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How many Katos are out there, ready to explode in rage?

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Tomohiro Kato is us, a lot of people in their 20s seem to be saying. It’s a shocking admission, given that Kato faces a possible death sentence for one of the most appalling mass murders of recent times – the one in Tokyo’s Akihabara in June 2008. A laid-off temp worker with nowhere to go and no one to turn to, Kato rammed a rented truck into a throng of pedestrians, then went on a rampage with a knife, killing seven and wounding 10.

“Kato-kun is just like me,” a 27-year-old woman from Shikoku tells Weekly Playboy (Feb 14). She had traveled to Tokyo on an overnight bus, and was in court on Jan 25, the day prosecutors called for the death penalty. She’d made the eight-hour trip at least 10 times before. That’s how closely she has followed the trial – and how closely she identifies with the defendant.

“Just like me,” she says, “he wanted to live a normal life. But in today’s world, living a normal life isn’t easy. Once you slip off the rails, you can’t get back on.”

Kato is 28, and many people his age have known enough despair in their own lives to feel they understand him. “Granted he may deserve the death penalty,” muses a 28-year-old Weekly Playboy editor, “but it still should not simply be left at that. I myself could have been a victim that day. I could also have been a perpetrator.”

“Is the Akiba incident over?” the magazine asks. Will executing Kato contain, purge or ease the “explosive” frustrations seething among a generation of young adults stymied by a moribund economy and a warped demographic weighted against them in favor of the numerically superior and growing ranks of care-consuming, social welfare-dependent elderly?

Perhaps never anywhere has it been so difficult to be young as it is in today’s Japan. At the Akihabara “pedestrian heaven” on Jan 23 as it reopened for the first time since the murders, Weekly Playboy talked to some of the young people milling about and found no one turning Kato into a hero – but no one condemning him outright either. “The only difference between me and him,” says a 27-year-old man who’s been through more than his share of unemployment and sexlessness, “is that I have some friends who help me take my mind off things.” Otherwise, “I might be where Kato is.”

“The mass media has written us off as the ‘Seito Sakakibara generation,’” sardonically observes a 28-year-old freelance writer. Seito Sakakibara was the alias adopted by a 14-year-old killer of two children in Kobe in 1997. Since then, the thwarted generation’s rage has boiled over in acts of isolated violence of which the Akihabara incident is perhaps the worst but not the last.

“People want to know why incidents of mass murder arise,” Weekly Playboy sums up. “The death penalty by itself isn’t going to solve anything.”

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

51 Comments
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What an interesting and pertinent article, asking questions that desperately NEED to be answered.

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"More than his share of unemployment and sexlessness". Wow! This is a reason to go on a bloody rampage? Work the night shift at 7/11 and get off to the brothel once a month. Who exactly are these young people blaming for their problems? Being in your 20s can be rough (I know! I didnt have much going then either). But to identify yourself with a mass killer!?

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These understandable frustrations would be much better canalized into political or social activism. I would even understand people rioting against the government more than these nonsense killing sprees.

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the problem is systemic in nature and it is quite natural to blame the system for the state of affairs. in the arab world of about 360 million people over 190 million are under 24! almost 3/4 of them unemployed!!! and we see where that leads. in japan, as long as their grievances do not find a positive outlet through group or class consciousness that directly translates into credible political perspective and action, we will continue to see individual acts of desperation like this, death penalty or not.

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She had traveled to Tokyo on an overnight bus, and was in court on Jan 25, the day prosecutors called for the death penalty. She’d made the eight-hour trip at least 10 times before.

Why is she so obsessed with this guy?

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"Perhaps never anywhere has it been so difficult to be young as it is in today’s Japan." ARE YOU SERIOUS? this is ACTUALLY in writing? Tell that to the young people in Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda. Say that outrageous statement sentence to the young in North Korea, Iraq, the Gaza strip, Albania, Afghanistan...The list goes on and on. This country is a PARADISE! oh no I dont have a job. Oh no I dont have a girlfriend. Oh no I am not normal or cool in the eyes of the people around me....Boooo hoooo. You dont wake every morning wondering if your house will be shelled. You dont wake every morning wondering if your neighbors or family disappered in the dead of night. You dont wake to the footsteps of guerrilla soldiers raping your village. You dont wake up to ethnic cleansing. The AUDACITY of that statement makes me wish for a natural catastrophe to give some perspective of how bad it can actually get..

