Tuesday 1 September 2015 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 1/9/2015

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

No square deal for Japan

As China prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, two regional leaders – Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Park Geun-hye of South Korea – head to Beijing for tomorrow’s commemorations. But Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe has decided not to turn up. These commemorations are not simply about the pomp on display, they are also about quiet side-meetings to discuss thorny issues. Given the long list of differences that Japan has not just with China but also with South Korea and Russia, this was an opportunity that the Japanese PM should not have missed. There is one small ray of hope for cooperation though: Korea has, for the first time, agreed to send a warship to Japan for its fleet review next month.

Muji gets bigger, much bigger

Anyone who’s been to one of Muji’s flagship stores in Japan will have been struck by one thing: they’re so damn big. But outside Japan, and especially in Europe, their shops are more akin to regular high-street outlets: they’re so damn small. Satoru Matsuzaki, president of Ryohin Keikaku, the company that owns Muji, is going to change that. In an exclusive interview he revealed that the business is planning to open a European shop on the same scale as those in Japan and to drop prices too. Perhaps Muji has learnt some lessons from the nation’s fast-retail fashion players. We’ll tell you more in the coming days.

Is it a bicycle or a car?

Modern consumers are showing a deft ability to marry the old and the new, the low- and the hi-tech: think of the person who uses an iPhone but also has a record player or the shopper who buys their dinner via an app but then hangs out in a slow-drip coffee bar. This consumer is now shaping another sector: bicycle design. Small old-school bike brands are making nice profits from commuters who are searching for something that looks retro but has the kind of technology you’d expect from a performance car. At recent trade fair Eurobike, German cycle brand Schindelhauer announced its collaboration with Cobi, makers of smart-bike technology. Attach your phone to a two-wheeler and you get turn-by-turn navigation, auto-light censors and theft alerts. The future is in the bike lane.

Image: Kristinn Magnússon

Has this mayor got the toughest job?

With a population of just 100,000 people, one of the big challenges Reykjavík faces is how to deal with its remoteness. But the mayor of the Icelandic capital thinks he’s got a clever plan. And this is it:

A modernist masterpiece is pulled down

It’s the Tokyo hotel that defines a 1960s sense of glamour. But now the wrecking ball is heading its way. See what’s about to vanish.


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