The Monocle Minute

The week ahead, opportunities and observations
Saturday 29 December 2018

Society

Image: Getty Images

Political choice?

A Japanese publisher has revealed its words of the year and an Olympic term has won the gold.

Every December since 1984, Tokyo publisher Jiyukokuminsha has offered an insight into what topics have been preoccupying Japan by announcing the top ten buzzwords of the past 12 months. This year’s line-up includes saigaikyu no atsusa or “disastrous heat” – much discussed during the summer when temperatures rocketed; hanpa nai-tte or “amazing”, which was used to celebrate the skills of Japanese footballer Yuya Osako during the World Cup in Russia; and the unmissable English phrase, “#MeToo”. In a year of political scandals, only one politically charged phrase popped up in the top ten: gohanronpo, or “rice reasoning”, used to describe politicians’ willful misinterpretation of a question to avoid giving a truthful answer. The grand prize was awarded to sodane or “that’s right!”, a phrase that was often heard – with a Hokkaido accent – from Japan’s women’s curling team at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Culture

Image: Alamy

Winter of content

Finland is the world’s happiest nation despite its cold, dark winters. The secret? Its people.

Looking for somewhere to make a fresh start in 2019? Look no further than Finland. In the World Happiness Report 2018, which ranks 156 countries by their levels of “subjective wellbeing”, Finland climbed to the top thanks to factors including economic strength and social support. “One often forgets that Finland was one of the poorest countries in Europe,” says Juha Leppänen, chief executive of Demos Helsinki, a think-tank that focuses on building a fairer and more sustainable society, “So the only way for a country like this – very remote, with horrible weather conditions – to be successful was to focus on its people.” Winters in the country may be cold and dark, but Finns can at least sleep well knowing that their social welfare is world-class. Read more in The Forecast, on newsstands now.

Culture

Tidy home, tidy mind

Netflix’s next blockbuster will bring decluttering diva Marie Kondo to a new audience – but will viewers find it useful?

With Christmas wrapped up and the new year on the way, those with spring cleaning on the mind should be looking forward to the next blockbuster release from Netflix, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Launching on 1 January, the eight-episode mini-series is something of an international coming-out party for the Japanese master of organising and decluttering. Kondo has sold millions of books and commands a cult following as a result of her zen-like take on the art of tidying. The US-based series might be Kondo’s greatest challenge yet: she will tackle the worst offenders in a nation obsessed with the oversized and the accumulation of ‘stuff’. While we're predicting that the show will become a smash hit, we wish that her philosophy – disposing of anything that is not useful or does not spark joy – could extend beyond the home and into the messy world of US politics.

Photography

Silly season

You might think the snapper behind this calendar has gone animal crackers but he believes his subjects’ happy demeanour will brighten your day.

Photographer Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek has chosen an unusual muse for his latest calendar. The sometime animal enthusiast (check out his flying-cat collection) has turned his lens to a new model: the alpaca. Not to be confused with the llama, another member of the Camelidae family, Gebhart de Koekkoek was compelled by alpacas’ friendly nature after he visited a farm outside Vienna. “I wanted to share their positive energy with the people who buy my calendar,” he explained. But rather than sticking to the rustic Viennese countryside, Gebhart de Koekkoek has placed the animals within fine examples of 20th-century interior design. Now you can see them kicking back in Adolf Loos’ or Mies van der Rohe’s luxurious interiors all year round.

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