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What does Sendagaya mean?

In Japanese History on April 9, 2014 at 5:47 am

千駄ヶ谷
Sendagaya (1000 “da” valley)

Quite possibly the most useless map of Sendagaya ever.

Quite possibly the most useless map of Sendagaya ever.

Sendagaya is the area surrounded by Shinjuku, Yoyogi, Harajuku, and Akasaka. In my experience, 千駄ヶ谷駅 Sendagaya Eki Sendagaya Station is famous, but unless you live or work there, I think the area is overlooked. Much of what people may consider to be Harajuku or Yoyogi is actually Sendagaya[i]. Anyways, I’ll talk about what Sendagaya is today at the end of the article.

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OK, Let’s Look at the Kanji!


sen

1000


da

a pack horse, a load (carried by a horse)


ga

the genitive particle in Old Japanese, similar to の no in modern Japanese.


ya

valley

Seems pretty random, right? .

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駄 Da

The key to this place name are the Old Japanese words 一駄壱駄 ichida 1 da or 二駄弐駄 nida 2 da. These are units of measurement that describe how much stuff you can put on a horse’s back. I don’t know the specifics, but it’s probably something like a size and weight measurement. So you could say “This horse is carrying 3 da.” 千駄 senda 1000 da, of course, would be a crazy number and as such, the local people used the word senda to mean 沢山 takusan a lot of.

So the idea is that this area was 千駄の谷 senda no ya “the valley with a 1000 da.” This begs the question, a 1000 da of what? Well, it’s said that when Ōta Dōkan came to the area to inspect his new holdings, the valley was primarily used for rice cultivation so the name meant “the valley where a lot of rice is grown.”

The word 千駄 appears in another Tōkyō place name, 千駄木 Sendagi. I haven’t researched this place name but I’ll take a guess that it means “a lot of trees.” But that’s topic for another day.

This is a 駄馬 daba, a pack horse. I don't know how many da the horse is carrying, but you get the idea...

This is a 駄馬 daba, a pack horse. I don’t know how many da the horse is carrying, but you get the idea…

 But Wait, There’s More!

One theory states that the 渋谷川 Shibuya-gawa Shibuya River ran through this valley and there were so many 萓 gi day-lilies growing along the bank of the river, that in a single day you could carry out 1000 da of them. This etymology is suspect because of the reference to day-lilies which isn’t preserved in the name.

In 1644, we have a shōgunate record that spells the place name 千駄萱村 Sendagaya Mura Sendagaya Village. This name means 1000 da and 萱 kaya is a kind of reed. This theory states that long ago, along the bank of the Shibuya River, a lot of reeds were growing. It seems that the current writing dates from 1688.

Lastly, another theory states that the writing was 千駄茅 senda kaya a 1000 da of kaya, a kind of hay. (We’ve seen this kanji before in my article on Kayabachō.) While the exact origin of this place name isn’t known, the common theme seems to be the use of the word 千駄 senda 1000 da. Take your pick of which one you like the best.

While yes, today Sendagaya is real area in Tokyo, many people don't know where it actually is because the area is only serviced by a single train line. That said, it's proximity to other well traveled stations makes it an attractive residential district. It's quiet, yet has access quick walking access to major areas.

While yes, today Sendagaya is real area in Tokyo, many people don’t know where it actually is because the area is only serviced by a single train line. That said, it’s proximity to other well traveled stations makes it an attractive residential district. It’s quiet, yet has access quick walking access to major areas.

A Little Bit About the Area

In the Edo Period, the area was just countryside. Some daimyō had residences out this way. The 尾張徳川家 Owari Tokugawa-ke Owari branch of the Tokuagawa Family had maintained a 下屋敷 shimo-yashiki lower residence in Sendagaya for a long time. In 1877 or 1878, 篤姫 Atsu-hime Princess Atsu[ii], wife of the 13th shōgun,  徳川家定 Tokugawa Iesada[iii], moved to this residence until she lost her battle with Parkinson’s Disease in 1883. Atsu-hime was originally born in Kagoshima and helped negotiate the bloodless eviction of the Tokugawa from Edo Castle. Her counterpart was none other than the Kagoshima-born general 西郷隆盛 Saigō Takamori[iv].

