Japan’s railway system is probably one of the most advanced in the world but also overwhelmingly complex and confusing if you’re not local. Lucky for travellers, there’s the JR Pass that gives access to unlimited rides on JR trains in Japan.

Whole Japan JR Pass - Japan Winter Itinerary

Travelling via Japan rail can be really pricey. A single trip from Tokyo to Osaka via the Shinkansen will set you back ¥14,450 (~S$180). But that also means if planned out well, you can really get a lot more value than what you pay for a JR Pass.

Other than Whole Japan JR Passes, there are regional passes which can be half the price of the Whole Japan JR Pass.

During an 8-day trip exploring the Kansai region, we travelled with the 5-day Kansai-Hiroshima JR Pass (~S$167) and managed to cover 9 cities while saving a total of ¥20,880 (~S$260) — as compared to travelling on single-trip tickets.

Unlimited rides on the Shinkansen aside, some JR passes also cover unlimited transport on the local JR Trains, JR ferries as well as JR buses.

The biggest problem though, is planning your route and deciding which of the 40 over different JR passes you should get. Fret, not, just follow these 9 steps and you’ll never have to google elsewhere for answers to your JR Pass.

*KLOOK PROMO: From now till 31st December 2019, all Whole Japan JR Passes (7, 14 or 21 days) come with a S$30 Klook Voucher!

 JR Pass Itineraries:

5 Day Kansai Hiroshima Pass: 8-Day Japan Itinerary: 9 Cities in Kansai for under S$ — Osaka, Kobe, Himeji, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Okunoshima, Naoshima, Kyoto, Nara
7 Day Whole Japan JR Pass: 10-Day Japan Itinerary — Tokyo to Osaka With The JR Pass for $1.1k — Tokyo, Hakone, Kamukura, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto
7 Day Whole Japan JR Pass: 8-Day Japan Winter Itinerary For Less Than S$1.2k — Tokyo, Fox Village, Kawaguchi, Nagano Snow Monkey Park, Takayama, Shirakawago, Osaka.

1) Plan Your Route

List of Shinkansen Lines - Guide-to-JR-Pass-Singapore 1
Photo credit: Japan-Guide

Which of the cities would you like to visit? If 2 or more of the cities fall under lines which aren’t adjacent to each other, chances are, you will require a Whole Japan JR Pass. The most common route for this pass is a round trip from Tokyo to Osaka because that alone will exceed the cost you pay for the JR Pass.

2) Decide on Your JR Pass

Kansai Hiroshima JR Pass - Guide to JR Pass in Singapore

Whole Japan VS Regional JR Passes

There are over 40 different JR Passes — with varying days, time flexibility and regions covered. Most people gravitate towards the Whole Japan JR Pass — you get unlimited rides on most of the JR trains and free seat reservation. But it also comes with a hefty price tag of ¥30,000–60,000 (S$365–745).

Whole Japan JR Passes: 7-days, 14 days, 21 days (all Whole Japan JR Passes are for consecutive days only)

If you’re planning to cover cities in different regions e.g. Tokyo in the Kanto region and Osaka in the Kansai region, the Whole Japan JR Pass is the only pass that covers this journey.

Read more: 10 day Tokyo to Osaka JR Pass Itinerary

Tokyo Tower — quirky-tokyo-guide

Japan is huge and perhaps the best way to really get the most out of your trip is to explore in regions. If you plan your route well and know the specific areas you’d like to cover, the regional passes are definitely more cost-effective. These passes often have limited reservations of seats or none at all so you will have to look for seats in the non-reserved carriages. More on this in point 9.

Some of the regional passes like the JR East (Tohoku Area and Niigata, Nagano Area) and JR Hokkaido even have non-consecutive day passes so you can travel slower and spend more time in each city.

Here are some of the key regional passes you can get:

Bihoro Pass Observatory - Budget Hokkaido Itinerary
Read More

3) Purchase Your JR pass in Singapore

Plan a week ahead before your trip and order your passes online via Klook for cheaper tickets — they’re the cheapest in Singapore and definitely cheaper than getting from Japan.

Some passes like the Whole Japan JR Pass will require collection of an exchange voucher from the Klook office in Singapore while others can be collected straight in Japan by showing an e-ticket. More on collection in point (6).