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There is a clear message here. There is a generation out there brought up to expect a "normal" and secure life who are not finding that possible. Social expectations combine with their personal ones to put them under considerable pressure. Add then the expectations of potential partners and many will go single and unsupported. Add then to that the alienation that modern Japan's lifestyles create e.g. no social network, alienation from family, emotional isolation and no infrastructure to address mental issues, and it is a wonder we don't have more Katos.

As for this becoming political/social activism. I think that is highly unlikely in a world where people are isolated and disempowered. Activism takes motivation, cooperation and a sense of unity. All lacking in youth society today. It would take a substantial leader and his followers to morph this anger into activism. But where are any leaders in Japan that can be followed and respected?

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I have never thought about going over the deep end, but would love to go into their minds to see what it feels like.

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killdamessenger, most of the people in the world don't face those problems, either. I think it's understood when someone makes a statement like "Perhaps never anywhere has it been so difficult to be young as it is in today’s Japan" they mean in the stable, industrialized world.

Young people DO have it tough in Japan. Sure it's not as tough as a Sudanese villager but it's much worse than what their parents had so for them it's very bad.

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I agree with Smorkian. While those people have it tough, I think it was more of a 'compared to previous generations' type of thing. Even when people were starving postwar about what to eat, there was a sort of 'advantage' in that being successful simply meant getting by. Now, kids are raised to wonder if they have 'enough' and not having an index of satisfaction to judge anythign by. They don't know how to be happy and it's some strange, empty life. Is it harder than starvation or guerilla militants? No. But it's hard in its own way. I loved living in Japan for five years, but I wouldn't be Japanese for quids.

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Playboy is a magazine trying to sell as many of their magazines as possible.

"We're all Katos!!!"

uhhh, then again, maybe we're not.

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@smorkian- nothing is "understand" when its in black and white. Subsequently, you think people have it hard in Japan today compared to their Grandparents in post WW2 Japan? you need to get out and talk to more Japanese people. There are jobs all over. Everyday I see help wanted signs in convenience store windows and Mcdonalds for 1000 yen an hour. They have a roof over their head and food in their stomachs that their parents provide. And they dont benefit at all by bleeding hearts pampering their laziness. Unemployment is everywhere. No excuses. Japan is rich, pampered society. And so is everyone on this thread, myself included.

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add- Unemployment is everywhere in the world.

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It is EXACTLY this type of self centered, the word revolves around us, there is nothing outside our small little reality, narcissistic attitude that perpetuates the declination of this once strong and glorious culture. There is NOTHING difficult in Japan that a positive attitude and a "can do" spirit wont overcome. You cant say that about any of the aforementioned places and hundreds more. This weakness and those that sympathize with it represents everything that revolts me.

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People don't feel frustration relative to people in some foreign land, they feel it relative to what's around them. In japan the boom generation is generally pampered and wealthy, while the young have little opportunity.

Anyway, interesting article...

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Still don't understand why the intersection was closed for 2.5 years due to this one incident.

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As was mentioned before the incident was the last straw after years of complaints about the road being closed and the problems that came with it.

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@junnama-maybe its time they started. its easier than ever. And That is NONSENSE that the young have very little opportunity. AAAAAhhh utter B.S.! There is heaps and heaps of opportunity if they would get off their lazy a@@es and stop complaining about it. Opinions like yours add to the problem. Stop being a part of the problem and be a part of the solution. This country is the so easy and tame. "people dont feel frustration relative to...blah blah..." I am so sick of weak people making weak excuses. The world IS global. OPEN YOUR EYES.

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I know you want to believe that it's true everyone has opportunity, but sadly it's not the case. Keep fighting the good fight but don't be shocked when the next incident happens.

The real extreme case is simple: history says you share a little bit willingly or you end up sharing alot unwillingly.

