where he is buried, and I will expand on this story there in the proper setting, sorry to leave you hanging but that will have to do as a teaser for now.

I also took the opportunity to walk up on the tenshudai, the foundation of the keep that once stood at the centre. It actually only stood for 19 years though before it burned down and it was never rebuilt so for the majority of the time of this castle I guess it's just been this foundation sitting around near the Honmarugoten.

With another short walk around the garden I felt satisfied with my visit and I exited the park through the gate Kita Hanebashimon and walked through the national park Kitanomaru Kōen to reach my next destination, the beautiful but controversial Yasukuni Jinja. On my way through the park I also picked up a box of pocky, a very famous Japanese sweet that I've been longing to test and it was delicious!

As I entered the grounds to Yasukuni Jinja I passed by the statues of three prominent men from the Meiji Restoration, Ōmura Masujirō, Shinagawa Yajirō and Ōyama Iwao. I really recommend you all to have a deeper look at them all as their stories are as fascinating and as contradictory as this period of time was as a whole in Japan, in a way they really embody that period.

For example Shinagawa Yajirō started as the son of an ashigaru, a low ranking foot soldier, and was a member of the Sonnō Jōi, a movement that revered the emperor and sought to expel all foreigners. He came from Chōshū and he was even part of the attack on the British legation in Edo. After the Meiji Restoration he would end up studying in Paris and serving as a diplomat in Germany. Ōmura Masujirō is considered the father of the Japanese army, but he also studied under the first European to teach western medicine in Japan because his father was a doctor and he developed a love for learning and for medicine early in his life. Ōyama Iwao would rise to the highest rank in Japan and was the one responsible for leading the Japanese army to victory against the armies of China and Russia in the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War. At the same time he married Ōyama Sutematsu, a survivor of the Battle of Aizu, despite him fighting against Aizu as a commander for one of the units and being wounded in the battle.

Yasukuni Jinja was built by Emperor Meii in June 1869 after the Boshin War. The purpose of the shrine was to house the souls of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for Japan and the emperor since 1853, the start of the Bakumatsu, up to when Japan signed the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951. To this date there are names of 2,466,532 men, women, children and even various pets inscribed here and more names are added every year as more people that died during World War II are identified. There is also a memorial here dedicated to those that gave their lives on behalf of Japan, including Korean and Taiwanese people who served Japan and up until now there are 27,863 Taiwanese and 21,181 Koreans inscribed here. There have been some requests from families of them to have them removed from the inscription but the priests say that once they are inscribed they are merged with the other kami inscribed here and can't be removed.

Some of the notable names inscribed here includes Sakamoto Ryōma, Nakaoka Shintarō, Takechi Hanpeita, Yoshida Shōin and Takasugi Shinsaku. They were all fascinating men who gave their lives for the emperor during the Bakumatsu and the Meiji Restoration and I will expand on them in future posts. Everyone who is inscribed here is done so very meticulously, with their name, origin, birth date and place of death being written down by hand.

This shrine however does not enshrine the names of those that died fighting on behalf of the Tokugawa Bakufu and the Ōuetsu Reppan Alliance, this includes such forces as the Shōgitai that I mentioned yesterday as well as the famous Shinsengumi which had many fascinating members that I will also expand on later as one of their leaders died in a very spectacular way. Another name that is missing from those inscribed is Saigō Takamori, the reason is because even though he did fight for the emperor during the Boshin War he did then take up arms against the emperor in the Satsuma Rebellion.

Not far from the main shrine stands a smaller shrine, Chinreisha, this one was built to soothe the spirits of all those who have died in wars across the world regardless of their nationality. This is where the fallen of the Tokugawa Bakufu and the Ōuetsu Reppan Alliance are interred as well as all the civilians that have died since the main shrine only enshrines people that have been in service of the emperor and not civilians. There is also a theatre for performances, Nōgakudo. It used to stand in Shiba Kōen, a park here in Tokyo, before it was moved here in 1903, this is used to perform for the souls that are enshrined here.

There is much controversy around this shrine though since it also inscribes the names of 1,068 people convicted or war crimes, including 14 Class A war criminals. The reason for this is because in Shintoism anyone who fights on behalf of the emperor are inscribed, and given a permanent residence in this shrine as an eirei, a hero spirit.

Almost every year the controversy is renewed as officials visit this shrine, often as private individuals, which is viewed unfavourably by especially China but also by the United States of America and South Korea. Some Japanese statesmen has thus vowed never to visit the shrine, such as former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. Even Emperor Hirohito stopped visiting the shrine from 1978 until his death in 1989 expressively because of the enshrinement of the war criminals which was done secretly, the class A war criminals were originally left of the list of people enshrined. This boycott of the shrine is continued by his son Emperor Akihito.

