The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 28 January 2016

Image: Simon Koy

Play time

Spielwarenmesse is the world’s largest international toy trade fair but from its compound title to its location in a sprawling and well-appointed convention centre, it’s also a fundamentally German affair. The German government has recognised this by sponsoring an exhibit of the country’s young and innovative toy-makers, hoping to boost their profile in an increasingly competitive market. Among them is Berlin-based Smikeson, which is behind the Tribel tricycle. CEO Denis Niehusen took inspiration from the design of a childhood toy, updating it for the 21st century. He replaced the conventional external bicycle chain with a carbon-belt drive contained within the trike’s body, making it less of a hazard for small fingers. We’re fond of the Gran Tourismo edition (pictured), which features a fetching leather saddle and matching steering-wheel grip from saddle-maker Brooks England. Spielwarenmesse continues until 1 February.

Image: Elliot Davis

Multiple takes

While independent-film enthusiasts, Utahns and a healthy dusting of Hollywood actors continue to enjoy Sundance Film Festival, a battle is taking place on the sidelines: the race to secure the rights to the 2016 edition’s hottest property. With streaming providers flexing their muscles and dipping into their overflowing wallets, it was interesting to see that slave drama The Birth of a Nation (pictured) went to distributor Fox Searchlight for €16m, a Sundance record, despite Netflix offering to pay €2m more. It all goes to show that there is still kudos attached to physical distribution and a decent cinema release. Amazon has reason to be chuffed nonetheless: the internet giant has scooped up highly acclaimed US drama Manchester By the Sea and comedy Weiner-Dog by committing to cinema releases before streaming them. The 11-day festival continues until 31 January; let the bunfight continue.

Image: Aflo

Rails and roots

Kyushu Railway Co (also known as JR Kyushu) – the company that gave Japan its first luxury sleeper, the Seven Stars, in 2013 – continues to show its entrepreneurial verve with its foray into farming. The Fukuoka-based company established JR Kyushu Farm in 2014 and now runs eight farms on which it grows vegetables and raises chickens. The business model is smart: farmers are increasingly without family successors to continue their work, Kyushu vegetables are highly prized and the company has prime retail locations in its stations. In April, Kyushu will open its third vegetable shop in the company’s biggest station, Hakata, in the commercial heart of Fukuoka. The produce shop will sit alongside tenants such as Tsutaya Books and Porter.

Image: Alamy

Bangkok bonanza

Though terrorism and a national government’s reticence to restore democracy seemed to have stunted Bangkok in 2015, new figures show that tourism has, in fact, boomed. Bangkok topped MasterCard’s annual Asia Pacific Destinations Index with arrivals to the Thai capital growing significantly last year. The index, which ranks cities by international overnight visitors, saw the city’s 22 million stays smash second-place Singapore by 10 million. While easy flight access from China plays a significant role, it’s also apparent that the fine hospitality Bangkok is famous for played into the win. Its quality nightlife makes it an enticing weekend getaway for Singaporeans and Hong Kongers craving a city escape with a bit more grit and old-world charm. Also, Bangkok is one of the region’s most navigable cities thanks to a zippy public Skytrain and MRT network connecting its tourism hotspots.

From Monocle Films

Image: Francesca Volpi

Vatican foreign policy

Like many sovereign states, the Holy See pursues an active foreign policy. We visit the Vatican’s foreign ministry, where world peace is always on the agenda.

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