JR trains’ seat guide, Gran class, Green class and Ordinary class seats. Guide to buy JR Pass Green or Ordinary

Green class interior of Narita ExpressRail pass for visitors
Green class interior of Narita Express
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Green seat car of the Limited Express Kuroshio by 287 series. It offers very comfortable 2+1 seat layout with large panoramic windows. (C) w0746203-1

When you travel by the JR express train in Japan, you have a few choices of the seat. Most of the JR express trains offer two classes, Green and Ordinary. Those are like business class seat and economy class seat on the fight. And the highest class seat, “Gran class” is available on some of the Shinkansen lines. Some express trains in Kyushu offer Deluxe Green class. And there are some trains which offer the compartment.

Green class is better than Ordinary class definitely. But it is pricey. Before choosing the class of seat, you should know how much better Green class is than Ordinary class. And you should know what the benefit of Green class is. Especially if you intend to buy JR Pass, you will consider which you will get, Green seat pass or Ordinary seat pass.

In this post, I would like to focus on the seat of JR trains. You will know the layout of the seat, a leg space, benefit of higher class seat. I believe you can judge which seat is your choice after reading this post.

The types of JR train’s seat

Gran class seatThe Tohoku Shinkansen,
The Hokkaido Shinkansen,
The Hokuriku Shinkansen
DX Green class seatSome of the Limited Express trains in Kyushu area
Green compartmentLimited Express Super View Odoriko
Some of the Limited Express trains in Kyushu area
Green class seatMost of the Shinkansen trains
Most of the Limited Express trains
Rapid trains in Greater Tokyo area
Ordinary compartmentResort Shirakami
Ordinary class seatAll trains

Gran class seat

The seat of Gran class (C) Asacyan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Gran class is the highest category of seat in all JR trains. It is like First Class seat on the train in Japan. There are only 18 seats in the car. And the seat layout is 2+1.

  • Leg space – 1,300 mm
  • Width – 520 mm
Gran Class seat on E5 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Gran Class seat on E5 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden

There is an exclusive staff in Gran class car. The light meal is served on board. You can choose Japanese style or western style. The amount of the food is very small. Please do not expect a full size of meal.

Japanese style light meal on board (C) Kurumi1211 [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Coffee, tea, green tea, pop, juce, beer, Japanese sake and wine are also included. You can drink as much as you can. And the tea snack is served too.

Green class seat

Green seat on Super Ozora by 283 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Green seat of 283 series in Hokkaido (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Gran class is the highest category of JR trains’ seats but it is available on the specific trains only. Green class is more common choice for the passenger who wants the higher class seat. Green class seat has more spacious in the leg space than Ordinary class seat. Green class seat has nicer head rest, the leg rest and this seat reclines much deeper than Ordinary class seat. Green class does not offer any meal and/or drink services on board.

Since Green class seat is available on most of limited express trains, the seat size, the leg space and the seat functions are varied by the train.

  • Leg space – 1,100 to 1,200 mm
  • Width – 460 to 490 mm
  • Seat layout – 2+2 or 2+1

2+1 layout is more spacious definitely. I would like to show you some of Green seat.

Green class seat on the Shinkansen

Green class seat of N700 series on the Sanyo Shinkansen and the Kyushu Shinkansen

All Green class seat on the Shinkansen has 2+2 layout and this layout is the standard of the Shinkansen. The Shinkansen train fleet is wider than the trains on the conventional lines. This 2+2 seat layout on the Shinkansen lines offers same amenity as 2+1 seat layout on the conventional trains.

However the Akita Shinkansen and the Yamagata Shinkansen are different. These two Shinkansen train fleets are same width of the conventional trains.

Green class seat of the Akita Shinkansen fleet E6 series.

As you saw the photo above, everything is more narrow than the standard of the Shinkansen. The seat itself is not bad. This seat has lots of the leg space. But the armrest is narrow.

If you take Akita Shinkansen “Komachi” or Yamagata Shinkansen “Tsubasa”, Green class seat is smaller than other Shinkansen trains. Please expect this and do not disappoint.

