The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 29 February 2016

Image: Kohei Take

Japanese exports

Experts have been predicting it for years and now it’s official: Japan’s population is in decline. The results of last year’s partial census show that the country’s population has fallen to 127.1 million, down from 128.1 million in the 2010 census. It marked the first officially recorded drop since Japan started keeping track in 1920. (Tokyo is still growing, however: it’s at 13.5 million, an increase of 2.7 per cent since 2010.) Almost a third of all Japanese are now older than 65 and the National Institute of Population and Social Securities Research predicts that seniors will account for 40 per cent of the population by 2050, which by then will have likely have slipped below 100 million. The fall has all sorts of negative implications for the world’s third-largest economy. While prime minister Shinzo Abe has made keeping Japan’s population above 100 million a policy priority, experts say he’s not doing enough to succeed.

Image: Messicanbeer

Snow joke

With its stunning landscapes, thriving music scene and charming capital city, Iceland is an increasingly popular holiday destination. Now the country wants to ensure it’s a safe one as well. Following a series of incidents that saw tourists either killed or stranded on the country’s rugged terrain, two new programmes have been launched. The Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue’s Safetravel is encouraging visitors to register their travel details and people can request that the site monitors their safe return from remote locations. Similarly, Inspired by Iceland has launched a campaign called “Iceland Academy”, offering video tutorials on everything from staying safe while crossing the country’s glaciers to proper hot-tub etiquette. With 1.5 million visitors expected this year alone, the campaigns are a safe bet.

Image: Alamy

Closing ceremony

When it comes to protesting film awards China gets the Oscar. The Hong Kong Film Awards, held at the beginning of the April, will no longer be televised on the mainland after controversial film Ten Years was nominated for the top prize. The collection of five stories imagines how a dystopian Hong Kong might look after a decade of tightening Chinese control and became a hit when it was panned by China’s state mouthpiece The Global Times. China is also rumoured to have pulled the plug on the Golden Horse awards, Taiwan’s version of the Oscars, following the election win of incoming president Tsai Ing-wen.

Image: Nicolas Grospierre

Building a picture

The title may be modishly vague but Modern Forms, a handsome new book from Prestel, is precise in its editorial gaze. The 186-page compendium weaves a compelling visual narrative through an assembly of bizarre and beautiful buildings constructed between 1920 and 1989. Captured by photographer Nicolas Grospierre, the book unfolds in lushly shot spreads that flit between Warsaw’s Soviet-era subway stations, Texas’s swirling white temples and an unfinished fairground in Tripoli designed by the late Oscar Niemeyer. They’re a bewildering bunch that belie and unpack the preoccupations of modernism – and some of its shortcomings. Some are eyesores, others are imaginative imitations of styles that came before. The photographs are rendered honestly: many of the buildings are chipped, cracked, frayed or abandoned; some are overgrown and unkempt and others shimmer and shine in repurposed splendour. The result is a thoughtful book that’s well worth ruminating on.

From Monocle 24

Image: Jacqueline M. Sofia and Beit Sitti

Respecting the legacy

Three Jordanian sisters have decided to keep their grandmother’s legacy alive by turning her house in Amman into a restaurant and cooking school.

From Monocle Films

Circle of friends – the art of Arctic diplomacy

As the diplomatic wrangle over the Arctic continues, Monocle’s Toronto bureau chief Tomos Lewis travels to the Arctic Council’s meeting in Iqaluit, northern Canada, to assess the future of this strategically important area.

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