The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 30 June 2016

Image: Hiroshi Kai

Feeling the heat

With parts of the country experiencing higher than average temperatures, Japan is bracing itself for a particularly hot summer – and its drinks manufacturers are gearing up for a very busy season. Production of everything from soda to mugicha (barley tea, a summer favourite in Japan) is up on last year. Asahi Soft Drinks is planning to boost production of its Wilkinson soda brand by 40 per cent compared with 2015, while Kirin Beverage is increasing the yield of its cold green tea by a third. A core belief of the beer industry is that a temperature rise of just 1C leads to sales of one million extra bottles a day. With that in mind, the big beer names – Suntory, Kirin, Sapporo and Asahi – are all upping production. In past hot years, makers have been caught out and struggled to meet demand.

Image: Lek Kiatsirikajorn

Pack it up, pack it in

The street vendors of Bangkok’s central Siam district have been ordered to pack up their woks and wares and move out by 1 August. The move, led by city hall, aims to smarten up the iconic shopping precinct and will see a mass migration of street-food sellers and ramshackle retailers to a designated area many miles away. While the send-off will make it easier for crowds to navigate the area with their branded shopping bags in tow, erasing this colourful component of the city’s urban fabric will surely harm its charm. The sights, sounds and smells of sizzling skewers being grilled and sticky mango rice being served are much loved by tourists and the stalls are handy pit-stops for on-the-go city workers. We’d prefer to see the government working harder to support this unique culture and keeping the streets lively by helping hawkers raise the poor health-and-safety standards they are criticised for.

Image: Peter Aaron

Modern conservation

Modernism is the darling of the architecture world but non-profit organisation Docomomo US wants to ensure that the movement’s historic concrete creations continue to be on the public radar. The company created the Modernism in America awards, which shine a spotlight on US-based projects, such as the Met Breuer (pictured), that have restored mid-century structures to their former glory. Each of the buildings on the 2016 winners’ roll-call boasts a rich history: Pittsburgh’s spacious Mellon Square was the nation’s first public plaza to feature a subterranean carpark, while Los Angeles’s Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building housed the first company on the West Coast to write insurance policies for people of all races. The awards are both a celebration of this once-reviled movement and a valuable reminder of the rich stories found in the nation’s modernist structures.

Image: Alamy

Good mileage

It’s tough to think positively when it comes to Brexit. Indeed, while the UK’s historic decision to leave the EU last week is unlikely to sink the US economy, it has certainly reverberated. Stock markets have been down but for US consumers there are distinct advantages: a strong dollar means good news for those travelling abroad with greenbacks and buying goods from overseas. A robust dollar and stock-market uncertainty also affect international oil prices; this means cheaper petrol at the pumps, with the lowest US prices for this period since 2005, just in time for the 4 July Independence Day long-weekend extravaganza. Automobile group AAA predicts that about 36 million people will drive 80km or more from their homes during the celebrations – and they’ll be spending less to do so.

From Monocle 24

Image: Malachy Donnelly

Sunspel

Founded in 1860, Sunspel was a supplier of high-quality underwear to the British empire but it fell into a state of disrepair in its later years – that is, until Nicholas Brooke and his business partner Dominic Hazlehurst acquired it. The challenge was to fix the factory, boost the finances, design new products, reinvent the brand and bring it into the 21st century. Easier said than done.

From Monocle Films

Sharpen up

From the historic centre of pencil-making to the world’s biggest trade fair, we profile Staedtler, the pioneering German stationery brand bringing the pencil into the present day.

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