Check out the full list of passes available on Klook here

4) Use Hyperdia to Plan Your Routes

Hyperdia search Tokyo to Osaka - JR Pass Guide

Google maps does a pretty good job when you’re on the go but if you’re planning on a laptop/desktop, Hyperdia.com will be your best friend. Some trains don’t arrive frequently so failing to plan your route can result in a 1-2 hour wait at the station (when you could spend the time exploring instead)!

If your pass offers free seat reservations, just head to the seat reservation counter with your departing and arriving station and exact time if you have that on hand. Taking note of the exact train (e.g. Hikari 517) will be even better.

The results will show 5 of the fastest routes but if you’re not planning to pay a top up fee for Nozomi/Mizuho trains, you can unselect the option at the bottom of the page so it will not come up in the search (more on this in the next point).

Hyperdia also shows the price split into fare (base amount) and seat fee (top up required if you’re reserving seats). If your pass includes seat reservations, you need not worry about this. If not, you can still take the train for free by locating the non-reserved carriages.

This is also great if you’d like to find out the first or last train on a particular date. The timings are accurate to the minute.

5) Trains covered by JR Pass

Nankai Express Trains - Guide to JR Pass in Singapore

When searching for trains via Hyperdia, you’re likely to see 3 different types of Shinkansen trains with varying durations: Nozomi/Mizuho, Hikari and Kodama.

Nozomi trains are the fastest as they make the least stops, followed by Hikari and Kodama which stops at every station. JR Pass holders are only allowed on Hikari and Kodama trains. To get an idea, here are the stops each train makes from Tokyo to Osaka.

Nozomi (2.5hrs): Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka

Hikari (3hrs): Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Shizuoka, Hamamatsu, Nagoya, Gifu-Hashima, Maibara, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka

Kodama (4hrs): Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Odawara, Atami, Mishima, Shinfuji, Shizuoka, Kakegawa, Hamamatsu, Toyohashi, Mikawa-Anjo, Nagoya, Gifu-Hashima, Maibara, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka

6) Collecting Your JR Pass in Japan

JR East Travel Service Center - JR Pass Japan Budget Guide (Tokyo to Osaka)

Whole Japan JR Pass: Prepare your passport and exchange voucher (collected from Singapore) and head to the nearest JR Travel Service Centre. There’s usually one at the airport but also major stations like Tokyo or Shin-Osaka station. You will be asked when you’d like to activate the pass so you can collect it first and have it start later in the trip.

Regional JR Pass: You’ll need to confirm when booking but most JR West Passes do not require any pre-trip collection. If you’re ordering from Klook, just head to the collection counter at the airport with your QR code (from the app) ready in hand. You’ll be handed the pass you can use right away. These passes only activate on your first ride out.

7) Making Seat Reservations

Nankai Express Tickets - Guide to JR Pass in Singapore

Seat reservations can only be made when you have collected your JR pass and only free for Whole Japan JR pass holders. Regional JR pass holders will need to pay a top-up fee for reservations.

To reserve, just head to any “Travel Services” or “Train Reservation” at any major JR station with your start/end station and time.

If you have a change of plans, changes/cancellations to the reservation is free for Whole Japan JR pass holders.

8) Entering The Station With Your JR Pass

Kansai Hiroshima JR Pass - Guide to JR Pass in Singapore

Entry with the JR Pass is by the manned gate only. This is the gantry nearest to the station’s office. When you enter with the JR Pass for the first time, you will need to get a stamp for the start date. Subsequently, just flash the back of the pass showing the date stamp. For flexible day passes, you’ll have your pass stamped on the first train you take each day.

Note that JR Stations are separate from the local metros so if you’re travelling on a metro, you’ll need to exit and locate a separate JR Station gantry.

9) Finding The Right Platform And Seat

Nankai Express Trains - Guide to JR Pass in Singapore

At the entrance gantry, look out for the large overhanging electronic board. This will tell you what platform your train is at.

Once you’re on the right platform, the electronic boards here will tell you which “cars” are for non-reserved ticket holders. Always check the time of departure because there’s alway multiple trains departing from the same platform.

