The Monocle Minute

In association with Brand Hong Kong x Monocle logo

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 31 May 2016

Image: Kohei Take

Retail refresh

At Shinjuku station – the world’s busiest railway terminal – East Japan Railway (JR East) has a dominant presence with more than 3 million people boarding and alighting trains on its rail ​network. But ​the company isn’t content with being merely in the transportation business: JR East recently opened its new ¥58bn (€470m) office tower, multi-storey retail complex and bus terminal at the station’s south exit. It’s also home to the NEWoMan complex, with about 100 shops, restaurants, beauty clinics and coffee bars. Run by Lumine, a department store chain founded in 1966, NEWoMan is aimed at working women in their 30s and 40s who have families, a slightly​ older crowd​ than the company’s usual target audience. The brand roster is impressive and includes Isabel Marant Étoile, Bloom & Branch, Maison Kitsuné and Margaret Howell. The complex isn’t just for shopping either: there’s also a daycare centre and small rooftop garden with plots for rent, and the Tokyo government has a tourist centre next to the arrivals terminal for bus passengers​. It’s a refreshing, new side to a station that had been showing its age lately.

Image: Behrouz Mehri /AFP/Getty Images

Literary lift

Iran is looking to come in from the economic cold and join the World Trade Organisation. Yet there are still many nuances of its long isolation to contend with and in terms of WTO membership the most pressing is a general ambivalence to international copyright. The country has turned a blind eye to piracy and unpaid royalties, and much Western music deemed decadent by the Islamic Republic’s censors has been funnelled by bootleggers to the country’s hungry audience. Unofficial, unsanctioned translations of books by foreign authors have also become commonplace and there is mounting pressure on Iran to join the Berne Convention, guaranteeing rights protection for artists and writers’ works. A number of Iranian publishers have insisted on paying their dues though they’re not legally required to do so – and feel that regulations such as these would separate the wheat from the chaff in Tehran’s literary life.

Image: Vivid Sydney/Destination NSW

Find the light

Sydney’s lock-out laws may have dampened the city’s nightlife but since the annual Vivid festival – the world’s largest celebration of lights, music and ideas – launched its eighth edition over the weekend the city’s streets have been once again infused with life. More than 1.7 million visitors are expected to attend the 23-day festival, for which international artists were invited to submit their work. Many of these submissions are now illuminating Sydney’s iconic monuments, such as the Opera House, the Customs House and Harbour Bridge, on top of which climbers can boogie to retro beats on a flashing dance floor. Over the next three weeks, Vivid will be hosting 180 events and more than 400 international speakers, including Italian architect Carlo Ratti, while also proving that the lights of the Sydney’s nocturnal offerings haven’t gone out completely.

Image: Jenny Odell

Up in the clouds

From translating German into Japanese to sharing photos, the cloud oversees billions of online requests every day but the data centres that house this information aren’t all that lovely. Now Google is making an effort to make them more beautiful. Teaming up with artists around the globe, the company has launched its Data Center Mural Project, beginning with murals in Mayes County, Oklahoma and St Ghislain, Belgium. In Oklahoma digital artist Jenny Odell brought colourful collages to the exterior of the building, which services large portions of the west and Midwest, made up of imagery collected from Google Maps; in Belgium, street artist Oli-B adorned the walls with an abstract interpretation of the cloud.

From Monocle 24

Image: Helmut Fohringer/Getty Images

Capitals versus nations

More than ever we need nations to tell a story that includes all their citizens: the rural and the urban; the liberal and the conservative.

From Monocle Films

Retail special: stationery shops

A new generation of stationery entrepreneurs is preserving and reviving the art of writing. Monocle Films travels to Prague, Vancouver and London to visit three shops that share a love of paper.

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