Succession and Membership Issues

If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.
But it seems like those women only ruled as the place-holders of a male relative (a son, a nephew), who had not yet ascended to the throne. According to Japanese belief, the father-son line in the imperial family has also been intact for several centuries, perhaps even 2000 years.
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:previous: That does seem plausible.
Yes because they ensured it. With the exception of one empress, Gemmei, their children never succeeded them. A male line descendent would be chosen to follow. Empress Gemmei ruled when her son the emperor died, and her daughter followed her. But when her grandson came of age, he took the throne. But they weren't considered regents, but reignants.

It would be like allowing Elizabeth II to rule, but Charles not being heir. Instead the Duke of Gloucester or his son would likely follow, as the senior most male line. If that happened, both the duke and his son only have one son. If Alexander was on the throne, and Xan died, Cossima could be Queen, but then again the throne would revert back to a male line, which at that point would be looking to the Kents.
The theory of female emperors being intermediaries or placeholders for the male line is heavily contested. Please read this post about research that backs the opposite view.

Based on a close examination of kinship and marriage patterns, recent scholarship has shown the weakness in this argument by contending that royal qualifications derived just as much from the mother as from the father, and there was no established rule of patrilineal succession before the end of the eighth century. […] The “intermediary” argument is far too simplistic; it ignores the fact that male candidates were available in most cases when female emperors took office.
The thesis of Tonomura's student Yoshie Akiko, who also argues against the placeholder theory, provides information about the Japanese monarchy from the late 6th to the late 8th centuries, when most of the female emperors reigned and when nearly half of the emperors were female:

The first systematic form of law in Japan was established between the end of the seventh and the beginning of the eighth centuries […] In one of the articles which stated that the emperor’s siblings and children would be given the titles of prince or princess, there is a clause stating that “the same applies for female emperors.”

In the absence of a clear ranking rule for royal succession [at the beginning of the sixth century], those who satisfied a certain number of conditions for bloodline become O-kimi 大王 ( Great King ) recommended by other powerful elite lineages. […] Most female emperors were princesses in terms of their bloodline and queen consorts 后 before acceding to the throne. During this formative period for hereditary succession to the throne, there was above all a need to enhance the nobility of bloodline, and thus princesses who came from a powerful elite lineage on their mother’s side were prioritized for selection as queen consorts. Some of these women married emperors with whom they were half-siblings on their father’s lineage.

Earlier than [the end of the eighth century], when women from powerful elites or royal lineages became consorts, the residence they inherited and lived in became a “consort’s palace キサキの宮” […] Their children, the princes and princesses, grew up in their mother’s palace and solidified their bond in their mother’s group. […] In this political environment seen in the practices of matrimony and [matrilineal] property inheritance, when princesses whose mothers came from powerful elite lineages became queen consorts they were considered formidable candidates to succeed to the throne by virtue of their bloodline, political and economic power, their connections from managing and ruling experiences as a queen consort in the consort palace.
In the past several women reigned in Japan. I don't know why they changed the law to prohibit women to reign.

The Advisory Council on the Imperial House Law Report (2005) summarized the arguments that were made when female succession was officially prohibited in 1889:

When the Meiji Imperial House Law and again the current Imperial House Law were enacted, various grounds were cited for institutionalizing the principle of male succession through male lineage, these being rooted in the circumstances of the day.
Specifically, at the time of the enactment of the Meiji Imperial House Law, such arguments were made as the following:
• A female Emperor’s dignity would be diminished by the presence of a consort, for Japanese popular sentiment and social norms gave precedence to the male.
• The Japanese system of inheritance favored males. If the eldest child was a daughter but she had a younger brother, the estate went to the latter.
• In the minds of the Japanese people, female Emperors had throughout history always served a provisional, interregnal role, and Imperial succession was still perceived as passing through the male line. Moreover, these female Emperors had been without consorts during their reigns; but a system that compelled a female Emperor to remain unwed today would be at odds with both reason and popular sentiment.
• A child born of a female Emperor would inherit her husband’s surname; the Imperial line would thus be diverted into a different course in violation of tradition.
• The consort of a female Emperor might interfere through her in affairs of State.
• A woman’s assumption of the highest position of political authority would be inconsistent with the absence of female suffrage in Japan.
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But it seems like those women only ruled as the place-holders of a male relative (a son, a nephew), who had not yet ascended to the throne. According to Japanese belief, the father-son line in the imperial family has also been intact for several centuries, perhaps even 2000 years.