While I understand the controversy I don't feel that it's right to boycott the shrine, there are many souls here that I feel deserve the visit of their emperor and their officials, outweighing those of the war criminals. If anything, perhaps there could be a way to amend the records to remove the enshrinement of the war criminals, that would feel like a better alternative moving forward, but of course, as mentioned earlier this is not possible under the current circumstances.

At the shrine grounds are many memorials such as Irei no Izumi, meant to represent a mother offering water, which is dedicated to soldiers that died of thirst. Behind the fountain is a set of stones called Senseki no Ishi which is collected from various battlegrounds. There are monuments to the animals which aided the Japanese in the war such as dogs, horses and carrier pigeons, named Gungen Ireizō, Senbotsuba Ireizō and Kyūkontō respectively. A statue dedicated to the kamikaze pilots and a statue depicting a war widow with her children, called Haha no Zō, and even a memorial dedicated to the Indian justice Radhabinod Pal, he was the only one during the war tribunals who submitted a judgement that not all defendants was guilty of war crimes.

After offering up my respects at the shrine I walked around the premise for a while, visiting the various memorials before I went into Yūshūkan, the museum dedicated to the souls of those fallen in service to the emperor. It was established already in 1882, making it perhaps the oldest war museum in the world. The museum has also been quite criticised over the years for being revisionist about the history of Japan before and during World War II and glorifying it's empire days.

As I entered the museum my eyes fell upon a true treasure, a real Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane, a really gorgeous but deadly piece of equipment. When it was introduced it was the most capable carrier-based fighter in the world and it really showed in the early stages of the war until the American aircraft caught up. As a history geek I must admit that this is probably my second favourite plane ever created, the first one being the iconic Spitfire of the RAF.

Two other interesting sights in here are the Kaiten, a manned suicide torpedo, and Ōka, a manned flying suicide bomb dropped from a bomb plane. I stayed in here for several hours, going through all the interesting mementos left behind by the fallen. Despite the controversy surrounding this place I found it to be an interesting and well curated museum and can certainly recommend a visit.

As I left Yūshūkan I made my way into the small strolling garden, Shinchi Teien, that is located behind the shrine. It's not large but it is truly splendid and soothing for the soul. Within the gardens are also a sumo ring, Sumōjō, unfortunately there was no exhibition here during my visit, otherwise they are usually held here during spring festivals and are free of charge. It's not unusual that the matches even feature grand champions which would have been amazing to see.

There are also several tea houses here, Kōuntei, Senshintei and Seisentei which are all really beautiful. Kōuntei used to belong to Nippon To Tanren Kai, a sword manufacturer during World War II and over 8,000 swords were forged here during 12 years. The forge used by them are still in use by the Society for the Preservation of Japanese Art Sword since 1977.

After walking around the garden and visiting the various parts of the shrine I started to feel hungry and made my way to a small local restaurant and ate a delicious bowl of noodles while chatting a bit with the owner who helped me order from the machine. These ordering machines are really convenient, he just helped me identify what was what, he was really nice and friendly and the food was great.

With some food in my belly I made my way to the nearest subway station, I must confess that I am impressed by the precision of the train drivers in Japan. Across the platforms are doors to prevent people from jumping in front of the trains and they stop with eerie precision in front of the doors and everyone goes in and out in an orderly fashion, clean and efficient. In Sweden it's the complete opposite, there are no trace of any markings on the platforms so you'll find yourself consistently running for a door, the trains are often delayed and people are stressed and blocking the doors for each other going in an out, yet somehow Sweden tries to pass itself of as an efficient nation, we're dreadfully lacking compared to Japan.

I then took the subway out to Hie Jinja a shrine that is located beautifully on top of a hill overlooking the bustling city below. It was founded by Ōta Dōkan in 1478, however due to World War II the current buildings date to 1958. Inside the shrine is one sword that is designated as a National Treasure as well as 13 swords and one naginata that are designated as Important Cultural Assets. The shrine is also a very popular location for the coming-of-age festival Shichi-Go-San.

Unfortunately the shrine had just closed down by the time I reached it so I could only see it from the outside. I was lucky enough though to meet a lovely elderly lady and a miko, Shintoist priestess, which was very nice. After my visit to the shrine I was drawn in by the city lights of the bustling city below so I just walked around for a while, enjoying the feel of Tokyo without any specific aim.

However, eventually the time came when I had to get going to meet Ryosuke, as well as another couch surfer, Tran from Vietnam who is working in Japan, whom he was taking an evening jog with. Unfortunately, I found that I had manged to get a bit lost while walking around. I was lucky though to find a nice gentleman who led me all the way to a parking garage where he picked up his car and then he drove me to the station where I was going to meet Ryosuke and Tran and thanks to him I made it just in time.