The Owari Tokugawa maintained their residence here for some time. Today the palace’s lands have been transformed into 戸山公園 Toyama Kōen Toyama Park, but believe it or not, one of the Edo Period buildings of this residence still survives.

In 1957, the 書院 shoin study of the residence was moved to 總持寺 Sōji-ji Sōji Temple in 横浜市鶴見区 Yokohama-shi Tsurumi-ku Tsurumi Ward, Yokohama, not far from Tōkyō. The former study is now the reception hall of the temple. So if you want to see a beautiful daimyō study from a daimyō compound, you can.

The entrance to the study of the Owari Tokugawa's sprawling residence.

The entrance to the study of the Owari Tokugawa’s sprawling residence. Pretty freakin’ dope, huh?

Later, the area around the former Tokugawa residence was used by the Imperial Army as a training ground. Later, under the American Occupation, the US military used the confiscated training ground. Probably due to all the soldiers being there, the area became famous for love hotels and the sex industry. The red light district was shut down in the buildup to the 1960 Tōkyō Summer Olympics and today the area is mostly known as the home to many fashion and design related businesses. I think this is due to its proximity to Harajuku and Shibuya, both of which are fashion epicenters. .

Toyama Park

Toyama Park

There is another Bakumatsu personage associated with the area. One account of of the untimely death of the 新撰組 Shinsengumi commander, 沖田総司 Okita Sōji took place here. There are conflicting accounts of this due to the confusion generated by the abdication of the last shōgun 徳川慶喜 Tokugawa Yoshinobu. Also, Sōji’s brothers-in-arms were scattered at the time. All of the accounts of his death come to us years later.

A sento (public bath) near Jingumae Stadium.

A sento (public bath) near Jingumae Stadium.

鳩森八幡神社 Hatomori Hachiman-gū Hatomori Hachiman Shrine is a famous shrine in the area. I’ve talked about what a Hachiman shrine is before, so I’m not going to get into that today. However, this particular shrine is special in that it has a 富士塚 Fuji-zuka Fuji Mound. In the Edo Period, travel was tightly controlled by the shōgunate and non-samurai would have had a difficult time getting travel permission to leave their 藩 han domains. Many people wanted to make a pilgrimage to Mt. Fuji, so a trend was to bring rocks from Mt. Fuji to Edo and build a huge mockup of the volcano at a shrine and the local people could make the journey up the hill to honor the 富士浅間 Fuji Sengen, the kami of Mt. Fuji. There are still a few of these remaining today in Tōkyō – I’ve been to about 3 of them, I think.

The Fuji-zuka

The Fuji-zuka

The NTT DoCoMo building which looks like the Empire State Building is also in Sendagaya. If you’ve ever been shopping at the Southern Terrace of Shinjuku Station or enjoyed a stroll through 新宿御苑 Shinjuku Gyoen Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

The NTT DoCoMo Building. Sometimes a purely derivative and truly bizarre choice in architecture can work.

The NTT DoCoMo Building.
Sometimes a purely derivative and truly bizarre choice in architecture can work.

Oh, any expat resident of Tōkyō will tell you that Mexican food is hard to come by. While not in Sendagaya proper, there are two very famous Mexican places in nearby Yoyogi and Shibuya – both walkable from Sendagaya. One is a super famous date-spot known as Fonda de la Madrugada located in 北参道 Kita-sandō. It’s expensive, but they have a mariachi band that come to the tables and take requests (unfortunately, the only Spanish song most Japanese people know is the Gypsy Kings’ cover of Volare, so expect to hear it a few times throughout the course of your dinner)[v]. The other one is the more casual and less expensive, El Torito, located in the Southern Terrace of Shinjuku Station. OK, that’s about all I’ve got on Sendagaya.