Green class seat of the limited express train on the conventional lines

The limited express train is the fastest and most comfortable train on the conventional line. This train runs on the route which the Shinkansen does not run. The seat layouts of the limited express trains are 2+2 or 2+1 as I mentioned above.

2+1 seat layout of Green seat of 287 series. This fleet runs in Kansai region as Limited Express Kuroshio, Konotori, and more.

This 2+1 seat layout is very nice and so comfortable. It offers same amenity as 2+2 seat layout on the Shinkansen line.

2+2 seat layout of Green class seat of E353 series. This fleet runs as Limited Express Azusa (C) Toshinori baba (own work) / Wikimedia Commons

Obviously 2+1 looks more spacious. This E353 series runs on Chuo line between Shinjuku and Matsumoto as the Limited Express Azusa. Actually this fleet is one of the newest fleets in all JR train cars.

This difference is caused by the value and the way of thinking of each train companies. JR East and JR Central place more importance on the capacity. Other JR companies place more importance of the comfort.

I would like to show you the major limited express trains which have 2+2 Green class seat layout:

Some of Wide View Hida have 2+1 seat layout Green class car.

Green class seat on the ordinary train

Green class seat of the commuter suburban train

Some local trains have Green class seat. In Greater Tokyo area, the train for suburban area offers Green class seat.

This seat is actually very similar to the limited express train’s Ordinary class seat. The leg space is only 960 mm which is much smaller than Green class seat standard on the limited express train, 1,100 mm to 1,200 mm. However the regular car on the local train is very crowded and it is hard to find the seat in many situation. And the seat is not like this in the regular car.

The commuter train regular car is always like this. It may be even more crowded.

This type Green class seat is available for the commuter who want to avoid the crowded train. Please do not expect the same amenity of other express train’s Green class seat.

DX Green class seat

This Green class is available on 787 series in Kyushu region.

There are only three seats of DX Green in one train set. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

This seat is much bigger than common Green class seat. It is 5 cm wider, 1 cm longer in the depth and 3 cm higher than common Green class seat on 787 series. You recline the seat deeply and it is almost flat. Each seat has two power outlets

Green compartment

Green class seat compartment is available on the Limited Express Super View Odoriko (Shinjuku – Izukyu Shimoda) and JR Kyushu’s 787 series.

Limited Express Super View Odoriko offers a few compartments in Green class car. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
JR Kyushu’s 787 series Green compartment is also called “Salon Space”. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Most compartments accommodate 4 passengers.

Ordinary class seat

This is most common seat for most travelers.

  • Leg space – 910 to 1,200 mm
  • Width – 440 to 480 mm
  • Seat layout – 2+3 on the Shinkansen or 2+2 on the limited express train on the conventional line

There are also many kinds of Ordinary class seat. However there is no big difference between many Ordinary class seats. Some trains offer better seat on the reserved Ordinary class car.

I like to show you several samples.

Ordinary class seat on the Shinkansen

2+3 seat layout is the standard of Ordinary class seat on most of the Shinkansen line.

Ordinary class seat of N700 series on the Sanyo and the Kyushu Shinkansen lines. This is the standard layout of the Shinkansens’ Ordinary class seat.

The Shinkansen fleet is wider than the trains on conventional trains. This is the reason why the layout is 2+3. You can recline the seat. Green car seat is way better but the ordinary class seat is not a bad choice.

Some Shinkansen trains have 2+2 seat layout. The Akita Shinkansen and the Yamagata Shinkansen have 2+2 seat layout.

The Akita Shinkansen E6 series Ordinary class seat (C) Sonic Rail Garden

These Shinkansen line trains go through the conventional line. The size of the fleet is smaller than the standard Shinkansen fleet size. This is a reason why these Shinkansen fleets have 2+2 seat layout. It does not mean that this 2+2 seat layout is better other Shinkansen 2+3 seat layout. The width of the seats are almost same .

There are several more Shinkansen fleets which have 2+2 seat layout in Ordinary class on the Sanyo and the Kyushu Shinkansen lines. These are better 2+2 seat layout which is different from Ordinary class seat on the Akita Shinkansen and the Yamagata Shinkansen.

