Japan’s last general election in 2014 returned prime minister Shinzo Abe to power with a 52.66 per cent turnout, the lowest on record. With upper house elections coming this summer, the government has realised that it needs to make it easier for people to vote. A revision of the Public Offices Election Law enacted yesterday will allow voters to cast their ballots in train stations and shopping centres. At the moment people can only vote on election day at a designated polling station in their neighbourhood. The new law opens the way for polling stations in busy commercial centres that anyone eligible to vote will be able to use, which also allows local governments to extend voting hours. Taking effect just in time for the elections on 19 June, the law is designed to engage a frequently apathetic public. The voting age will also fall from 20 to 18, bringing 2.4 million first-timers to the elections.
As baseball season gears up across North America, there are concerns that traditional ash-wood bats may soon be a thing of the past. The fear has arisen because the supply of ash in the US is under threat from an invasive species of beetle: the emerald ash borer. With global temperatures on the rise, the creature is proliferating in areas that were once too cold. First found in Detroit in 2002, the beetle is now prevalent across 25 states and two Canadian provinces; it has killed millions of ash trees and caused millions of dollars of damage. Many players are already turning to alternatives, such as bats made of maple, and potentially even yellow birch and European birch. Despite the alternatives, many are ashen-faced at this threat to the legacy of the US’s favourite pastime.
Ho Chi Minh City is undergoing a cultural renaissance led by a young and optimistic population. With Vietnam’s average age sitting at a mere 30 and the government successfully opening up the country to investment, creative entrepreneurs are finding a foothold here. The latest concept to launch is the Factory Contemporary Art Centre, the largest arts space in the city. It aims to capture this creative moment in time across an exhibition space and shared workshops, with an organic restaurant soon to complete the handsome purpose-built destination. With a tech-art exhibition to be followed by a traditional woodcarving showcase, the centre’s long-term goal is to form a strong Vietnamese contemporary-arts dialogue to rival the regional creative powerhouses of Thailand and Indonesia.
Anyone who lives in a city knows that the way people get around is changing – and not always for the better. How can we develop transport networks that work for everyone? The right way to do bike lanes, improving public transport, the future of the car: it will all be up for discussion at the Monocle Quality of Life Conference on Friday 15 to Sunday 17 April in Vienna. Taking up the issue will be RT Rybak, the executive director of Generation Next; David Sim, the creative director of Gehl Architects; and Alexander Kotouc, head of product management at BMW i. Monocle’s editors will be on board too; if you want to join in the debate – and get a few ideas for your own city or neighbourhood – book your tickets here.
Cold-water surfing is not like other surfing: freezing water, freezing air and, until UK brand Finisterre came about in 2002, a severe lack of quality clothing and gear. We trek to the coast of Cornwall to meet founder Tom Kay and his team to see how they’ve been making waves.
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