I have only been to Kyushu once, and my destination was Hakata (Fukuoka), the end of the line for the shinkansen, or “bullet train”. I have seen on the map that there is an extension to Kagoshima, which hits Kumamoto as well, but that section of the line has not been connected to Hakata yet. The New York Times reports in a brief article today that this extension will open in March. So, the next time I’m in Japan (whenever that may turn out to be), I’ll be able to go all the way down to Kagoshima on the shinkansen!
Shame it’s not connected to Nagasaki as well. According to this map from WikiCommons, there do not appear to be plans to connect Nagasaki to the rest of the Shinkansen any time soon. On a separate note, I wonder when Kanazawa will be connected in (see blue lines).
Meanwhile, in London, a new record has been set for the most ever paid for a Chinese antiquity. A vase bearing an imperial seal associated with the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1735 – 1796), famous for his patronage of the arts, was sold for US$69.5 million, or $85.9 million once VAT and the auction house’s fees are included.
The New York Times reports that the buyer was someone in mainland China, who bid by phone, and that the sellers were a brother and sister from a small English town who just happened to find it in their attic when they were doing some cleaning, and who had no idea of its value. Now, I hate to be a cynic. The idea that it did indeed happen just that way is romantic, and certainly quite plausible. But, given the way the art world works, if the vase did have a somewhat less pristine provenance, they certainly would not reveal that, and would instead make up a story such as this. Or at least that is my impression; I don’t have any genuine experience with auction houses or the art market, really.
The vase is about 16 inches tall, brightly decorated in blue and yellow and a number of other colors in elaborate, almost gaudy designs which, if this were a Japanese work of art, would lead me to believe it to be export art, for the non-Japanese market. It was produced at the famous porcelain center Jingdezhen, whose kilns operated for 1,000 years, and is believed to have been made for the imperial palaces.
The auction began at $800,000, but the price quickly rose. The Antiques Trade Gazette says that this final price (the $69.5m or £43, excluding VAT & auctioneer’s fees) places it 11th on the list of record amounts paid for antiquities and art objects. Though the article does not explicitly state that this makes it the number one top record amount ever paid for a ceramic/porcelain object, and the most ever paid for a non-Western object, it does point out that “only paintings or sculpture by a handful of major Western artists have sold for more at auction.”
The BBC has a video up on its website about it.
Train photo taken myself, at Hiroshima Station, in August 2003. Vase photo from Antiques Trade Gazette website; no claims of copyright or other rights over this image are made.