I don't buy into feminism to start with, but if that is true that its been intact for 2thoysand years, I understand why they would want to maintain that.
Restoring royal status to descendants a delicate issue in Imperial Family reform debate - The Mainichi

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is opposed to anyone from the maternal side of the Imperial Family ascending to the throne. Instead, Abe favors restoring royal status to the male descendants of 11 men who were expelled from the Imperial Family by the United States-led General Headquarters occupation administration in 1947. There are no provisions in the Imperial House Law for returning former royal family members to the Imperial fold.

In the February 2012 issue of Bungei Shunju magazine, Abe proposed "restoring former members of the Imperial Family with the enactment of a special measures law from the standpoint of recovering from the occupation regime."

The government appears to have been searching for solutions to the shrinking Imperial Family along these lines since Abe regained the premiership in December 2012. Discussion on reforms is continuing in a Cabinet Secretariat office for the consideration of Imperial House Law revisions, and according to sources close to the government, the restoration of royal status is "one among many options being examined." Hopes are high among conservative lawmakers that work can start on this option should the Abe administration stay in power for a long period after the recent House of Councillors election victory.

However, conservative scholars well versed in matters relating to the Imperial House Law have voiced concern that the question of restoring royal status will be forgotten as discussion focuses on the abdication issue.

Nevertheless, just creating an abdication mechanism would be a major change, and it is impossible to say how the public would react if debate on this expanded into and became entangled with how to guarantee the royal succession.
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It is necessary to revise regulations related to the crown prince in light of the Imperial family’s current situation.
Article 8 of the Imperial House Law stipulates that “the son of the Emperor who is the Imperial Heir is called ‘Kotaishi’” and assumes only a direct succession of the throne from father to son.
If Crown Prince Naruhito accedes to the throne, Prince Akishino will become first in the line of succession.
However, as younger brother of the new emperor, Prince Akishino would not be the crown prince.
It may therefore be necessary to establish a new status — “kotaitei” — for the younger brother of an emperor that would be a substitute for the role of crown prince.
Amending Imperial House Law no easy task - The Japan News
Under the Imperial House Law 1947, Prince Akishino will never be heir apparent. The chances are extremely low, but it is still possible that the Crown Prince might father a son. If the Crown Princess died, or the couple divorced, a second marriage might produce the longed for male heir. It seems a bit odd to have a special title for the heir presumptive, a title the holder could lose if the unexpected happened. Besides, the title of Prince in Japanese, Shinnō 親王, is already pretty exclusive, and will be even more so when Prince Hitachi and Prince Mikasa die.

Interestingly, the titles translated into English as Prince and Princess are, in Japanese, a bit grander. The Emperor's children and grandchildren (in the male line) are:

Shinnō 親王 - Prince
Naishinnō 内親王 - Princess

A better translation might be Imperial Prince and Imperial Princess, the Chinese character 親 qīn indicates something like intimate or closely related.

The third generation in the male line are:

Ō 王 - Prince
Joō 女王 - Princess

Interestingly the Chinese character 王 wáng means king, so in Japanese, Princess Ayako, 絢子女王 Ayako Joō, the most junior princess of the Imperial Family, is Queen Ayako (or literally Female King Ayako).