If you have reserved tickets, check the Car number on the floor. This could be different for different trains (e.g. Hikari or Kodama).

If you arrive early and would like to queue up for non-reserved seats, there’s usually at least 2 separate queues. Check the edge of the platform to make sure you’re in the right queue.

Other frequently asked questions about JR Pass

1) Osaka Station Vs Shin Osaka Station

You might realise some of the the stations with “Shin” in front such as Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe which are in fact different stations from Osaka and Kobe Station. Local lines can bring you to the Shin-xxx stations but the Shinkansen will leave from the Shin-xxx station. When you arrive at Shin-osaka via a local train, you will need to enter a separate gantry for the Shinkansen platform.

Dotonbori street in Osaka Japan
Dotonbori, Osaka – A Gastronomic’s heaven

2) Ordinary Car Vs Green Car

Green Car basically means more premium, spacious seats usually available on the Shinkansen (bullet train) and Tokkyū (limited express) trains. Kind of like first class seats on flights. Honestly the Ordinary cars are already quite spacious and comfy but if you’re holding on to an Ordinary Car Japan Rail Pass and would like to experience the Green Car, you can pay a top up fee at the JR counters for a single upgrade too.

FAQs about Whole Japan JR Pass

1) I’m travelling from Tokyo – Osaka/Kyoto – Tokyo and nothing else in between. Is it still worth getting a Whole Japan JR Pass?

Yes! Just the round trip between Tokyo to Osaka/Kyoto is worth the 7-day Whole Japan JR Pass. But on top of the two rides, you’ll be able to use the pass on local JR trains or buses in each city.

If you’re flying in from Tokyo and out from Osaka (or vice-versa), it might make more sense to purchase a single Shinkansen ticket (¥14,450) and get a regional pass instead. Check out our 8-day Kansai itinerary for more ideas! 🙂

2) Does the JR Pass cover the ride from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station/Kansai Airport to Osaka station?

Yes to both! From Narita (NRT), you can take the JR Narita Express (NEX) and reach Tokyo station in 53 minutes for free. However, if you plan to activate your JR pass later in the trip, a cheaper (& faster) alternative is the Keisei Skyliner (41 minutes to Tokyo Main Station).

From Kansai (KIX), both the Kansai Airport Rapid Service (65 minutes to Osaka Station) and the Limited Express Haruka (50 minutes to Shin-Osaka) are covered by the JR Pass. If you’re travelling to/from the airport without your JR pass, pre-book the Nankai Line Airport Express instead. It only takes 35-minutes from Namba station and costs ~S$14 on Klook.

3) Should I begin my trip from Tokyo or Osaka?

For me, the biggest deciding factor was whether I’m there for USJ in Osaka or the Tokyo Disney Parks. Since these parks take up an entire day and you won’t be using the JR Pass that day, it makes sense to activate the pass later when you’re leaving the city because these train rides will cost more.

Can’t decide which theme park to check out? Read our extensive theme park guides to find out more!

Universal Studios Japan: The Ultimate USJ Guide
Tokyo Disney Parks: Tokyo Disneyland or Disneysea — 11 Tips and Tricks to Maximise Your day
Fuji Q Highland: The Theme Park With The Best Roller Coasters Most Tourists Miss

We hope you found this JR Pass Guide useful especially for those residing in Singapore!

Let us know in the comments sections below if we missed out anything you’d like to know about travelling with Japan Rail Passes. That way we can keep the guide up to date! 🙂

This post was brought to you by Klook.

Co-founder of The Travel Intern.Fuelled by adrenaline and the outdoors, she can usually be found climbing on walls, diving in the sea, or jumping out of planes. Before The Travel Intern, she quit her 4-year marketing job to explore yoga for three months in India. Follow her adventures on Instagram @cheriesyw


  1. Hi,
    Its my 1st time booking JR pass from Klook from Singapore.
    May I ask what is the date to choose when booking? The date to collect the E-voucher or the date reached in Japan to collect the JR Pass? If to collect in Singapore, where and when to collect prior to travel?
    For using the promo code, how can I use it for everyone in the trip individually?
    Do I have to download the Klook app on their phone and purchase?
    Or can i go to the Klook website on desktop to book individually?

    Hope you can help to share your experience with me.

