The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 20 September 2018

Economy

Image: Getty Images

Moving on up

Japan’s flourishing tourism industry is finally giving land prices the boost they need.

Looking at the sea of cranes and building projects in Tokyo, it can be hard to grasp that Japan has been in a land-price slump for the past 27 years. Until now, that is. The government has announced that the decline has finally come to an end, with average land prices nationwide rising 0.1 per cent this year – and the increase has been attributed to booming tourism. Not everyone is sharing in the wealth though, with cities faring better than rural areas. Commercial land prices in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya rose 4.2 per cent, while those in regional cities – including Sapporo, Fukuoka and Sendai – leapt an average of 9.2 per cent. Shinzo Abe will be pleased with the news: he is due to be re-elected today as president of the LDP, which will set him on course to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.

Retail

Image: Getty Images

Cheap shot

UK chain Tesco is gunning for its budget German rivals but it’s not the only one looking to dominate the market.

Named after founder Sir Jack Cohen, supermarket giant Tesco will open a second outlet of its budget chain Jack’s tomorrow. Chief executive Dave Lewis has claimed produce will be cheaper than Lidl and Aldi, framing the chain as a market-sweeping alternative to its German rivals. Meanwhile the proposed £15bn (€16.9bn) Sainsbury’s-Asda merger will be subject to an in-depth review by the Competition and Markets Authority. That’s down to concerns that the potential mega-chain could damage business for suppliers and lead to price hikes in areas where both shops are common. Jack’s is seen by some as a last resort for Tesco, as it struggles to hold onto its place as the UK’s largest supermarket. Post-merger, Sainsbury’s-Asda could take £1 in every £3, leaving questions over how successful Tesco’s venture might prove in an increasingly monopolised climate.

Politics

Image: Shutterstock

Found in translation

Politicians in Québec choosing to debate in English used to be a faux pas – now it’s a tactic par excellence.

Earlier this week, leadership contenders in Québec’s provincial election did something they haven't done for more than 30 years: they debated each other in English. TV debates en anglais were long something of a no-go in the Francophone province’s political campaigns; leaders had little to gain, and potentially a lot to lose, by sparring in their second tongue. But that has changed. Separatist sentiment in Québec has dimmed since the knife-edge 1995 independence referendum and bilingualism in the province, like elsewhere across Canada, is at a record high. While the protection of Québecois French remains a central issue, la belle province is increasingly looking outward ahead of election day on 1 October.

Urbanism

Image: Wilfried Dechau

Bridging the gap

A new traffic and pedestrian link in Germany shows how considered design can make all the difference.

Besides being an immense engineering feat, the design and construction of a bridge must deal with urban challenges within a growing city, with many failing to become anything more than yet another congested traffic artery. But a new benchmark for bridge design has been inaugurated this week with Kienlesberg Bridge in Ulm, Germany, which is sure to have a lasting positive impact on citizens. Project architect Bartlomiej Halaczek, of London’s Knight Architects, has helped shape a solution that provides a valuable transit link for trams. It is also a functioning elevated public space that is equipped with wooden benches and oak railings, inviting visitors to sit down, rest and take in the view of the skyline. With girders acting as impromptu seating spaces for gatherings, the bridge has added an engaging extra dimension to the city centre.

From Monocle 24

The new face of finance

The Entrepreneurs

This week we’re taking an in-depth look at how a host of start-ups are bringing more people into the worlds of personal finance and investment. We meet four entrepreneurs who are making the world of finance easier to understand and engaging people who wouldn’t ordinarily invest their money. We hear from Max Rofagha, founder of Finimize, Ben Stanway and Charlie Mortimer, co-founders of Moneybox, and Emilie Bellet, founder of Vestpod.

From Monocle Films

Speciality retail: Amsterdam

The colourful collection of jars with pickles and fermented food pulls customers through the front door of shop-cum-bistro Thull’s.

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