Anyway, getting back on topic. It seems to me that probably the most important reason for maintaining male succession is the very one that cannot be used. The line of emperors unbroken for ages eternal, and the Imperial Throne coeval with heaven and earth, are fundamental to Shintoism. The Emperor is the direct male line descendant of Emperor Jimmu, great-great-great-grandson of Amaterasu Omikami, the Sun Goddess. If that line of divine descent is hard to prove, there is another one much closer to modern times; in fact it dates back less than a century. The Emperor is also the great-grandson of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Their divine souls were enshrined as deities at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo in 1920. But Japan is now a secular state, and according to Article 20 of the Constitution:
Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority.
No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious act, celebration, rite or practice.
The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity.​
It would be unconstitutional to make decisions on legislation based on Shinto, so it remains the elephant in the room.
LDP heavyweight Nikai calls ban on female emperors 'strange' and 'out of date' | The Japan Times
Ruling Liberal Democratic Party heavyweight Toshihiro Nikai, the party’s secretary-general, voiced support for allowing a woman to ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne, calling the ban on female emperors “strange” and “out of date.”

Under the Imperial House Law, women are currently not allowed to take up the mantle of emperor.

“In the age of female empowerment, it’s strange that the Emperor is an exception, and it’s out of date,” Nikai said Thursday during a recording of an Asahi Satellite Broadcasting Ltd. television program.

Speaking to reporters after the program, Nikai dismissed concerns that Japan was not ready for such a move.

“Women hold top posts in some countries. No problem has occurred there,” he said. “Japan can take that kind of step.”
Perhaps a new generation of Japanese politicians and leaders will examine these things in a new light now, in the 21st century. Still, the Crown Prince is still reasonably young and in good health, isn't he? This question might not become urgent for another quarter of a century or so, though of course accidents do happen.
Empress regnant a distant prospect for Japan despite gender equality law - The Mainichi
In around spring of 2012, Shinzo Abe -- the current prime minister who was then a legislator of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) under the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-led administration -- expressed frustration about the government's handling of the Imperial succession issue. "Is the Imperial Household Agency serious about enabling members of the former Imperial Family branches to return to the Imperial Family?" he asked.

Abe's question came during an informal study meeting that the LDP held at a hotel in Tokyo, where more than 10 attendants including LDP legislators discussed the declining number of Imperial Family members in line to the throne. The participants deliberated on proposals including one to bring male-line males in 11 former Imperial Family branches back to the Imperial household, in order to maintain Imperial succession by males with patrilineal lineage.


In the February 2012 edition of the Bungei Shunju monthly magazine, Abe stated that allowing Imperial Family branches headed by female members could fundamentally overturn the traditional process of Imperial succession. After Abe returned as leader of the ruling party in December that year following the LDP's victory in a general election, he brought the issue back to the drawing board.

The Imperial succession by male-line males, upheld since the Meiji era, was not something that had gone unchallenged. An ad-hoc research council on the legal system, which served as an advisory panel to the Cabinet that started discussing the current Imperial House Act in July 1946, debated whether to allow for an empress regnant -- also sometimes called a "female emperor." It reasoned that the postwar Constitution provides for gender equality.

The then Imperial Household Ministry offered the view that Imperial succession only by male-line males would not run counter to gender equality guaranteed under the Constitution because the Imperial Family was an exception. However, in the then Imperial Diet, many legislators pointed out the inconsistency between male-only Imperial succession and the supreme law.

"When I read the Imperial House Act, I can't help feeling that the Imperial Family stands out from the people," said Ito Niizuma, a legislator of the Social Democratic Party of Japan, during a House of Representatives session in December 1946. Niizuma was elected to the Diet in April that year -- the year when Japanese women were franchised in national politics. Citing gender equality under the postwar Constitution, Niizuma continued, "As women appear to have become equal to human beings, I wonder if they can somehow eliminate the 'male-line male' rule."


Because there were still many young male members within the Imperial Family, the minister shelved the issue, saying, "As there is no practical need to solve the issue (of a female emperor), I would like to entrust the whole matter to in-depth research in the future."

Arguments for allowing an empress regnant also did exist during the process to institute the former Imperial House Law in the Meiji era. The law, however, ended up stating for the first time that only male-line males could succeed to the throne.

The Genroin (chamber of elders), a legislative body in the Meiji era, was open to the possibility of women ascending to the Imperial Throne. It noted, "Males are prioritized over females in the same family and elders are prioritized over juniors in the same kindred." Among the draft constitutions drawn up by private citizens amid the freedom and civil rights movement in the late 19th century, many also allowed for a "female emperor" in case there was no male in line to the throne.