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hmm.

killdamessenger is a new poster here and seems out to raise some hell here.

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killdamessenger. Where to begin. First I would say you are very naive about economics and employment markets in Japan. Second I would say you are overly optimistic about the future prospects that people off their a@@es have if they simply Gambarro.

Stable, lasting jobs are in decline in Japan. Those that do exist often pay wages that are not viable for independent life. Thus leaving young workers mired in dependence upon housing and support from families. Part time and irregular work result in significant underemployment for many, that cannot be escaped by working any harder. On the contrary, they are often the lucky ones who have found work at all.

As high end jobs stop hiring and more and more people find it difficult to get work, there will be greater anger and disenfranchisement. Add to that the social ills of modern Japanese life and you have a recipe for depression, social alienation, isolation and mental illness.

killdamessenger. Your attitide is reflective of the American wild west mentatlity that worked very well in the 19th and very early 20th century. It certainly worked during Japan's post war rebuilding. But the world is not in a state of expansion today. It is in a state of contraction as resources, employment opportunities and wealth contract. Leading more and more people to economic despair.

You may wish to try on a little charity and patience as well. Just because you may be working, housed and doing fine today, does not mean that you cannot share the fate of these young people. Legions of very stable, very skilled people have found their lives pulled from under them despite their capacity for and years of gambarro devotion.

Don't damn others before you walk in their shoes. If you have not, then you have no claim to know how you would do in the same situation. Direct experience alone would prove that argument. Nothing more or less.

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@ Zenny- no Kato was out to raise some hell. I am out to stop people sympathizing trying to find reasons. @tko-your opinion sounds straight off the pages of an editorial written by someone looking at numbers from the comfort of their warm chair. Get out and hit the pavement. Look around. Talk to people. I work in the Entertainment industry and talk to a hundred different people a week about their situation from behind a bar. And 99 percent of them are easily changeable with a positive attitude and elbow grease. Sympathize, Empathize, Excuse all you want and perpetuate the problem. Its the difference between real life experience/human contact and learning all you know from web articles and newspapers.

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killdamessenger.

Wrong quest unless you know the plans for akiba and what been going down for the last 20yrs.

Good luck on your crusades don't be surprised if you get little support by well informed and clear thinkers.

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Yes, as we know: if the unemployment rate has gone up, people have become less hard working. That's usually the cause ;)

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What a disturbing article, with disturbing comments from 20 yr olds.

Is there really a 27yr old woman who traveled 10 times for 8 hours overnight to Kato "kun"s trial and who identifies with him. I hope they are keeping a watch on her!

Japanese simply don't realize that what they had decades ago was artificial and was never going to last. Someone tell them that you can miss out on the dream of being a housewife married to a salaryman with lots of money but still be happy - and even if you aren't happy, that there are better ways of coping than killing people who just happen to be there.

Depressing and scary.

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Look mates, I have lived here for 10 years-moved from Australia. This sight was recommended by a customer. I own me own bar and spend 6 nights a week listening to Japanese men tell me there problems and talking about whats wrong with this country. I dont need to listen to a couple of tossers who live their bloody lives vicariously through internet articles telling me what the status quo is in Japan. This society whines like children and if they got of their bloody a@@es instead of complaining about how they dont fit in, or how they cant find a girlfriend or a mate, they would be able to have anything they want. Get off the internet, go out and have a conversation mate, get a real idea of what people are thinking and quit trying to bloody pose as being "in the know" because you read and breathe every article the minute its published. The world is not a websight mates.

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Killdamessenger.

Glad you got ALL the answer and know it all.

When you come down to earth & reality we can talk again.

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Ahh, the bartender has all the answers: just like "Cocktail" ;)

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Heck, there were a whole bunch of Katos on the train with me yesterday morning - when the train stopped at the station, a whole bunch of people pushed and shoved each other, including me, in their mad dash to get out of the train. Idiots.

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This society whines like children

You mean the drunks at your bar.

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@bicultural-do you live in this country? booze is as much a part of this culture as is fish. They drink all the time. @Zenny-I dont attack. the shoe fits, man. You know it.