 

 

 

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[i] Or maybe that’s just me.
[ii] She’s also called 天璋院 Tenshō-in because this is the name she took after the death of Iesada. It’s a Buddhist name, and I think it’s more like a title. I was told that after the Meiji Restoration she would have been called 篤子 Atsuko, since the title 姫 hime (usually rendered as “princess”) was banned by the new government.
[iii] Yes, the same Tokugawa Iesada who is generally depicted as a complete moron. You can read about his grave here.
[iv]  A guy I don’t have a lot of respect for.
[v] Of course, I’m speaking very broadly here. I’ve personally met Japanese people who know loads of Spanish music – waaaaaay more than I do – but just the average person doesn’t know much.

Onkyoin

In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Tokugawa Shogun Graves, Travel in Japan on June 14, 2013 at 4:49 am

温恭院
Onkyōin
 (Divine Prince of Warm Respect)
十三代将軍徳川家定公
13th Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Iesada
Kan’ei-ji

Tokugawa Iesada. He was the wrong guy for the job at the most critical time.

Tokugawa Iesada. He was the wrong guy for the job at the most critical time. These days, his wife is more famous than he was.

I have a little confession to make. I’ve been treating the 院号 ingō “-in names” as translatable words, but in fact, they aren’t. Just like if your name is Peter, it would be impossible to translate the meaning into another language. There might be a history of the name in your family or you might be named after another person or someone might know the Biblical allusion of the word. Someone might even know that the root of the word is the Greek word for “stone.”

Names are complicated things. Posthumous names are basically foreign names to the Japanese. They look like magical words and religious words. They have a recognizable form (ie; the kanji are familiar). If you understand the kanji, you can get a feeling from the ideography, but that’s about it.

In each installment of this series, I’ve been translating these in the headings of each article. Some translate well. Some don’t. But remember, no Japanese ever looked at those names as a sentence or phrase. But there may be a meaning. Your grandfather was John, so you’re a John, too. Your mom loves tacos, so you’re Jesus. Your parents thought Death Note was the coolest story ever, so now you’re forever known as Light.

The difference is here: Your parents chose a name before you were born. When they chose the name, they didn’t know shit about the you that’s reading this blog. But the imperial courtiers or Buddhist monks who chose the posthumous names of shōguns usually chose these names based on the characteristics of their rule[i].

Then we get to Iesada. Like many of the final shōguns, he fell into the historically unenviable position of being an out of touch, spoiled aristocrat in the midst of a cultural revolution he couldn’t possibly recognize. And so we get this bizarre funerary name. One can’t help wonder if it was a joke or an honest to Buddha posthumous name. I get the feeling, the imperial court who granted the name were taking the piss. Iesada welcomed the foreigners into the country as if he/Japan were a hot bath.

Or who knows? Maybe they were being sincere and thought Iesada welcomed Buddist enlightenment into his heart warmly…

Commodore Perry asked a lot of the Japan.

Commodore Perry asked a lot of the Japan.
But from the foreign point of view it wasn’t so much.
A decent port for trade helps everyone, right?

Either way, the imperial court in Kyoto was now headed by the Emperor Kōmei, who was rabidly xenophobic and was basically begging the shōgun to expel the foreigners from Japan. After all, that’s the job of the shōgun – at least etymologically speaking[ii].

Doesn’t matter anyways… Iesada was only shōgun for 5 years. He died at the age of 34 without an heir. His shōgunate had been overseen by the fully capable and somewhat forward thinking Ii Naosuke who understood well that Japan had fallen behind other countries technologically and couldn’t exist in a vacuum. Naosuke was a brilliant man who oversaw Iesada’s reign until he was famously attacked and murdered in front of Edo Castle in 1860[iii].

Wait a minute!

You just said Iesada was 34 when he died.

Why was there a regent when we have a shōgun in his early 30’s?

check out the confidence of this guy. He's all like, bitch, i AM the shogun! -- my man, Ii Naosuke

Check out the confidence of this guy. He’s all like, bitch, i AM the shogun!
— my man, Ii Naosuke

There are loads of book you can read about the succession disputes of the late shōgunate, but in Iesada’s case it all comes down to the fact that despite being the worst candidate for shōgun, he was made shōgun[iv].  He was most likely mentally retarded or so incapable of doing the job[v] that another daimyō[vi] had to step in steer the ship in the right direction.