The constitutional principle of equality of the sexes has taken root in Japanese society and the public today finds it rather unnatural for the Imperial Family alone to attach weight to the births of male members.

According to the Japan Association for Public Opinion Research, a survey in 1975 found 31.9 percent of respondents open to the idea of am empress regnant. The figure climbed to 83.5 percent in a 2005 poll. In a November 2016 survey, 85 percent of respondents approved of an empress regnant or a matrilineal emperor.


A former government official who negotiated with the Imperial Household Agency over the issue of a female or matrilineal emperor under the government of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi surmised the feelings of Emperor Akihito, saying, "As he has made his own efforts to form the image of an emperor as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people, he wouldn't hope for former Imperial Family members who have long been away from the Imperial household to succeed to the throne just because they are male-line males."

The IHA and the emperor never commented on the former branches as far as I know, and the IHA was aiming for legal revisions to allow female branches, so I am confused as to why Mr. Abe had the idea that the IHA would be serious about returning former male-line branches in 2012. Maybe he had supporters within the agency.

At the end of January 2012, Abe attended meetings with members of the former Imperial Family branches to explore the possibility of their return to the Imperial Family.
If Mr. Abe's commitment to restoring former branches was so serious that he met with branch members when he was an opposition legislator, why has he not submitted a bill to enable restoration in the more than four years since he returned as Prime Minister? :confused:
I wonder how the IHA is split; it’s a big organization and I’m sure members don’t all agree. The 2012 LDP meetings were exploratory or strategy sessions and I suspect Abe/LDP has met with former branches since then. Maybe they weren’t ready on restoration at the time but with the refocus on the Imperial family due to abdication, they’re taking the opportunity now.

Bringing former members back to imperial family is option: Abe - The Mainichi

Many Japanese Look for a Shift to Female Heirs to Throne - The New York Times

Josei Seven seems more like a tabloid. I don’t believe Princess Aiko was "shocked with the intense attention she received as an imperial family member."
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Thanks for the update!:flowers:
Mr Abe's proposal is sensible. Reinstating Oke (i.e., collateral branches) will give Prince Hisahito a bigger pool of relatives to help him to carry various engagements. The funding/allowance issue may arise though.
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:previous: Agree. But it's only a patching-up solution.

You can't turn entire family branches into what is basically commoners and let them make their own living and then: Ups! We need some spares, better reinstate them again. - And still expect them to be politically, economically and commercially neutral. - Let alone willing.

A permanent solution has to be made, ensuring that there is always at least one spare in each generation. The financing of an extra family is trivial in comparison to the insecurity of having too few or no spares. Not to mention the possible controversy in suddenly reinstating a whole family-branch. Which IMO is simply not a decent way to treat people.

If other monarchies can work out that situation, surely Japan can as well.
The conservative simply have to swallow a couple of camels and accept women being in the line of succession. And I doubt the majority of Japanese mind in this day and age.
How far do they have to go back to find a line to reinstate? The emperor only had one brother and he had no children. If they are going to allow female line male heirs (like the son of a princess) doesn't that defeat the purpose of preserving the male line? I mean if one of the emperors sisters sons could be an heir, why not his granddaughter and her sons after:ermm:

The emperor only had one uncle who had children. Takahito only had two sons who had kids, and all of those grandchildren are girls. Hirohitos father only had sisters. Seriously where is this linevgoingbto come from?

But I guess to male only conservatives, they would rather skip over a woman if absolutely necessary then have a female.

But then the question is, if naruhito was emperor when he becomes a grandfather, and it's a boy, then who is heir? If they are willing to have a female line male heir, would the emperors grandson have a better claim then his nephew?
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I assume the conservatives are seeking to restore or adopt from the 11 collateral branches (Ōke) stripped of their Imperial membership in 1947. There are 7 former families remaining as 4 are extinct (or will be as they also lack male heirs).