    Thank You.

    • Hi,

      Thanks for writing in! The date selected on Klook is the collection of the exchange voucher from Klook’s office. They will also prompt you to select a collection time after picking the date. The office address can be found on the product page.

      The pass will only be activated when you take your first ride with the actual pass (collected at the JR station in Japan using the exchange voucher). So you can actually collect it up to 90 days before your trip begins.

      The promo code only works on the account’s very first order so to fully maximise the code, it’d be better to get everyone to book with their own accounts. It works on both the app and on desktop too; you just need to sign-in to the respective accounts.

      Hope that helps!

  2. Hi, I’d like to ask about the Whole Japan JR pass.
    My family is planning to start from Tokyo, since flight tickets have already been bought, then move to kyoto or osaka. Was wondering if the 7day pass would be enough, since we’re planning on spending around 5-7days in tokyo then spending another week between kyoto and osaka. And for the passes, are they consecutive day passes like once u activate it u have 7 days to use it from activation date or are they the type where within 14days u can use it for 7 seperate days.

      • Additional question ^^””, but would it be cheaper if i took the regional passes for kyoto, osaka and use the normal railway or fly over to osaka form tokyo?

        • Not too sure about flights but if you’re only planning to travel 1 way from Tokyo to Osaka then it definitely makes more sense to buy a single ticket for around ¥13,000 and a Kansai thru pass which covers Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe as well as the airport ride to Kansai Airport in Osaka.

          • Cherie, cu went to tokyo right? cld u share bt hw u travelled within tokyo? or hw ur friends or anyone u know travelled when they were there?

  3. Hi,
    I am thinking of getting “7 Day Whole Japan Rail Pass” from Klook due to their $20 promotion discount. My question is how reliable is their Exchange Order (MCO). Is there anyway I can verify the authenticity of the MCO before I fly to Japan?

    K K Chua

    • Hi Chua!

      We have used it personally and so have many of our readers. Klook is an official partner so they will not be any problems!

  4. Hi, if I purchase a kansai Hiroshima pass from Klook, do I need to fill up an exchange order? I thought I must provid traveler info beforehand I can redeem the physical pass at KIX airport? Thanks!

  5. Hi,
    I need your advice on my japan tour. I follow my hubby for his business from 25th Jan2018- 2 nd feb 2018 From 2nd feb , we plan to go osaka n kyoto n depart on 4th feb to Hiroshima becoz our return flt is Sin-hiroshima-sin
    Kindly help me on what type of jr pass i nd to buy so that i can travel to osaka, kyoto n other places of intetest around hiroshima when my hubby is at work. What type of jr pass he needs to buy to travel to kyoto , osaka and back to hiroshima
    Appreciate your kind reply
    Thank you so much

  6. Hi Travel Intern, hope you can help advice which Pass to get.
    I will arrive in Nagoya and plan to go to Takayama, Ainokura, Kanazawa, Uji, Hiroshima and Osaka.
    Do you suggest I get the Whole Japan Pass? Or is there a more economical way ?

  7. Hi I’m landing in Tokyo and stay for ard 3-4days then Osaka then Kyoto, the whole trip is exactly 7days. Flying back to Sg from kansai airport.

    Is it better for the route to be tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto or Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka?

    Also can u advise from the itinerary, which jr pass to get? Thanks a lot

    • Hi, the only JR pass that covers the route from Tokyo to Osaka is the 7 day whole JR Pass (http://bit.ly/2r1PZsL). However, if you’re only travelling from Tokyo to Osaka one-way, you won’t be able to get the full value you’ll be paying for other than the convenience of buying single tickets while travelling on JR lines within Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka as well as the ride from Tokyo to Osaka.

      Regarding which city to begin from, unless you’re bounded by the 7 day pass, this doesn’t really matter anymore. If you’re planning to get the pass, I would suggest starting from the city you’d like to spend more time in so you can activate the pass only when leaving the city. e.g. If I plan to spend an entire day in Tokyo Disneysea, I would begin from Tokyo so that day wouldn’t be wasted on the JR Pass. Have you seen our Tokyo to Osaka itinerary? this might be useful: https://thetravelintern.com/japan-budget-guide-jr-pass-tokyo-to-osaka/

  8. Hi if im travelling one way form Tokyo to Osaka, which pass will be applicable to me!m? And would it make sense for me to get a pass?

