A Travellerspoint blog

Next Destination of a Travelling Henro

Next stop: SOUTH KOREA

NEW BLOG! The Right Way to Travel: 대한민국

Hello, hello!

It has been over a year since I've traveled to Japan and explored the amazing things it has to offer. Now it is time for a new destination. From August 23 - September 18, I will be travelling to South Korea on an Exploration Seminar with the University of Washington. I will be going to Seoul and Busan to observe the health impacts from immigration in Korea and how assimilation into a different culture changes the health of these immigrants.


I've decided to make a new blog -The Right Way to Travel: 대한민국. In this blog, I will record everything I will be doing, crazy raw things I will be eating, and the amazing people I will be meeting. I won't be sleeping in temples or biking under tunnels, but I do plan on Couchsurfing and eating live squirming octopuses!

Come follow me through this blog to see the relaxing, beautiful, and crazy trip to South Korea with me!

READ. SUBSCRIBE. FOLLOW. SHARE!

Posted by thewongway 23:03 Comments (1)

The Dilemma in Narita

Day 31: Narita

rain 17 °C

JAPANESE VERSION UPDATED!

日本に出るよ!でも、出る前に問題に会った。「KAYAK」と言うウェブサイトに買った航空券はやばい!私たちの航空券は日本からホンコンまで行くつもり。ホンコンに着く前にベトナムにフライト乗り継ぎをするつもりにだった。でも、日本からホンコンまで直行便はもっと短くて弁理にだった。だから、そのフライト予定がおかしいと思って、ふくざつに成った。

でも、大きい問題があった。ベトナムに荷物がピックアップをしなければならなかった。でも、ベトナムへ入る前にビザが要った!だから荷物をとりかえ取り出さなかった。。。やばい。T^T

3時間空港のチェックインカウンターに立って、待って、最悪なポシビリティーを全部考えた。やばいやばいやばい!!!

色々なオプションがあった。

1) 別の飛行をスイッチをする (23900円ぐらい)
2) 別の航空券を買う (159000円ぐらい)
3) 成田空港で荷物を残して、ホンコンへ行く。シアトルに帰る前に飛行機の乗り継ぎが成田空港だ。その時に荷物をピックアップして。(プライスがしらない)。

一番のチョイスが一番安くて簡単だから、チェックインのスタッフはいっぱい電話をしたり、チェンジをしたりする。オリジナルの飛行機のフライトはまだ10分で私たちはまだチェックインカウンターにいた。どうしてこんな事がおこれますか?!私たちは最後の日本のパンを食べて、空港に待った。怖い気持ちだった!
。。。でも、ミラクルに起こった!ユナイテッド航空は別の飛行をスイッチをした!そして、スイッチをする事がむりょうだった!私たちもホンコンにもっと早く着く!よかった!
こんにちは、ホンコン!さいようなら、日本!待った来月!

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We’re finally leaving NIPPON! Our last time carries all these things by ourselves! Last time running around the train station like hobos... I mean, henros!

But of course, two henros cannot leave Nippon so easily. I have to thank Kayak the website for selling such "WONDERFUL" flight arrangements and made us almost have a heart attack before boarding! We ordered a two tickets going from US to Japan, then from Japan to Hong Kong, and back to US. However, going to HK from Japan, we had to stop in Vietnam for layover, even though it’s actually closer just going directly to Hong Kong. We will arrive in Vietnam at 5pm and stay overnight until the plane to HK arrives at 9am. Now this is where the problem lies.

Since we’re staying overnight at Vietnam, they cannot send our luggage directly to HK and we will have to pick them up in Vietnam. In order to go to the luggage area, we have to get visas for Vietnam. For Vietnam, you must apply for their visas BEFOREHAND. Since we thought about staying in the Vietnam airport overnight, we didn’t think we would need a visa. So we’re going to arrive at Hong Kong safely. It’s the fact that OUR LUGGAGE WILL BE STUCK IN VIETNAM! That’s what you get with cheap airfare tickets.

So we were stuck in Narita airport with the flight attendants. We arrived extra early, so we would have time to spare, right? WONG... I mean WRONG! One hour led to two hour and then to three. We were standing in the check-in area for three hours and no updates. The flight attendants made calls to the Vietnam ambassador, but he wasn’t available. We came down to a couple of options:

1) Switch into another flight with minimum cost (additional $500 for two)
2) Buy new airplane tickets to Hong Kong (additional $2000 for two)
3) Leave our stuff in Narita airport while we’re in HK and pick them back up after we return to Narita airport for layover (price unknown).