Ōke - Wikipedia
旧皇族 - Wikipedia (Japanese version has more details and charts)

Wikipedia’s not the most reliable but I haven’t found a English site focused on the Ōke.

Restoration or adoption will need public support which, unfortunately for the conservatives, is leaning towards female-succession or female-branches from the current Imperial family.

ETA: Goshi Hosono of the DPJ criticized Prime Minister Abe's proposal as "utterly unacceptable to the people" and urged discussion on the introducing female branches or letting them stay in the family after marriage, "If it is not made quickly, it may be too late depending on circumstances." [Sankei]
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How far do they have to go back to find a line to reinstate?

The supporters of reinstatement count only paternal descent, so around 600 years.

These former Imperial Family members […] are only distantly related to the present Emperor, the common ancestry that they share with him going back some six hundred years to the Muromachi period.

Historically speaking, it would be highly irregular for someone who has seceded from the Imperial Family to rejoin it, or for a non-member of the Imperial Family to be enrolled in it. And in only two cases have such individuals ascended the Throne, both during the Heian period. (Both individuals differ from the so-called former Imperial Family members presently under consideration in that they seceded only briefly from the Imperial Family and were close blood relatives — sons — of Emperors.) This tradition has a substantial purpose, being designed to prevent any confusion about the status of Imperial Family members by drawing a clear distinction between their standing and that of the ordinary Japanese. This point deserves due consideration still today.
The Advisory Council on the Imperial House Law Report (24th November, 2005)
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You forget the Emperor's nephews. They are also male line descendents of emperors. So they have close relatives to restore.

The descendants of Akihito's sister Shigeko Higashikuni are surely his close relatives, but their male line common ancestry goes back 600 years. :flowers:
They have three male successors. Naruhito, Akishino and Hisahito. There were plenty of monarchies with fewer successors at all, which still exist. Queen Juliana of the Netherlands was the only child and successor. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was the only child and successor. King Carl XVI Gustaf was the only successor aside his much older uncle Prince Bertil. King Felipe was the only male successor in Spain. Prince Albert was the only male successor in Monaco. They all made it to the throne anyway. Not that Naruhito, Akishino and an older Hisahito theoretically can procreate until they are lying in their coffin. When Prince Hisahito gets two sons, they can suddenly end in a situation with plenty of successors. Look at Denmark, where Queen Margrethe also started with just two boys. The problem of the succession is not that urgent, in comparison.
The descendants of Akihito's sister Shigeko Higashikuni are surely his close relatives, but their male line common ancestry goes back 600 years. :flowers:

It doesn't important. They satisfy two basic requirements:
1) they are male line descendents of emperors (for shinto purpose)
2) they are very close relatives (for general public) In fact, they are closer relatives than all Mikasa and Takamado princesses.
So they can be successfully restored.
More talks on female-led Imperial Family branches encouraged in special law proposal - The Mainichi
A proposal for the establishment of special legislation for Emperor Akihito's abdication presented on March 15 by the heads and vice heads of both houses of the Diet encourages the government to swiftly work on examining possibilities of building Imperial Family branches headed by female members as a possible way to ensure a stable succession to the throne.
That's it. :ermm: The rest of the article is about abdication...
At least they are now seriously thinking the unthinkable: A female as Emperor of Japan!
Then perhaps they'll begin to remember that it has happened before?

The ruling coalition compromised with the Democratic Party over the Diet's abdication proposal. The DP secretary-general has called for debate on female-headed branches for months.

Prime Minister Abe promised in December 2015 to set up discussions on the decrease in female imperial family members as a result of the emperor's birthday news conference, where Akihito deplored his advancing age. However, no discussions have been planned and Mr. Abe persists in encouraging restoration of former imperial branches.

Government to set up expert panel to deal with decrease in female Imperial family members | The Japan Times
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At least they are now seriously thinking the unthinkable: A female as Emperor of Japan!
Then perhaps they'll begin to remember that it has happened before?
But even though there were a few female tennos in the past, the chain of tennos belonging to the same male-to-male blood line has never really been broken. The female tennos were all succeeded by their sons or nephews, who happened to belong to the old imperial blood-line. The current tenno is a male-line descendant of tennos from fifteen hundred years ago. And that would still be an important thing for many people in Japan. So even if a female tenno would be acceptable for them, they would have a hard time accepting her children as her successors (unless their dad happened to be a male-line descendant of the imperial blood-line).