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I grew up in Latin America, raised by an illiterate mother who worried daily about being able to make ends meet and eternally broke. We had zero luxuries, but there was always food on the table. The 5 pesos I got for my 15th birthday I lent to the neighbors so that they could buy rice. Nevertheless, I made it to college and beyond. I've learned to appreciate what I have and wish more young Japanese were exposed to the realities of life to realize that not being able to buy a designer bag, the latest docomo phone or their monthly manga is not the end of the world.

I have 2 Japanese female staff in their late 20's, both 'parasite singles' who are constantly bitching about how hard their lives are. I wish I could give them a 3 month stay in Haiti or Rwanda for them to come to their senses. Cry babies.

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Little babies- Get a 2nd job maybe life wouldn't be so bad.

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@killdamessenger. If the Japanese you talked about actually did get out and do something, instead of going to your bar and complaining, you would be out of business.

So, I guess you are hoping they will keep being depressed and complaining.

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Life based on science and technology ignores, to its detriment, the inner life of the soul. Not to nourish the soul is to be bereft of what truly makes a person fulfilled.

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Yeah let's nourish the soul by going back to when religous doctrine overruled science and technology. Anyone up for a Crusade? How about an Inquisition? Anyone? No?

@Yasukuni, unless it was an exclusive bar with a limited membership, one group getting up and leaving only serves to make room for others who wanted to come in, but felt the place was too crowded.

Japan has many issues that need to be addressed and they will once they become so pressing that even the lawmakers are affected. In the meantime Japan is in the odd position of having a declining population but increasing unemployment. At some point the unemployment will HAVE to stabilize and then drop because you can't have businesses run by a skeleton crew. As more people get meaningful jobs, incidents like what happened in Akiba should drop.

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The silver spoon dissapeared and the toys got threw out of the pram. Grow up, get on with it and do something about it. Nothing worse than a whinger who wont do anything to change it, cant get a girl (talk to one), cant get a job (do a low end one and work up), dont have a cool car (tough, most people don`t).

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@bicultural- my customers range from salarymen to Uni students to small business owners to college professors to retirees to unemployed blokes doing job training at the local job office. They all sing the same tune. Unhappiness due to marriage or no marriage, taxes too high to no money at all, no mates to bad mates. Drunk or sober, day i day out, they are ALL responsible for their own lives and can change what the dont like at any time, No excuses. This is real life mates in Japan. Not opinions based on news articles. A @junnama- Im a bar OWNER mate, my 2 bartenders work beside me. What do you own? besides a computer and spare time?

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killdamessenger-

I understand what you are saying and how people complain when they drink, and I DO actually agree with you that many/most of the things they complain about are things they can actually overcome if they really try.. But I think when people go out to drink, they WANT to rant and complain.. Maybe many of those complainers do not or cannot complain during the day and maybe many of them actually are trying to change things in a better way :) My husband sometimes complains about work or other things(work itself, his co-workers, system, etc), but he does not complain outside of the house and he is actually doing his best to get the best result.. so I let him whine and complain when he's relaxed at home. I think your customers are relaxed and feel that they are allowed to complain and whine when drinking.. so I wouldn't be harsh on them :)

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@fishy-I agree. Believe me, I am all smiles and nods at work. I just listen and pour. I am ranting my frustrations here, to foreigners. Never in me bar.

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a lot of people have the potential. when i was that age, i think that i may have even had the potential. but when push comes to shove, actually going out, planning and acting on it is another thing altogether. as for japanese getting drunk and complaining, i think all people everywhere complain, its a way to let of steam. but at least they don't go out looking for a brawl.

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Japan...a very very sad country!

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:)

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“Just like me,” she says, “he wanted to live a normal life. But in today’s world, living a normal life isn’t easy. Once you slip off the rails, you can’t get back on.”

Although that Kato groupie is a total lunatic for following the trial so closely, she does make a good point. Finding stable, full-time employment is getting harder and harder. If you're lucky enough to catch the seishain train, then life is pretty good. But if you take the part-time shain or haken shain route, your professional future is pretty bleak. Companies need to start considering turning haken shain staff into seishain more. Getting rid of haken shain after their term is up and getting a new one that needs to be trained again is ineffecient, assinine and doesn't do anyone a lick of good.