Since option one was the cheapest and easiest, the flight attendants made many arrangements, calls, and approvals. We only had 10 minutes until our original flight, so now, we’re stuck here in Narita. Right when we were finally done with our trip in Japan, nothing is going right. Is this really the last goodbye gift that Daishi-san gave us? While munching on our last loaf of Japanese bread in the check-in station, a miracle happened.

The flight attendant came and got us into a new flight that goes directly to Hong Kong… FOR FREE! And we arrive to HK a whole day earlier! We thanked all the flight attendants who have helped us! However, we only had 30 minutes left until it boarded, so we quickly passed the pesky security and rushed to the gate.

Nothing was possible if it weren't for our lovely flight attendants!
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We’re finally heading out!

KEY NOTES:
1) Look at the flight conditions BEFORE you buy your plane tickets, especially if they were cheap.
2) Cheap tickets aren't always the best options.
3) Darumas in Japanese airports aren't too expensive!
4) Airplane food in from Japanese flights are VERY tasty!

Posted by thewongway 04.08.2012 11:02 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo narita henro Comments (0)

Whale Meat, Anyone?

Day 26-30: Tokyo

overcast 17 °C

日本語 (For English, scroll down ↓)

4日間東京にショートステイした。原宿と新宿区にウィンドウショッピングしただけ。高すぎると思った。でも、他の面白い所へ行った。

横浜中華街:

まゆさんと中華街に会った。久しぶりですよ!変なかった!まゆさんはまだ私のわにでしょう!ははは!
日本の中華街は面白かった。たくさんパンダの物を売って、大きくて素晴しい門があって、中華街は全部赤にだった。いっぱいツーリストがいて、中華街に住んでいる人があまりいなかった。もちろん、关帝庙にいって、たくさんツーリストがいた。
日本に中国の食べ物が高かった!美味しくてジューシーなシャオロンパオを食べた。

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浅草:

浅草に有名な浅草寺へ行って大きくて赤い灯籠を見た。でも浅草寺に付いて前に仲見世を歩く行った。たくさん美味しい食べ物やかかわいいマスクやゆかたや色々なおみやげを買ってもいい。仲見世はホンコンのような町と思った。

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ジブリ美術館:

マジカル。経験は言葉が記述する事は出来なかった。夢の世界に入ったと思った。美術館の前に大きいトトロがあった!でも、美術館の中に写真とビデオをとる事はだめだった。残念ですね。ねこのバスに入って色々な美しいふうけいなえを見えた。そして、みやざきさんのへやのリプリケーションに見た。みやざきさんの吸ったタバコと、いっぱい古いスケッチと、尽きるペンがあった。そして、部屋にみやざきさんの面白くて素晴しいアイデアを考えるのデスクがあった。ここはジブリの世界で、イマジネーションのせいちでしょ!

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築地市場:

築地市場は東京に私の一番好きな所だ!大好き!日本に来る前にその所へいつも行きたかった。にぎやかな道で、かいっぱい人たちは面々に歩く行って、色々なスタンドに一番新鮮な魚と海鮮を売った。レストランに食べ物が美味しそう!匂いがメッチャいいと思った。
ともさんと卵焼きを食べた。美味しかった!そして、築地市場の中にレストランにちらしを食べた。私はアナゴドンを食べた、お姉さんはうにといくらとまぐろのちらしを食べた。ともさんはいくらとさけのちらしを食べた。美味い~!
それから、ごろごろして、たくさん味覚なテストをした。笑
成田国際空港へ行く前に築地市場ヘ行けなければならない!賑やかな歩道に安いどんぶりとラーメンを食べた。幸せなライフがあったねえ。あなたたちが羨ましい?笑

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アメ横:

安い物を買いたいからアメ横へ行くよ!アメ横はホンコンのような所と思った。買い物はすごく安くて、歩道にいっぱい人々がいた。もし、その店にその好きなくつが高すぎる、その店のとなりの店はもっと安いの同じくつを売った。東京の買い物が高かったがアメ横に買い物が適正価格だった。

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カウチサーフィンのホスト - ともくんとはまくん:

ともくんとはまくんは私たちのカウチサーフィンのホストにだった。はまさんの部屋に3泊カウチサーフィンをした。ありがとうございました、はまさん!(^▽^)
はまさんはヒップホップのダンスをした事が好き。はまさんのダンスを見たい!
ともくんはバンクーバーに英語を勉強したから、英語がすごくに上手だった。そして、いっぱい国に旅行をして、シアトルに行った!ともさんはシアトルのアイバーのクラムチャウダーが大好きだった。もし、ともくんとはまくんはシアトルへ行ったら、アイバーにぜったい行くよ!
ともくんとはまくんはすごく優しくて、面白いおかしかった。楽しい時間を過ごした。ありがとう!