The first one is 800 series on Kyushu Shinkansen. All Ordinary class seats are provided by 2+2 seat configuration.

800 series of the Kyushu Shinkansen does not Green class seat. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

And the other one is N700 series, 700 series and 500 series of the Sanyo Shinkansen and the Kyushu Shinkansen. N700 series usually runs as “Mizuho” or “Sakura”. 700 series and 500 series usually runs as Kodama. These series provide 2+2 seat for only RESERVED Ordinary class seat.

Ordinary class seat in reserved car on N700 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden

As you see the photo above, the seat looks Green class seat. If you take a seat in non reserved car, the seat layout is 2+3. If you take Sakura or Mizuho, I highly recommend you to reserve your seat. And Kodama offers 2+2 seat layout in the reserved car. However this seat is offered on Sanyo Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Hakata only. Kodama which runs on Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka does not offer any 2+2 seat layout. All Ordinary class seats are 2+3.

Ordinary class seat of the limited express train on the conventional line

All Ordinary class seats on the conventional lines’ limited express train are 2+2 seat layout.

If you take a seat on most of economy class seat on the flight, the leg space is around 800 mm. Even the smallest leg space on Ordinary class seat is 910 mm. It is way bigger than the flight economy class seat. My height is 184 cm (6 feet) but I am okay with Ordinary class seat.

What is the difference between Green and Ordinary?

If you are thinking to buy JR Pass, you may be wondering that you should buy Ordinary or Green pass.

The difference is basically amenity and the functions. Green class seat offers bigger leg space. And it offers lots of functions, such as the head rest, the leg rest and recline much deeper than ordinary seat. As I mentioned above, Green class seat does not include any meal services.

Usually Green class seat car is quieter than Ordinary class seat car. I do not mean that Ordinary class seat car is very noisy. But Green class seat is very expensive. Most of family travelers with small child avoid to take Green class seat. Many Green class seat passengers pay for this atmosphere.

And if you use JR Pass Green, you can book a seat on either Green or Ordinary. This gives you a bigger chance to book a seat. Especially if you travel in the busy period, this may be a big advantage. However some trains do not have any Green class seats. Even the train has it, the space may be very limited.

In my opinion, JR Pass Green is very good deal. As long as you can pay for it, you should go for it. But as I mentioned, JR trains’ Ordinary class seat is not a bad choice. If you are very sensitive with your budget, you can go for JR Pass Ordinary. That is not such a bad choice.

Green class of JR Hokkaido trains

Green seat on Super Ozora by 283 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Green seat on Super Ozora by 283 series (C) Sonic Rail Garden

If you have a plan to travel in Hokkaido, I recommend to buy Green pass. JR Hokkaido provides you the best service in Japan Railways Group (six companies = JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR Central, JR Shikoku, JR Kyushu).Green class of all JR Hokkaido limited express train give you 2+1 seat configuration. “Twincle Lady” who is an attendant just for Green class on limited express “Hokuto/Super Hokuto” (Hakodate-Sapporo), “Super Tokachi/Super Ozora” (Sapporo-Obihiro/Kushiro) provide you soft drink, new paper (maybe Japanese only), magazine (maybe Japanese only too), blanket and steam hot towel. Twincle lady do not attend on the other limited express train, but the attendant provide you very similar service. (This service was discontinued in March, 2015.)

Comments

  1. Orazqa says:

    Dear Takeshi,
    I’m planning to visit Japan from 17-25 March 2017 with my three small children, husband and parents. It will be a group of seven. We’ll be arriving at Narita airport, and leaving from Kansai Airport, Osaka.
    I’m wondering whether it’s cost effective to buy JR pass for the first seven days of my trip since we only go one way to Kyoto, yet want to take advantage the Narita Express and local trains to move around Tokyo.

    Kindly look at my rough itinerary:
    17 March – arrive in Tokyo
    18-20 March – explore Tokyo,
    21 March – leave Tokyo and travel to Kyoto with Shinkansen.
    22-24 March – explore Kyoto & Nara
    25 March – leave from Kansai Airport Osaka

    Thank you, really appreciate you response.