  9. Hello Travel Intern,

    Thanks so much for this site. I would like your advice on whats the best for our itinerary.

    7/4/18 Arrival at Narita at 8 am. Intend to travel direct to Osaka on same day
    10/4/18 Osaka to Kyoto
    13/4/18 Kyoto to Tokyo
    21/4/18 Depart from Tokyo

    Is the 1 week JR pass the best for us in view of our schedule above?
    If we get the 1 week JR pass and activate it on 7/4/18, we can use the Narita Express to Tokyo and thereafter take the Shinkansen to Osaka as well? The JR pass covers Osaka-Kyoto-Tokyo but wont be able to take us from Tokyo to airport on our departure day. What is the most economical way to get from Tokyo to Narita? Is using the Skyliner from Tokyo to Narita a good alternative in our case?

    Many thanks

    • Yes! The round trip from Tokyo to Osaka/Kyoto to Osaka itself is worth the value of the JR Pass.
      The NEX will bring you to Tokyo station where you can transfer to the Tokaido Shinkansen to Osaka.
      For Tokyo back to the airport, this would be the cheapest option at ¥2200 instead of ¥3000 for the NEX: http://bit.ly/2nUYotB (it leaves from Ueno station)

  10. Hi Travel Intern!

    We are bound for Japan on May 21-26. Entry- Tokyo Exit-Osaka.
    is purchasing a JR Pass worth it? if it’s not, what can u recommend as an alternative? Thank you.

  11. Hi Travel Intern,

    I have a question about the Shinkansen seat reservation. We would be travelling to Aomori for a day during the peak season on 29 April. Planning to board the northbound train at 6:32am and return by 7pm. Is it possible for me to reserve the seats from here in Singapore? Just to make sure we can board the first train northbound. Or our only way of reservation is when we reach Narita airport on 28 and ask for it?

    I’m just concerned since it’s peak season. Hope you can help me on this. Thanks!

    • Hi JD, it’s only possible to reserve at the JR Station when you arrive on the 28 after activating/validating your JR Pass.

  12. Hi, need some advise on Whole JR Pass. Intended to visit Mt Fuji & Gotemba in Tokyo then take a shinkansen to Hakodate , then to Sapporo. Do you think its worth it than a flight? Is all these routes covered in the Whole JR Pass. TIA for your advise.

  13. Hi, I will like your advice on which passes should we get for our itinerary, or getting the whole JR pass will be more worthwhile? Activating it when on the 7th-13th?

    6/11/18 Arrival at Haneda at 6am
    7/11/18 Tokyo to Kyoto
    10/11/18 Kyoto to Osaka
    13/11/18 Osaka to Tokyo
    15/11/18 Departure from Haneda

    much appreciated

  14. Hi =) Could you kindly advise if the 7 day whole japan rail pass is the best for me? I am arriving at Narita Airport (Tokyo) and will only be travelling to Kyoto. After Kyoto I will travelling back to Tokyo for the remainder of my trip. Am I right to assume that in Kyoto I would have to use Suica as the JR pass would not be able to be used on the local buses & etc.? Once my JR pass expires when I am back in Tokyo, I can just use the Suica to travel around Tokyo?

    8th Nov – Arrive at Narita Airport at 9pm
    10th – Going to Kyoto on the earliest train
    12th – Going to Tokyo on the last train
    18th – Leaving Narita Airport back to SG

    • Yup, as long as you’re travelling between Tokyo and Kyoto both ways, the 7-day JR Pass will be worth it!
      The JR pass can also be used on the local JR trains/buses but the Suica/Icoca cards can be used on all the transports including the local subway companies. Here’s what I would do:

      8th — Activate the JR pass and take the NEX from Narita to Tokyo
      8 – 14th — Use the JR pass on the train from Tokyo – Kyoto – Kyoto as well as local JR trains & buses (lots in Kyoto)
      15th – 18th — You can get a 72 hour Subway pass for travelling within Tokyo

  15. I recenty got a JR pass to travel around in Hiroshima. When I travelled from Hiroshima to Kyoto, I was asked to top up because from Osaka to Kyoto is NOT covered by JR pass!