ENGLISH

We had a rough morning in Tokyo. We thought there was a place to store our luggage for the next four days at the station. We arrived at the station with all our stuff at 6 am and sat outside the luggage office until they opened at 9am. BUT, they wouldn’t take our stuff for 4 days and told us to go to a nearby luggage deposit place. My sister was furious. I think I saw steam coming out of her head.

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We carried all our bags outside the train station and found the luggage deposit place. Thank goodness it wasn’t too far away from the station.
The next four days in Tokyo was pretty amazing. We went back to Shinjuku and Harujuku to window shop and admire the ridiculously expensive clothing. But I did go to other interesting places in Tokyo!

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Chinatown (Yokohama)

We took the train to Yokohama to see the largest Chinatown in Japan. We were going to meet my good friend, Mayu, who was an exchange student at my old high school. After getting lost for a good 20 minutes, we finally met! I haven’t seen her since she came to visit me during freshman year of college. It was like the old days – joking around, poking fun at each other – I miss her so much.

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Chinatown in Japan was very… stereotypical. If there were two words to describe it, it would be – red and pandas. The streets were covered in red; there were all sorts of panda themed gifts, and many extravagant gates. You can just tell that this place is for tourist and not for actual Chinese residents. We walked around the streets, went to see the famous Kanteibyo, the temple in the heart of Chinatown.

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The Chinese foods in Japan are strangely expensive. My sister wanted to get xiao long bao, which were dumpling with meat/vegetables. The one key thing that makes xiao long bao so special is the hot soup inside the dumpling. Once you bite into it, the hot flavorful soup squirts out and drips everywhere! After the hundreds of restaurants that sell xiao long bao, we finally picked the restaurant that had FOUR televisions that broadcasted how juicy and delicious their xiao long bao had.

We ordered a set of six of their pan-friend xiao long bao. Their advertisement didn’t lie to us – there was juicy. I took a bite and the juice squirted out to my sister’s shirt.

Asakusa

If you think of Asakusa, you think of the famous Sensoji Temple with its large red lantern. Made in 645, it is the oldest temple made in Tokyo. Before you actually enter the temple, you have to walk through the 200 km Nakamise (“inside shops”), which is a street filled with small stands that sell Japanese-styled clothes, traditional masks, ornaments, paintings, and various foods/snacks. There were so many people and so many over-priced gifts for clueless tourists.

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This was very similar to Hong Kong – you have to dodge and push your way through people. Except you have to say “sumimasen” every time, whereas in Hong Kong, you would just push them and squeeze your way through.

Ghibli Museum

Magical. I really don’t know how else to describe my time in there. I felt like I was lifted off from the real world and entered into the imagination of Ghibli. I mean, there was a GIANT Totoro in the front of the museum! Too bad we couldn’t take pictures inside. It describes the history of Ghilbli, the production process, and even showed some short stories that were never broadcasted out! They showcase it in such interesting ways! Moving images of different Ghibli characters, a house with all the Ghibli movies ever produced, statues and massive artwork, everything in there made it seem like I walked into a hidden cave filled with treasure! There was a cat bus where we could sit inside and see the different sceneries that were displayed in My Neighbor Totoro. There was a replication of Miyazaki’s room, which showed the cigarettes he smoked, the crumpled paper he threw out, the jars of paint and pens he had used up, and the desk he used to make all his imagination come to life.

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Tsukiji Market

It was my ABSOLUTE favorite place in Tokyo, hands down. It was the place I was searching for the entire time I was in Japan – streets jam-packed full of people walking in every direction, street covered with assorted goods, and the best part - random side restaurants that had the most delicious food. Oh, how I yearned to eat in one of those!

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Tomo took there the first time. He treated us to tamago-yaki (grilled egg on a stick). Then we went to a restaurant and had brunch. I got an anago-don (freshwater eel), my sister got a ikura/maguro/uni chirashi, and Tomo got a ikura/sake chirashi. The seafood – so fresh, so delicious! Afterwards, Meagan and I roamed Tsukiji a bit more and did a lot of taste testing – hehe. We got to eat WHALE MEAT! Tasted like meaty, like well-done steak.

