The Monocle Minute

In association with Brand Hong Kong x Monocle logo

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 17 December 2015

Image: www.flickr.com/photos/generalec/

Our favourite stop

Monocle has long known that Japan is a great place to visit so we’re glad to see the rest of the world is catching on. The country’s tourism trade has enjoyed a staggering upward trajectory of late: while back in 2003 some 5.3 million visitors made the trip to Japan, a record 16 million arrived in the first 10 months of 2015 alone. Government targets were set at what seemed like an ambitious 20 million visitors a year by 2020; now that the numbers are already close to that, prime minister Shinzo Abe is talking about revising that target upwards to 30 million a year. Easing visa restrictions for travellers from the region has made a noticeable difference to arrivals from Southeast and East Asia, helping spending by foreign tourists break records this year: ¥2.6trn (€19.5bn) to September, up from ¥2.3trn (€17bn) for the whole of 2014. It’s no surprise Japan is eager to welcome more visitors.

Image: Getty Images

Melting away

Public art in the UK is “disappearing before our eyes” according to a new campaign launched by Historic England, the government-sponsored organisation that seeks to protect English landmarks. The new initiative has identified 40 works of post-war public art that have been lost, stolen or sold to private buyers, including Henry Moore’s celebrated bronze “Reclining Figure”, stolen in 2005 and believed to have been melted down for the value of its metal. The initiative highlights the importance of this lost work and others like it; innovations in public spaces in cities from Montreal to Manchester have brought new life to urban surroundings. “There’s never enough funding for public works,” says Aaron Hendershott, an architect at the Raw Design practice in Toronto. “It’s unfortunate to see things going missing.”

Image: Getty Images

Island strife

It’s been a tough time for the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, whose decade-long recession culminated with the US commonwealth member announcing the imminent threat of a default last summer. With the country on the edge of bankruptcy thanks to shrinking industry and government overspending, governor Alejandro García Padilla has fallen on his sword, announcing this week that he won’t seek a second term in 2016 (not that he would have won according to one poll that gave him approval ratings of just 12 per cent). Barry Bosworth, an economist at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, expects the situation to get worse. “Doctors are leaving, young people are leaving,” he says. “They’re all heading to the mainland.”

Image: Reuters

Height of ambition

Singapore’s urban-planning capabilities skyrocketed yesterday thanks to six satellites launched from India. The city-state’s boldest space endeavour yet will see Singaporean satellites capturing significant terrain data on the equatorial zone, giving Singapore the opportunity to beef up its urban-planning inventory with insight not only into terrain but also into obstacles, drainage systems and locations for main highways. Urban-planning expertise is a commodity that Singapore is already exporting to countries such as India; with much of developing Southeast Asia under the satellites’ lenses, valuable data on the growing cities of the region will now be at Singapore’s disposal.

From Monocle 24

Image: Jean & Nathalie

Christmas in Bethlehem

Nigel Wilson heads to Bethlehem to survey its rich artisanal tradition and to see how locals are preparing for Christmas.

From Monocle Films

Antwerp: A Monocle Guide

For The Forecast we journeyed through Antwerp sampling the best the historic Belgium city has to offer in business, art, food and design. The Flemish-speaking outpost may have had its golden age in the 16th century but we believe it is having a renaissance. Here’s a preview of what to look forward to in our new Antwerp City Survey.

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