His last wife was an arranged marriage to Princess Atsu.

Apparently she was his mental superior many times over and she lived well into the Meiji Era raising the 16th head of the Tokugawa Shōgun Family. There’s an NHK Taiga Drama about her, called Atsu-hime.

13737579919122526b9e96e09ef3cc9e8b0c1f37.97.2.9.2

Iesada's Grave at Kan'ei-ji. Hist wife, Atsu-hime's grave is more popular! (But you'll probably never see either....

Iesada’s Grave at Kan’ei-ji. Hist wife, Atsu-hime’s grave is more popular! (But you’ll probably never see either….)

a worthless picture of a worthless shogun...

a worthless picture of a worthless shogun…

Years apart, they were both interred 合祀 gōshistyle at 常憲院  Eikyūin, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi’s funerary complex. Iesada died in 1858. Atsu-hime dies in 1883. Iesada didn’t have a clue what the fuck was going on. Atsu-hime witnessed, the fall of the shōgunate, the Boshin War, the surrender of Edo Castle to the Emperor, Edo changing to Tōkyō, and that weird e-mail your mom drunk texted last night.

If you want to read about Eikyūin, please read here.

 

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[i] In an autocratic society, take that with a grain few spoonfuls of salt.

[ii] 将軍 shōgun shōgun is short for 征夷大将軍 sei-i tai-shōgun, lead general against the foreign barbarians. It was a title that was hard to take seriously when the invading forces were technologically superior, more international and in many ways considered the shōgunate mediaeval and, quite frankly “barbaric.” Up until now, it had been good to be the shōgun. Now it sucked to be the shōgun.

[iii] The other day, I said the beginning of the Bakumatsu was the arrival of the Black Ships in 1853. Other historians say it began with the assassination of Ii Naosuke. The assumption is that had Naosuke not been murdered and had Tokugawa Yoshinobu been selected as the next shōgun, Japan would have been strong enough to deal with the foreign issue on Edo’s terms with the support of the domains.

[iv] Cadet branches of the Tokugawa were vying for power….

[v] Imagine if a Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann or a George Bush had been elected office… oh, wait a minute….

[vi] ie; Ii Naosuke.

Yutokuin

In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Tokugawa Shogun Graves, Travel in Japan on June 6, 2013 at 9:33 pm

有徳院
Yūtokuin
(Divine Prince of Virtue & Riches)
八代将軍徳川吉宗公
8th Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Yoshimune
Kan’ei-ji

The Abarenbo Shogun himself, Mr. Tokugawa Yoshimune!!!!

The Abarenbo Shogun himself, Mr. Tokugawa Yoshimune!!!!

Writing this series just got a lot easier.

I’ve mentioned before that later in the Edo Period, the shōguns were enshrined together; something called 合祀 gōshi in Japanese. We have now finally come to that moment. I’m sad to say that from here on out, there are no new mortuary temples built. I also mentioned that that for whatever reason, Kan’ei-ji has always kept the Tokugawa Shōgun family graves private. Once a year, they run a lottery for a chance to attend a special 3 day opening of the Tokugawa Shōgun Graveyard and the 葵之間 aoi no ma the room at Kan’ei-ji where the last shōgun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, having abdicated, confined himself in an act of submission to the emperor – a kind of voluntary house arrest. So once a year, a few lucky people are allowed into the graveyard. However, photography is strictly forbidden. There are a few photos floating around the internet, but most of these are accompanied by a story of sneaking in – a risky venture in my opinion.

what Yoshimune "really" looked like...

what Yoshimune “really” looked like…

A Little Background

Yoshimune is considered one of the best shōguns. He ruled for about 30 years. He was closely related to Ietsuna, Tsunayoshi, and Ienobu. Before he was installed as shōgun, he had been the daimyō of Kii. The domain was in serious financial strain when he became lord of Kii, so his reign was marked by frugality and an effort to save money. When Ietsugu died at age six – obviously without an heir – Yoshimune was installed at shōgun. He restructured the shōgunate and implemented many austerity measures. Building Ietsugu’s massive mausoleum at Zōjō-ji did not seem to be a money saving action, but hey, nobody asked me.