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Right before we had to take the train to Narita airport, we HAD to go to Tsukiji Market once more. We never got to try their side restaurants. My dream was to stand on the side of a busy street and slurp a bowl of ramen with all the other folks. My sister and I got a gyudon from one restaurant and a ramen in another. To me, cheap street foods like this tastes way better than even the most expensive seafood.

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Ameyoko

If you’re looking for cheap stuff, GO HERE! This resembled a lot like Hong Kong, where everything is on sale and there are just massive mobs scouting for discounted goods. And if you don’t want to buy something from one store, the store right beside it might sell the EXACT same thing for a cheaper price! Tokyo is expensive, but this place make things reasonable.

Couchsurfing

Our couchsurfing hosts, Tomo and Hama, were absolutely great. Tomo picked us up from the train station and took us to his apartment. We slept on Hama’s room for the three nights we’ve stayed there. Thanks so much, Hama!
Tomo and Hama seem like typical businessmen, but there is more to them than their suits and briefcases. Tomo can speak English really well because he studied English in Canada. He has travelled to so many places around the world! Maybe one day, he can come back to Seattle again and have some of the Ivar’s clam chowder! Hama is very down-to-earth and likes to dance. They both know how to relax and have fun. I mean, they do live in Tokyo!

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Posted by thewongway 13.07.2012 22:22 Archived in Japan Comments (2)

Koya-san - The Henro's Final Resting Place

Day 24/25: Osaka & Kyoto

overcast 22 °C

OSAKA (4/17)

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It was time for us to leave Matsuyama and head to our final henro stop, Koya-san. We said farewell to Okaasan and Oneesan, and took the Willer's Express from Matsuyama to Osaka (11 am - 5 pm). We stayed with my sister's friend, Hikari-san, in Osaka. We had to take 3 trains from Osaka station to get to her apartment. We were carrying all our backpacks and luggage. My sister bought a freaking kotasu from Nitori, which she had to carry. And it doesn't make it better that we were taking the train during the busy hour when everybody is trying to get back home. Yep, everybody was staring at the two country girls who is carrying a kotasu on the train. But a nice bowl of hot ramen afterwards tasted heavenly.

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Osaka is a VERY large city, or at least compared to the small villages/towns we passed through when we were doing the pilgrimage. Above are the famous neon signs that cover most of downtown Osaka. Everything is so colorful, so boisterous!

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Downtown Osaka is a shopaholic's heaven, with shopping streets that never end. You have to push your way through the hoards of people. Never have I seen that many shoes, clothes, cosmetics, and beauty product in one area! You can start from one end and probably never find your way out.

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Osaka is famous for their takoyaki and Osaka-styled okonomiyaki. And I obviously begged my sister to try BOTH of them. I would never think of adding mochi and cheese in an okonomiyaki, but it's the tastiest combination ever! The cheese crisps up while the mochi softens. When you bite into it, you get the crunch from the cheese crisps and the chewiness of the mochi. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water! (*´▽`*)

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Young college students - what do you do when you're tired of shopping and have a full belly? KAREOKE! We sang until our throats burned from the screaming. Thank goodness the kareoke came with free drinks! After two hours of screaming, we called it a night and took the train back home. Night time in Osaka is a bit weird and sketchy. There are many break dancers showing off their dance moves outside the train stations. Many college students going out to party and drink. LOTS of drunk business men. We saw a whole bunch of them going to the place called, "Nurse." My sister's friend said they were doing something we wouldn't want to know. Yet another mysterious side of Japan I want to see, but dare not to explore.

KYOTO (4/18)

Our final destination before this pilgrimage comes to an end: Koya-san.

Dun dun dun…

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After a 2-hour train ride, we took the rope way up to Koya-san. The area was very sacred and spiritual - many tombstones and large trees. We walked through the forest and reflected on our henro trip. "Wow I can't believe it's actually ending," I remember saying to Meagan. She was pretty glad it was coming to an end, but I knew deep in her heart she wanted to spend time with her loving sister longer. (/joke)

There were stamps we had to retrieve from three different places in Koya-san. Sometimes, I think they’re making more stamps to get money out of us. But we’ve already bought 88 stamps, so another 3 was nothing...
I thought it would get emotional, or something big was going to happen when I received the final stamp. But I didn’t. There weren’t any dragons or black holes that popped out when I completed the nokyocho. But then I realized - there was no instantaneous change. I've changed gradually through the lessons and experiences I've had from this trip.