Since they were all sweaty from their jog we went together to another sentō and I enjoyed it as much today as I did yesterday. This experience is something that can not be overstated, when you're here you have to go to a sentō or onsen, you've never felt so clean or relaxed in your life as you do here.

After our bath we all had some ice cream before we followed Ryosuke to start hitting the various izakaya and other establishments. He is really knows all the great spots where you get amazing food and drinks at affordable prices. I'm not quite sure how many places we went to but we kept hopping around, finding new and amazing dishes everywhere we went and meeting wonderful people as we kept going. We all had a real blast together and Tran invited me to come stay with him in Nagano on my next trip to Japan, something I will definitely take him up on! I also found what might just become my new favourite food, sakuraniku, it literally means cherry blossom meat, it's raw horse meat and it was so delicious, something I certainly wasn't expecting. In Sweden nothing is eaten raw, everything is cooked to a fault (except at high end restaurants where you can get beef done rare at least). But here you can really indulge in the world of raw food and it's delicious!

While we were out and walking around, moving from place to place, I also managed to stumble into Shitaya Jinja, a beautiful shrine dedicated to Inari, the god/goddess of fertility in Shintoism. This shrine dates all the way back to 730 and was originally located in Ueno Kōen but was moved to make way for the temple Kaneiji in 1627.

All in all it was a truly enjoyable evening/night and at the end of it Tran returned to his while me and Ryosuke wrapped by walking the dogs and sharing a cup of evening tea before bed. Today was my last night with Ryosuke and it was a hell of a great way to end it!

It was however not my last day in Tokyo, Ryosuke simply didn't have the possibility to host me for the last night on this trip so instead I will be staying with a German guy named Christian for my last night in Tokyo. He's been living and working in Japan for many years and I look forward to meeting him, although it will just be for one night and we'll meet quite late since he's busy with work.

Tomorrow ill be a busy day as I will be visiting sights in Shibuya, Shinjuku, Bunkyō and Chiyoda. I'll primarily visit two shrines in particular, the Meiji Jingū and Kanda Jinja, both of them have very interesting historical records so I look forward to it very much. I will also visit some other interesting sights as well as pay my respects to someone very special and I'll also visit the anime haven of Akihabara, I believe it will be another truly enjoyable day.

Until tomorrow I wish you all peace and happy travels!

Additional photos below
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17th April 2018

History of Japan
Another fascinating chapter in your annals of the History of Japan, Per-Olof. I am fascinated by Yasukuni Jinja, the shrine whose purpose was to house the souls of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for Japan since 1853 . How are the names of 2,466,532 men, women, children and even various pets inscribed here? Sounds like a lot of names and effort to record in stone or in handwriting or otherwise.
18th April 2018

History of Japan
Thank you my dancing friend. They are indeed inscribed by hand in writing, and not only their names but also their origin, birth dates and place of death. I went back and expanded a bit on that section of the post, also adding some of the names that are inscribed and some that are not. ;-)
18th April 2018
Subway Station

It works! How's that even possible?
We were in Japan a few years ago. We absolutely loved it and we want to go back again in the near future. I noticed something fascinating in the Tokyo metro. In the most busy stations they have rectangles painted on the platform and in the rectangles there are lines drawn perpendicular to the train. The lines indicates where people are allowed to stand and wait for the trains to arrive. People enter the rectangles and patiently wait their turn. When the first rectangle in full people may stand and wait in a second one which is painted next to it. The first rectangle in labelled "first train" and the second rectangle is labelled "second train". When a train arrives the people in the first rectangle board the train and the people in the second rectangle move over to the first rectangle and wait for the next train. The crazy thing is - it works! How's that even possible? /Ake
19th April 2018
Subway Station

It works! How's that even possible?
I know, it's really amazing looking at it with our Swedish eyes, we're nowhere even remotely near to that precision! But there is a whole different level of respect in Japan, both to your fellow citizens but also to your profession. I mean just how the staff bows to the train as it comes into the station or the staff bows when they enter an exits the cars.
18th April 2018

Horse meat
What an amazing introduction you had to Japan! I had no idea horse meat was a thing in Japan. Is that wasabi on the side? You've also reminded me of how much I used to love Pocky. I'll need to look for some :)
19th April 2018

Horse meat
You can find so much fascinating and delicious food in Japan, I kept being amazed by the food for the whole trip. :) I love pocky as well and we've finally gotten them at my local candy shop! :D
21st April 2018

Japanese History
Wow, you certainly know your Japanese history - very impressive! I'm a big fan myself of reading up about the history of a country before visiting it, it certainly helps you to understand the country in the modern day.
21st April 2018

Japanese History
I agree fully my friend. Learning about the history of where I go is a big part of the enjoyment. :) Japan holds a special place in my heart though of course, but so much of the history here is a lot more complex and deep than first meets the eye and I'm constantly finding myself challenged on everything I thought I knew. :D

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