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Why swallow the ridiculous assumption that Kato's acts were connected to the economic and employment circumstances of young Japanese? The guy was crazy and so is that girl who's stalking his course.

OK. Now let's say some more obvious things.

If Kato really did have a "bad" employment experience overall, most likely it's because he himself was the cause. Being a sociopathic, unbalanced creep, he was either let go, or simply couldn't maintain even part-time jobs and the actions and interactions they require. In short, crazy people aren't easily employable.

If Kato had somehow been able to maintain a job, then he would've exploded in the workplace (called "going postal" in the US) and murdered a bunch of people there. In that case, today's false assumption article wouldn't be about the whining, self-entitled sulking of privileged youth in a first world country with excellent national healthcare and employment prospects. It would be about injustice in the Japanese workplace, the lockstep employment system or the failure of Japanese companies to address worker mental health issues.

Finally, if Kato had been born an American he might've "gone postal" in some college quad or shopping mall with an inconsequential grievance or childish personal grudge pulling the trigger of a semi-automatic weapon. If he'd been born in the Middle East, he might've been a religious fanatic and holy warrior. These irrational, violent nutters just pick up whatever is in front of them as the motivation and excuse, and the rest of us are supposed to believe it?

Crazy is as crazy does.

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The poor quality of life in Japan even during the bubble years was regular fodder for the foreign press. Things haven't changed much on that front.

Additionally, Japanese society is very Machiavellian IMO, no sympathy for those who fail or are weak. Just talking with Japanese about it makes me glad I can step out of it...

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This kind of disenchanted generation is ripe for manipulation.

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Yeah I know what you mean, sometimes when things aren't going right the first thing I think about is how I can rent a truck and kill everything in sight. I mean, doesn't everyone?

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Too bad the materialistic dream hasn't panned out for Japan. Well, keep chasin' it!

Next stop: South Korea, then China.

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Japanese society is very Machiavellian IMO, no sympathy for those who fail or are weak.

Agreed - there is no room for those who have trouble staying on the treadmill, and are very dismissive of them once they fall off. Kato's example is extreme, but there are plenty of people on a daily basis who just choose to quietly step of a bridge, or in front of a train due to the despairing conditions of their life, and it is extremely callous of people to just suggest they should have sucked it up, stopped whingeing, and got on with it. That doesn't, and is not going to solve the problem. I look at my Japanese mates, and I wonder how they manage the grind of working to midnight every day, get a few meager days holiday a year, suffer through a corporate system that rewards loyalty and not performance, see little of their kids and nothing 'substantial' of their wife. I honestly wonder how you keep yourself going under those circumstances, and it would be very tough to keep from being disillusioned, especially when there are other factors at play in your life. Japan needs to get serious about mental health, and needs to reform it's workplace culture to try to strike a balance in life.

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There may be many more Katos in the makings.

Nowadays, there are so very many Japanese, young and old who are either underemployed (working poor) or simply flat out unemployed. The current rates are the worst ever in the history of the nation. The "official" unemployment rate is 5% or so, but in reality, it is much, much higher. This is especially the case for freeters and hakken staff, who now make up over 30% of Japan's labor force. Below are some recently published rates by age groups:

Unemployment rates of non-regular employees:

Men

15~24歳=41.6%

25~34歳=13.2%、

35~44歳=8.1%、

45~54歳=7.8%、

55~64歳=27.6%、

65歳以上=69.8%

Women

15~24歳=50.0%、

25~34歳=41.4%、

35~44歳=51.3%、

45~54歳=57.8%、

55~64歳=64.1%、

65歳以上=71.1%

And as Edward Hugh recently wrote:

"Once Japan has a trade deficit it will all be over pretty quickly, since then of course they will have to attract funds to finance the deficit, and this is where things will start to get pretty tricky."

Indeed, things do not bode well for this island nation. And once upon a time, it was so vibrant and dynamic. These days it is all just so very sad. :(

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