Lifestyle & Belief

German customs holds Japanese violinists instrument hostage for a cool $475,000


Violinist Lynn Chang plays a tribute to imprisoned Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo in Oslo in 2010.

Beware the wrath of German customs agents.

A Japanese concert violinist is being asked to pay German customs officials a whopping $475,000 to get back her $1.2 million violin, reported AFP Wednesday. 

The 1741 Guarnerius violin was held up at the Frankfurt airport when customs officials asked musician Yuzuko Horigome to pay a remarkable 190,000 Euros in custom on her beloved instrument, said AFP. That's $238,051 in US dollars. 

According to the Daily Yomiuri, Horigome was attempting to pass through the nothing to declare line, as she usually does on the road. 

She was told she needed to declare the instrument - and then, when she was unable to produce documents proving she'd paid import tax on the instrument, or detailing the violin's history, it was taken from her. 

Read more from GlobalPost: Stradivarius violin returned to Swiss lost property office

The Daily Yomiuri says an unspecified press official said the instrument was taken to protect against the possibility of tax evasion - and may be given back to Horigome, as it is a "tool of her livelihood." 

Violonist Horigome, according to, started the violin at the age of 5. She has since performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New Japan Philharmonic, and other prestigious orchestras. 

Guarneri violins are Italian antiques that go for somewhat obscene amounts of money to the classical music faithful. The Smithsonian Institution has a wonderful account of the violin-making family here.