  2. Gina says:

    Good day! Thanks for the useful info. We’re travelling in June or early July. May I know which pass shall I use for these trips: 1) Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto – 5 days trip. 2) Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto and Tokyo – 9 days trip. Thank you.

    • Hi Gina,

      Before you choose the pass, you have to decide which airport you will arrive and depart. And also you have to decide the plan when you stay in the cities. If you have a plan to travel outside cities, such as day trip to Fuji from Tokyo, you have to think about the coverage of these trip.
      At this point, your plan is a bit rough. Please build a bit more detailed plan.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Ivy says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Great site with detailed information! I’ll be traveling to Kurikoma Kogen from Narita in 3 days. And I plan to travel from Sendai to Nagano, and Nagano/Matsumoto back to Tokyo. My sister lives in Kurikoma Kogen, so I plan to be there for a few days and with the consecutive 7 days JR pass, I’ll ‘lose’ the days I’m not traveling on JR. Would it be worthwhile to still purchase the JR pass? Or should I get the Tohoku East pass and a separate pass for traveling to Nagano? Please help! Thank you so much! 🙂

    • Hi Ivy,

      If you purchase JR East Pass Tohoku and add single fare for outside coverage area, it’s cheaper than JR Pass. But the difference is around 1000 to 2000 yen. If you have JR pass, it’s more expensive but it’s easier. You don’t need to purchase any tickets on top of JR pass. You can take whichever you like.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. vc says:

    Hi there. Me and my husband had booked our trip to japan this coming Nov for 12 days.What we’re planning to do is buy a 7 days ordinary pass and the first 7 days we plan to do is to travel to kyoto just for a day trip then back to tokyo. 2nd day, planning to do a day trip again from tokyo to osaka. 3rd go to disneysea then back to tokyo. My question is, it is worth it to buy the 7 day pass going to this places?

    Also, can we use our jr pass from narita airport to tokyo?

    Hope to hear from you soon!

  5. Tayyab says:

    HI,

    First time traveller to Japan, with my wife and 1 year old daughter from Aug 30 to Sep 8. Arriving/leaving from Tokyo, but we are planning to stay in Kyoto for 5 nights. We are planning to buy JR ordinary passes for our travel. Once in Kyoto, we plan to do day trips (one to Nara/Uji, second to Himeji/Kobe/Osaka). We are also planning to do a day trip to Kamakura from Tokyo. I have two questions, 1) can we fit a short trip to Odaiba in our itinerary while going back and forth to Kyoto from Tokyo? 2) Because we will be travelling with our luggage from Tokyo to Kyoto and then back, will we have more space for our luggage in the Green car as opposed to ordinary cars? 3) How can we make sure that we sit together during our commutes? Thank you!

  6. GigglinKristy says:

    Hello Takeshi,

    I am very impressed by your detailed article and knowledge about travel in Japan! May I also benefit from your travel knowledge?

    My partner and I will be in Japan across October and November for 16 days. Would it be feasible/cost-effective for us to get 1 x 7 day ordinary JR pass for the shorter distance travel in the first part of our trip, then 1 x 7 day green JR pass for the longer distance travel in the second part of our trip, and then pay the fares for local travel around Tokyo as needed?

    I have provided the rough plan of our trip below if this helps.
    Wed 19 Oct – arrive in Tokyo and explore Tokyo on Thurs 20 Oct
    Fri 21 Oct – leave Tokyo and travel to Kyoto. Explore Kyoto, Osaka and Nara between Sat 22 Oct and Tues 25 Oct
    Wed 26 Oct – leave Kyoto and travel to Okayama and explore Okayama on Thurs 27 Oct
    Fri 28 Oct – leave Okayama and travel to Nagasaki. Explore Nagasaki on Sat 29 Oct
    Sun 30 Oct – leave Nagasaki and travel to Hiroshima
    Mon 31 Oct – leave Hiroshima and travel to Miyajima
    Tues 1 Nov – leave Miyajima and travel to Tokyo. Explore Tokyo Wed 2 Nov
    Thurs 3 Nov – leave Tokyo and fly home.