  16. I need your assistance to advise which train pass should I get if I intend to go to these places:

    1. Dotonbori
    2. Universal studio
    3. Rinku outlet
    4. Osaka castle
    5. Aquarium
    6. Winter ski & snowboarding
    7. Nara park

  17. Hi
    I’m target to do all 47 prefectures of Japan.
    Next Saturday I will travel from Osaka to Mie, Shiga, Tsuruga (Fukui ken)
    Can I use JR pass for these routes?

    Then from Tokyo to All Tohoku (except Yamagata which I have been)

    • wow nice, I hope to do that one day too! I’ve never been to Mie, Shiga and Tsuruga but I’m sure there are JR trains to these cities. To be sure, you might want to double check the routes on Hyperdia: http://www.hyperdia.com/

      Not too sure how long it will take to cover all 47 prefectures but the maximum number of days the JR pass covers is 21 which is probably the most value for money pass because it’s only ~$33/day compared to the 7 day pass at ~S$50/day!

      All the best on your trip!

  18. Hi Cherrie, a lot of people asking about the JR Pass, but I think you deserve praise for your wonderful and very informative posts 🙂 thanks for sharing! I am going first-time to Japan and covering Tokyo-Nagano-Kyoto-Osaka and your posts are super helpful. I am excited to explore the places you went to also. More support to you 🙂

  19. I just want to say thanks to Admin who sharing very useful information to each of us. Many people are getting confused about JS pass and for this purpose, this post is very helpful for them. Now if we talk about the country Singapore, so we all know that this is one of the most exquisite travel destinations which offer a lot of amazing adventures to the travellers. But it is only enjoyable for those who take with them all the important things for making the journey convenient and for survival in the conditions. First of all, you can start by making your holiday bookings online with the Klook Promo Code on great discounts to ensure everything gets managed well in advance. The second thing and very important thing is that to do for preparation is packing your stuff for the trip.

  20. Hi! Planning my 9 days trip to Japan and I’m quite confused as to when I’ll activate my JR pass so that on my last day I’ll be able to use it for the Narita Express. I’ll be in Japan from May 20-28. I plan to stay 5 days in Tokyo and 4 (or 3) days in Osaka. Thank you in advance!

    • You can get it activated on the 22nd then. That way you can use the pass on the JR lines during your last 3 days in Tokyo, the long ride from Tokyo to, Osaka and back to Tokyo airport. Don’t forget to get your exchange your voucher for the actual pass when you arrive in Tokyo! Head to any JR East Travel Service Centre and let them know when you’d like to start using the pass so they can stamp and validate the pass.

  21. Hello, planning a 2 week trip to Japan next year, landing in Osaka (2 nights) and travelling to Kyoto (4 nights), Nagano(2 nights) then Tokyo (6 nights) and flying from Tokyo. I have an itinerary planned but would require a pass for just 8/9 days which is not possible with the JR pass. Is it worth getting the trips separately? or paying for Osaka – Kyoto and using a pass from leaving there? or extending my Osaka stay and reducing my Tokyo stay to use the pass for just the 7 days? I feel the 14 day pass is too much for what I need.

    • Hi Hayley, paying the Osaka–Kyoto separately might be a good option! It’s only ¥500 (~S$6) so you can save on that journey and use it on the longer routes like Kyoto–Nagano and Nagano–Tokyo. Get a reloadable card such as the ICOCA (in Osaka) to supplement your JR Pass. You can also get the 24,48 or 72 hour Tokyo Subway Pass (it’s more useful than the JR Pass for getting around Tokyo).

  22. Hi! Very informative article.
    I’m going to spend 13D12N only at OSAKA/KYOTO.
    Other than Kobe, is there any other places near Osaka/Kyoto that worth a 1-day visit?
    Here’s my current planned route.
    20/12 – KIX- KYOTO.
    22/12 – KYOTO – NARA – KYOTO
    25/12 – KYOTO – OSAKA
    26/12 – Universal Studio
    30/12 – OSAKA – KOBE – OSAKA
    1/1 – OSAKA – KIX

    Need some advice on which pass should I get.
    Thanks for helping, much appreciated!


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