In his will, he expressed a desire to be enshrined at Eikyūin because he respected the 5th shōgun, Tsunayoshi. He requested a simple stone monument. Because of his financial reforms or out of respect for Yoshimune, all subsequent shōguns were enshrined at existing mausolea.

Click here for a description of Eikyūin.

Yoshimune's 2-story pagoda style funerary urn from an old book about Kan'ei-ji.

Yoshimune’s 2-story pagoda style funerary urn from an old book about Kan’ei-ji.

A recent pic of Yoshimune's grave taken despite the ban on photogtaphy.

A recent pic of Yoshimune’s grave taken despite the ban on photogtaphy.

 

 

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Eikyuin

In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Tokugawa Shogun Graves, Travel in Japan on June 3, 2013 at 12:13 am

常憲院
Eikyūin  (Divine Prince of the Eternal Law)
五代将軍徳川綱吉公
5th Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Tsunayoshi
Kan’ei-ji

The Dog Shogun, himself. Mr. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi.

The Dog Shogun himself.
Mr. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi.

I don’t know if this name was a sort of joke by the imperial court in Kyōto, an honest compliment, or just an obligatory flattery… or a combination of all three. But the 5th shōgun, Tsunayoshi’s legacy is a mixed bag of leadership and lunacy.

To the average Japanese he’s known as 犬将軍 inu shōgun the dog shōgun.
In his day, he was referred to by the less savory name of 犬公方 inu kubō, which has the same meaning.

His legacy hangs on an edict he promulgated called the 生類憐之令 Shōrui Awaremi no Rei Edict in Regards to the Compassion for All Living Things. Basically, the dude was a total religious freak. Because of the Buddhist belief in reincarnation, he felt compelled to protect all living creatures. Since he was born in the Year of the Dog according to the Chinese Zodiac, he was especially interested in protecting dogs. Tsunayoshi is a pretty interesting character, so if you want to read more about him, you can start HERE. I’m just going to talk about his funerary temple, so let’s get right into it[1].

They say he had a sanctuary for stray dogs in present day Nakano. Nakano Ward says this arial shot is of the place. OK, if you say so....

They say he had a sanctuary for stray dogs in present day Nakano.
Nakano Ward says this arial shot is where the former site was.
OK, if you say so….

If one were to judge the economic conditions of the Edo Shōgunate over time based on the funerary practices at Kan’ei-ji, one might come to the conclusion that the government was still in its heyday under Tsunayoshi’s reign and then we’d see a steep drop in quality by the time the next shōgun[2] was interred at Kan’ei-ji. It’s more nuanced than that, but I can say now that Tsunayoshi’s mausoleum was the last one built at Kan’ei-ji. Not the last used, but the last built. After his temple was built, the successive shōguns interred at Kan’ei-ji were enshrined together in Ietsuna’s and Tsunayoshi’s mausolea.

Structures of Eikyūin

Structure Name Description Condition Status
本殿
honden
the main hall destroyed

相之間
ai no ma
in gongen-zukuri architecture, the structure that connects the honden and haiden. destroyed

拝殿
haiden
the inner or private worship hall destroyed

前廊
zenrō
a latticework fence that forms the border to a temple destroyed

中門
nakamon
The “middle gate” which usually opens from a court yard into the worship hall  destroyed

左右廊
sayūrō
portico on the left and right side of a shrine destroyed

渡廊
watarō
portico destroyed

透塀
sukibei
latticework fence that encloses a temple or shrine destroyed

仕切門
shikirimon
I’m not sure, but it’s a kind of gate… destroyed

鐘楼
shōrō
belfry, bell tower destroyed

勅額門
chokugaku
mon
imperial scroll gate; posthumous name of the deceased hand written by the emperor which marked the official entrance to the funerary temple decent condition usually open to the public
奥院宝塔
oku no in hōtō
the 2-story pagoda styled funerary urn that houses the remains of the deceased. decent condition off limits
奥院唐門
oku no in
karamon
so-called Chinese style gate that provided entry and exit to the tomb of the deceased. decent condition off limits
水盤舎
suibansha
water basins for ritual purification pretty freakin’ good condition, actually. generally off limits
石灯籠
ishidōrō
traditional stone lanterns so-so condition scattered here and there