After Koya-san, we also visited some of Kyoto's most famous sites. The Nijo-castle was breathtaking. However, the floors in the castle squeaks every time someone moves. It's to let the emperor know someone was coming.

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We went to Gion District (Picture 4), which retained a traditional atmosphere (old Kyoto). Too bad I didn't find any Geishas. We also went to the Bamboo Groove (picture 5), Togetsukyo Bridge (picture 6), and one of Kyoto's famous Torii Gate (picture 7). And of course, we got in time to see the famous cherry blossoms in Kyoto. They were just finishing mankai season, so the petals were fluttering like snow!

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OTHER INTERESTING STUFF:

Women Only Trains: There were specific parts of the train that were ONLY for women! This is to prevent chikan (gropers) from touchng other women during the busy hours of the train.
Self udon is probably one of my favorite dishes in Japan. I've had it in Takamatsu and I couldn't help but have another one. My sister was still full of udon from eating udon breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in Takamatsu. But I'm hungry for more. Cold udon noodles, raw egg, tempura bits, a bit of ginger and onions... YUM!

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Posted by thewongway 26.06.2012 21:11 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Food Coma Under a Sky of Pink (HANAMI!)

Day 23 - Matsuyama

sunny 23 °C

日本語:

私たちはお姉さんの家族と山の中に花見をした。いっぱい美味しい食べ物を食べたり、美しいさくらを見たり、子どもと遊んだりした。おなかがいっぱい!妊娠していったみたい!でも、子どもとかくれんぼをあそんだからおなかがふつうのサイズに成った。ヾ(^∇^)

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花見をした前にたくさんじゅんびした事があった。食べ物を作ったり、弁当に入ったりした。食べ物は卵焼きや小さいハンバーグステーキやおにぎりやさばやポテトと牛肉やソーセージや野菜やいちごや色々なスナックがあった。

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松山の桜がまんかいが終わったから山の中に花見をするつもりだった。山へ行く時にやくざのバンを見た。バンは黒くて、バンのサイドに大きい幹事があって、バンからうるさい音楽を聞いた。

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ふつうの「静かとやさしい日本」の顔があった。でも、土地の人を知っているの「あぶない日本」の顔があった。。。
山に付いた!いっぱいさくらがあって、全部雪のようにふっていた。美しかった~
桜の下にたくさん食べ物を食べたり、子どもとかくらんぼをあそんだり、もっと食べ物を食べたり、妊娠していたり、ピンックの空の下に休んでいた。

English

Hanami literally means “flower viewing,” which is a time of the year where families, friends, or co-workers sit together under the sakura (cherry blossom) trees and celebrate. And by celebrate, I mean lots and LOTS of delicious food, fun games with the kids, and a stunning view of the cherry blossoms all around you. Then you get into a food coma and you simply relax and watch the flowers. It’s a relaxing and fun way to spend time with the family.

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BUT – there is so much prep work that has to be done before hanami. Making the food and arranging it in the bento box took a long time. We had tamagoyaki with spinach (rolled eggs), mini patties, onigiri (rice balls), saba, beef and potatoes, mini sausages, vegetables, strawberries and watermelon, and many different assorted snacks.

We were going to be doing the hanami up in the mountains since many of the sakura trees in the city areas are wilting. As we were driving, we passed this large, black truck. It had a large kanji written on the side of the truck. The truck also played very noisy traditional Japanese music as it drove through the city. Oneesan said the truck belonged to the yakuza and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. Mafia is still prevalent in Japan.

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It’s interesting to see two faces of Japan. The quiet, peaceful side that people commonly associate Japan with. And the mysterious, dangerous side that only locals would know about.

We arrived at the mountain (which was also the mountain we biked through during our henro trip). The cherry blossom petals were just falling like snow! Nothing can describe its beauty until you see it with your own eyes. I ate, had a food coma, played hide & seek with the kids, ate more, food coma, relaxed under the pink sky.

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KEY POINTS:

  • Hanami is widely celebrated in Japan.
  • Japan has many celebrations. Sometimes Some holidays seem like they've just created to take the day off and relax! I think UW should have more of that.
  • There is so much more of Japan (the different sides) I have yet to see.
  • I finally ate natto (fermented soybeans)! It didn't smell as bad as I thought it would be. It smelled like a minor case of athletes foot instead of a major one. When you stir it, it gets all sticky like mucus. I mixed it with rice, onions, and soysauce. Look at this sticky goodness of mush.

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Posted by thewongway 24.06.2012 11:04 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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