Friday. 1/3/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opener / Josh Fehnert

Freshening up

Good global brands can often feel distinctly local when they hit the ground in different cities around the world. Just take Starbucks’ madly popular new roastery in Meguro, Tokyo, as an example (see below). You wouldn’t spot the same curious queues outside a new Starbucks in London – in fact, such openings are usually met with indifference, prickly protests or residents grumbling about globalisation.

But there’s a good lesson here for people eyeing new markets for established products. Walk into Daikanyama’s peerless T-Site bookshop (pictured), or the Tokyo Midtown mall, and it’s the Seattle-based firm – rather than an artsy single-origin independent – that’s catering to a discerning audience. What’s more, Japanese customers can’t seem to get enough of the button-bright service, swish finishes and forward-thinking architecture.

Our ambivalence to Starbucks hints at a generally fractious (sometimes suspicious) attitude to all big brands – we’re cautious, and quick to point out when they get things wrong. This Kengo Kuma-designed roastery, however, shows that tweaking your strategy as your brand travels around the world can win more friends and shift more caffeine shots.

Diplomacy / Germany and China

Hear no evil

Earlier this week German chancellor Angela Merkel touted the possibility of striking a deal with China that would prevent the two from spying on each other. The agreement would mean that Berlin would be able to enlist the services of Chinese technology giant Huawei to build Germany’s 5G network without fear of being tapped by Xi Jinping’s government. Is such a deal naive? Not totally according to professor Michael Clarke, former head of think-tank Rusi. “There is an incentive for Huawei to be clean because just one scandal in the UK, America or Australia would destroy its commercial credibility,” he tells The Briefing. “This is a lesson for Chinese leaders that they can’t keep spying without there being a disadvantage commercially.”

Image: Getty Images

Crime / Rio de Janeiro

Safety at all costs?

As Rio de Janeiro’s carnival gyrates its way into the city today, authorities are upping efforts to root out crime and mischief. New facial-recognition cameras will spot individuals with an outstanding arrest warrant and traffic cameras will scan number plates to identify stolen vehicles. The move comes from the top. Jair Bolsonaro has vowed to take a hard-line approach to crime and, with his ally Wilson Witzel newly installed as Rio’s governor, the city is poised for a similar approach. While the introduction of cameras might make the carnival safer, it’s a mild step compared to Witzel’s other approaches. The governor has advocated the use of police snipers to kill armed suspects and investigated the use of armed drones to fight fire with fire in the favelas. However, in a city racked by crime it feels a moment when many are willing to forgo the niceties of policing in favour of deeper security.

Image: Starbucks

Retail / Tokyo

Bean counter

It resembled a product launch at an Apple Store. But the thousands of people who lined up in Tokyo yesterday for as long as three hours weren’t waiting for the latest iPhone: they were queuing for their caffeine fix. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a new concept coffee shop featuring huge bean-filled coffee vats, Willy Wonka-style swirling pipes and on-site roasting. It’s the company’s fifth – and largest – such shop and the building was designed by Kengo Kuma. It won’t just be selling coffee: product collaborations include toys by fashion retailer Beams, bicycles by Tokyobike, stationery by Kakimori and Traveler’s Company, and a ¥200,000 (€1,600) Kuma-designed set of wooden bowls. The long queues for the merchandise suggest that Starbucks’ investment in its new format is paying off.

Image: Shutterstock

Culture / Ukraine

Tune out

Five years after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, even music can be a touchy subject in Ukraine. This week pop singer Maruv, who was due to represent the country with “Siren Song” at Eurovision in Tel Aviv in May, pulled out of the contest after refusing to sign a contract with Ukraine’s broadcasting authority that would have restricted performances in Russia. “I am a musician rather than a tool of the political stage,” wrote the 27-year-old when announcing her withdrawal. Other contestants were unwilling to step in. With Ukraine’s public broadcaster warning of the “danger of escalation of the split in Ukrainian society” over the contest, the fallout is a reminder that the wounds caused by the conflict with Russia run deep and may take decades to heal.

Food & the city – The Urbanist

What’s your city’s best-kept food secret? This week we sample a tasting menu across Europe to discover how different urban areas feel about food.

Icebreakers: rescue know-how

Finland has obvious natural advantages that have helped it become an icebreaking powerhouse but the country’s dominance in the field is startling. We travel to the Bay of Bothnia to bear witness to the beginning of the icebreaking season.

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