The 5th shōgun Tsunayoshi’s grave suffered the same fate that his brother, Ietsuna’s, grave suffered (they were next door to each other). Also, like Ietsuna’s, a few portions of the temple were torn down in the annexation of much of Kan’ei-ji’s land by the Meiji government for the creation of Ueno Park. Bizarrely, from the Edo Period until the firebombing of Tōkyō, nobody took a single photograph or painted a single picture of the sites[3]. As a result, what you see here is basically what you get; a gate and a water basin.

The 奥院 oku no in or 霊屋 tamaya (inner sanctuary/graveyard) still exists but it is generally off limits. The wash basin mentioned above is also usually off limits.

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The Imperial Scroll Gate

Tsunayoshi's imperial scroll gate. (Notice there is no scroll....)

Tsunayoshi’s imperial scroll gate.
(Notice there is no scroll….)

A closer shot of the scroll gate... but why is there no scroll..................

A closer shot of the scroll gate.
(I read that the scrolls — actually plaques — of Tsunayoshi and Ietsuna survived the firebombing, but they were taken down so as not to be exposed to the elements. Not sure where they are, tho.)

The Wash Basin

You usually can't enter the cemetery, so this is what that the wash basin seems to most people.

You usually can’t enter the cemetery. Most visitors can just view it from afar.

The wash basin of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi

It appears to be in much better condition that the wash basin in Ietsuna’s mausoleum.

Check out that roof. Pretty freaking siiiiiiick, if you ask me.

Check out that roof. Pretty freaking siiiiiiick, if you ask me.

The Chinese Style Gate

Open chinese gate leading to the cemetery....

Open Chinese style gate leading to the cemetery….

Tsunayoshi's funerary urn

Tsunayoshi’s funerary urn

Tsunayoshi's grave after restoration in the 1950's.

Tsunayoshi’s grave after restoration in the 1950’s.

Stone Lanterns

stacks of stone monuments....

Stacks of stone lantern bases….
These are most likely from lanterns that were toppled by earthquakes, in particularly the Great Kanto Earthquake.

After Tsunayoshi’s enshrinement, burial methods at Kan’ei-ji changed dramatically.

Keep in mind, we’re now 5 shōguns into the Edo Bakufu and from here on out we will not see an individual funerary temple built there again[4]. After this, Kan’ei-ji burials consist of 合祀 gōshi group enshrinements. That means that Ietsuna and Tsunayoshi’s graves became the main Tokugawa cemeteries at Kan’ei-ji for the heads of the Tokugawa family (and occasionally their main wives). Siblings and concubines were buried at Kan’ei-ji, but most of those graves were in what is now called 谷中霊園 Yanaka Reien Yanaka Cemetery.

 

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Spoiler Alert!
I’ve already alluded to this, so I’ve already given way part of this, but other people enshrined in Tsunayoshi’s temple are:
  8th shōgun, Yoshimune
●  13th shōgun, Iesada & his main wife, Princess Atsu
●  Iemoto, the eldest son of the 11th shōgun, Ieharu (called the phantom 11th shōgun because his name had the kanji for “ie” but he was never installed as shōgun ‘cuz he sucked)[5]

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[1] As a side note, Ietsuna and Tsunayoshi were brothers. Easy to remember because of that “tsuna” thing.

[2] The 8th shōgun was Tokugawa Yoshimune, who is a beloved character for his austerity and his bad ass white horse on his TV show for old people, Abarenbō Shogun.

[3] I’m being facetious here, but seriously… why is there no photographic or artistic evidence of either site? It is mysterious as hell, if you think about it.

[4] 5 shōguns deep = 10 more shōguns to go. For all intents and purposes, we’re still very much in the early Edo Period.

[5] Just kidding, he died suddenly at the age of 17.

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