And I seem to remember that there also are a couple of rituals within the Shinto religion, which according to tradition can be performed only by a male tenno. And I don't know how that was solved during the female tennos, but I can see how that would also be important to many people. So yeah, there were a few female tennos in the past. But I don't see how it would happen in the near future, unless something awful happens to Prince Hisahito.
Silent LDP members cower in fear of 'Big Brother' Abe: The Asahi Shimbun

Ruling party lawmakers are afraid to challenge Abe after seeing his opponents dismissed from posts, lose power or come under fierce attack from both inside and outside the political spectrum.


On Jan. 30, 14 LDP lawmakers, mainly party executives, held a meeting on the abdication of Emperor Akihito.

As the meeting became quieter than expected, LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura, who was serving as the moderator, urged the participants to initiate discussions.

“We should also discuss the possibility of allowing female emperors,” Takeshi Noda said in response.

Noda, a former home affairs minister, has been elected to the Lower House 15 times, the most among LDP members in the Diet chamber.

Despite Noda’s seniority, Komura replied: “We won’t discuss that in this meeting. The discussions will become uncontrollable.”

Abe is opposed to allowing female emperors, which would require revisions to the Imperial Household Law.

When Noda was chairman of the LDP’s Tax Commission, he expressed caution over Komeito’s proposal to reduce taxes on certain goods when the consumption tax rate is raised to 10 percent.

His stance resulted in his dismissal from the post in October 2015.

“Those who express their opinions are not treated well,” said Ishiba, a former state minister in charge of local revitalization. “If a heavyweight is replaced based only on the intentions of the prime minister’s office, other lawmakers of the party will feel fear.”
Gov't plan in 2014 nixed idea of female branches of imperial family - The Mainichi
The government proposed in 2014 a plan that does not favor creating female branches of the imperial family, while allowing females to still take part in the family's activities, a government source said Saturday.


But the plan was never adopted by Abe's Cabinet as his government prioritized other issues such as the passage of draft security legislation, which enables Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.


Once a bill to enable the one-off abdication law applicable only to Emperor Akihito clears parliament as planned, the government may revisit the set of proposals to tackle the shrinking number of imperial family members.

Giving female members such imperial duties, even after they marry commoners, will not require any change in current laws including the Imperial House Law, the source said, adding the government will shoulder the expenses for their tasks.


A government advisory panel issued in the following month a final report underscoring the need to swiftly take measures to reverse a decline in the number of imperial family members. But it did not suggest creation of female branches.

I doubt Abe and his cabinet will revisit retaining princesses soon and certainly never consider female branches. After pushing the abdication legislation through, Abe's government probably doesn't want to deal with the Imperial House for a while. He recently announced plans to amend Article 9 (war-renouncing) of the Constitution, aiming for the revision to take effect in 2020.

Japan PM unveils plan to amend Constitution, put into force in 2020 - The Mainichi

Abe calls for 'historic step' toward amending Constitution this year | The Japan Times
Yes, that is very much a priority by the government, who wish for the military to take a much more active role, both in regards to being deployed and taking part in international operations, but also to be able to better actively enforce Japanese claim to disputed waters between Japan and China.
Not to mention the frequent sabre-rattling from North Korea. On top of that Japan has for many years been under pressure from not least USA and now in particular the current US administration for taking on a larger part of the defense of Japan. I.e. Don't count on USA to come and help, or least being able to help as much. - Especially since Japan, to put it mildly, don't have that many allies in the Far East. Which is very much because the Japanese nationalist stance on the Japanese atrocities during WWII has trivialized them and even ignored them. Seriously annoying Japan's neighbors!

But the idea of making the Japanese the Constitution less pacifistic is very controversial in Japan, where many believe WWII and especially the outcome, really wasn't that great an idea! And as such don't feel any need to repeat that success...
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