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December 2019/January 2020

With the world’s attention set to be fixated on the Far East during Olympic year, we’re celebrating all things Japan. Cover star Kumamon – the big, furry and fun mascot of Kumamoto prefecture – fires the starting gun but there’s plenty more, from J-pop’s freshest faces to devotees of the Suzuki Jimny. Elsewhere we lavish praise of Japan’s unique approach to craftsmanship and clothes-making, find out why the country’s communist party endures and go in search of the best – and biggest – Sanuki udon noodles. Plus: a Christmas gift guide and our inaugural Soft Power Awards.

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Made to measure

This recently updated two-storey flagship is a case study in how physical retail can enhance product. With an inventory of 550 brands, including United Arrows’ own extensive in-house collection and limited-edition items,…

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Field of expertise

Increasingly these days, consumers are thinking about their clothes in a different way. We need to: fashion is one of the world’s most heavily polluting industries so we can’t keep buying fast-fashion items and ditching…

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Bear necessities

Tyler Brûlé introduces our Japan special—and chalks ip essential dates for your essential diary.

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The opener

We report from an idiosyncratic nation that has won us over with its quirky kerbside totems, drinks-filled vending machines, mascots and of course, shower toilets.

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Piggy in the middle

After footage of a boar attacking a man in Fukuoka emerged, the city felt compelled to respond. Monocle’s Kenji Hall joins a patrol.

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Short and sharp

It started in Tokyo but 1,200 cities now host PechaKucha events, where you give brief talks governed by strict rules. Monocle’s culture editor Chiara Rimella takes the stage.

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Icely does it

Japan’s sure-footed team of scientists and engineers head out into the cold to monitor our atmosphere.

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Choux of a kind

Expat baker Morihide Yoshida believes the success of his Paris patisserie reflects the common culinary bond shared by Japan and France.

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Meet the winners

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Monocle’s Soft Power Awards. This year we’re celebrating those who are persuading the world in a subtler way.

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Soft power

Our editors have shaken up the Soft Power Survey this year but we’ve still produced our respected ranking of countries who know how to use soft power to get results. We also canvassed the opinions of the same panel (see…

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On the move

We visit the Japanese diasporas that are leaving a distinct mark on the world stage.

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Follow the bear

Fluffy, furry mascots are everywhere in Japan but Kumamon has captured the nation’s imagination like no other. We explore his ‘very’ soft-power potential.

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Tipping point

In Japan, communism is not a dirty word. A top-selling newspaper and donation at the municipal level herald a decisive moment for this leftist, pacifist party.

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Japanese lessons

Impeccable service, responsible citizenship and warm hospitality are just some of the practices that make society tick in Japan. Here are 10 things the country can teach the world.

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Politics

Future leaders of Japan, the Lisbon Treaty anniversary and how spooks are coming out of the shadows.

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Diplomacy

Japanese soft power in Washington, a Lithuanian war hero and Australia's soft power revival.

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Defence

Island disputes troubling Japan and the US nuclear command finally retires its floppy disks.

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Cities

Finding quality of life in Japan, Bogotá gets a metro and a suburb of Vancouver finally has a city centre.

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Tipping the scales

Kiyoshi Kimura splashes out to buy the first tuna of the year but the larger-than-life methods of Japan’s King of Tuna rely on getting the small details right.

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Root cause

One man is pushing for a rural return with a business-minded mix of hospitality and agricultural innovation.

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Modern niches

Whether it’s door-to-door delivery services, cutesy telegrams or ear salons, Japan is home to a host of unique businesses.

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  • The Foreign Desk