    Thank you for any advice you can provide! It is our first trip to Japan (or any international country for that matter), so we are very excited but also nervous 🙂

    • Hi GigglinKristy,

      I don’t recommend you to use JR pass for the first part of your trip. Because total fares for the first 7 days is cheaper than 7 days pass. If you use 14 days ordinary pass for the first 14 days, it will be paid off because the difference between 7 days and 14 days is about 17,000 yen. It’s much lower than 7 days pass at 29,110 yen. And also total of 7 days Ordinary + 7 days Green is 67,910 yen. It’s higher than 14 days Green Pass.

      So your option is the following:
      1. Single fare for Tokyo to Kyoto + local deal for Osaka, Kyoto and Nara
      2. 14 days Green Pass

      If you have a budget to purchase 7 days ordinary and 7 days green, you can purchase 14 days green. It’s easier and more comfortable. Especially if you arrive in Narita, you can take Narita Express to Tokyo by JR pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      • GigglinKristy says:

        Thank you very much for your advice Takeshi,
        I can’t believe how silly I was! Clearly my first time navigating the system 🙂
        We will take your advice and go with one of your two suggested options.
        I’m very excited about our trip and the more and more research I do, it sounds like the train travel will be smooth sailing 🙂
        Thank you again for your advice to me and to everyone else on this forum, you’re doing a fantastic job!

  7. Thomas says:

    I’ll be in Japan from 6-14aug. Brief itinerary: Tokyo-Hiroshima-Osaka-Tokyo.Total 8days. I’m going to buy the 7day JR rail pass. That’s mean I’ll need to pay for my transport from Tokyo to Narita airport on my last day. Pls advise how much is the bullet train ticket & what are the choice of transportation to Narita airport beside the bullet train. Thank you.

  8. manuele & Sabina says:

    Dear Takeshi, next winter will be my second time in japan. I am not sure i did a good job with my first 14 days JR Pass, but was convenient to have a full pass without to think all the times about prices, tickets etc…
    Now this time my arrival will be 27 december 2016 at narita and after 3 days in tokyo i want try to see Hagi-ware and than kurakawa direction for few Onsen. The idea is to leave Tokyo 31 december with some stops and overnights before Hagi and Kurakawa, but maybe is possible. Do you think if i start the 31 december from tokyo is it possible to stay in kyoto 6 January and to use a 7 days JRPass ? departure will be the 8 January from Osaka 11:00am Flight. I am not sure if i can use a 7 days pass that start 31 december….and i am not sure if its safe to stay 6 Janury in Kyoto or if its better to stay at Osaka 🙂

    thanks a lot but i am confused because i would love to make an onsen itinerary

    • Hi Manuele and Sabina,

      Before answer your inquiry, I would like to make sure “Hagi-ware” and “Kurakawa”. I couldn’t find these places. I think there are some mis-spell. Please check these location name and let me know.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  9. Emilia Carlo says:

    Hello! So my friends and i are going to Japan from July 31st to August 20th. We were thinking abiut the green pass. We do not have a set itinerary but we are staying in kyoto n flying into tokyo.

    So we were plannung 3 day trips to tokyo, 1 to 2 days in osaka, a week traveling kyoto, and the rest have not been decided. Should we get the tickets?

    • Hi Emilia,

      At this point, you cannot use the pass. JR pass 7 days is almost equal to the round trip between Osaka/Kyoto and Narita airport. But you will spend more than 7 days. Single ticket is cheaper.

      But if you travel more, like trip to Kyushu, Hiroshima, even Hokkaido, 14 days pass or even 21 days pass will work.

      Anyway I recommend you to fix your itinerary first if you want to have the best deal.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  10. Independencer says:

    Arigatou gozaimasu, Takeshi-san.

    (I just saw that I commented off that reply chain’s topic. Let me write this new.)
    So, my trip of July 9-16 will not fall into the super peak season, right? Though it is summer time for Hokkaidō, I suppose that it shall be before school holiday and Obon, so students won’t be around yet, and people should save for the festival time, will they?
    So how do you feel, whether my trip will be worth for going Green?

    Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

    • Hi Independencer san,

      Mid July is lower than usual actually. I’m very optimistic to book trains in this period.
      But I still love Green pass because it’s much quieter and more comfortable

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      • Independencer says:

        Arigatou gozaimashita, Takeshi san.
        More comfort and quietness are good for one thing. The other thing would be that will we get a lot better chance to sit together (a group of 4)?
        And sometimes if we cannot pre-book, will we be able to still sit together by booking just, say 30 minutes before departure time?

        Thank you for your kind advice. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

        • Hi Independencer san,

          It’s hard to say. Number of green seats are much smaller than ordinary seat. You may not be able to sit together in last minutes booking.
          You can find the availability of trains at cyber station. It may give you some idea.
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/how-to-find-seat-availability-of-trains-jr-cyber-station-guide.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          • Independencer says:

            Arigatou gozaimashita, Takeshi san.
            We will try to pre-book any time if possible. And for the cost of 30% more expensive, I think I would go Green to have more chance on sitting together, with get free bigger seats, quietness, and special lady services in Hokkaidō’s green cars.

            Could you please help me one more thing, about my itenerary, please? Will we be able to make it ok? Will we make some mistakes or get into time trouble? Will we miss something?

            [Sun] Jul 10: Arrive at NRT @ 0735 / Run to immigration w/ just Carry-on luggage (to save time) / Exchange JR Pass quickly … AND
            A.) “Try to see if we can get 0915 Narita Express to Kawaguchiko → bus to 5th Station → Catch bus back to Shinjuku & to Tokyo for the last Shinkansen for Hakodate”
            OR, B.) “Go to Hakodate”

            Jul 11: Sapporo → Otaru

            Jul 12: Furano & Biei

            Jul 13: Sapporo & Lake Tōya (& Onuma National Park, if in time) → Hakodate

            Jul 14:
            A.) If been to Fuji-san already, Sightseeing in Hakodate
            B.) If not already to Fuji-san, First Shinkansen to Tokyo → Sightseeing in Tokyo (by 2-day Tokyo Metro pass)

            Jul 15:
            A.) Hakodate → First Shinkansen to Tokyo → Sightseeing by 1-day Metro Pass
            B.) Tokyo → Kawaguchiko (may consider a 1-day Tour)

            Jul 16: Sadly, Sayonara Japan. Mata ne~

            • Hi Independencer san,

              Your itinerary is very organized. You have a back up plan in case that you cannot make Fuji on arrival day. I don’t see any issues and you are ready to go!
              By the way, I have to tell you one thing. I forgot to update info about the service that is provided by JR Hokkaido in Green class. All extra services on Green car by Twincle lady was discontinued in last year. JR Hokkaido trains still have very nice accommodation that is 2+1 seat layout. But you cannot get any more other services. You will just have spacious seat.

              Cheers,

              Takeshi / JPRail.com

              • Independencer says:

                Arigatou Gozaimashita, Takeshi san, for reviewing my itenerary. You are more than Sugoi!

                Sadly that the only JR with lady service was discontinued… T-T But I will go for Green anyway…
                So.. does this mean, since March 2015, there are no more trains with special services in Green Car in the whole Japan?

                By the way, I know we can take Narita Express for free using JR Pass, I am not very sure if I can as well take the N’EX that go for Kawaguchiko for free or not? I have read the website, but I could find only the statement saying JR Kanto Pass and JR Tokyo Wide Area Pass holders can use N’EX for free to Kawaguchiko…

                Yoroshiku onegaishimasu

          • Independencer says:

            Arigatou gozaimashita, Takeshi san,

            Maybe the extra service in Green Class has not made them much profitable… sadly.

            Well… that is what I figured for the non-JR railway part there, having to pay like 1,140 Yen, won’t I?
            So, if I will not be in time for Fuji-san on the 1st day, I think I will consider taking either a 1-day Fuji tour or take a highway bus direct from Shinjuku up to the Subaru Line’s 5th Station. Do you think my plan will work or not?

            Yoroshiku onegaishimasu

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