Friday. 26/4/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Fiona Wilson

Breaking point

Japan is about to shut up shop for an extended – and unprecedented – 10-day Golden Week holiday. Starting tomorrow, it celebrates the accession of Crown Prince Naruhito.

The take-up rate for paid holiday in Japan is the world’s lowest and – rather than being seen as a time to relax – this enforced collective vacation has unleashed a wave of anxiety. Sensible people booked to go abroad months ago but everyone else is coming to terms with the fact that it’s now too late and too expensive to travel. Worse, those staying at home are being bombarded with information about how to cope with the closure of banks, nurseries and medical facilities, as well as reduced rubbish collections and postal services. Elsewhere, brokers are steeling themselves for the longest market shutdown since the Second World War.

Rather than fretting about the adverse impact of the long holiday, this should be just the moment for the Japanese to drop their shoulders and kick back, enjoy the break and make the most of a rare pause from the daily grind. The only blot on the horizon is the less-than-golden weather: much of next week looks grey and rainy all over the country.

Politics / Spain

Have your say

After three general elections in four years, Spanish citizens might be forgiven for suffering from ballot-box fatigue. The vote on Sunday is Pedro Sánchez’s chance to strengthen his party’s position after its budget was shot down by right-wing parties and Catalan separatist groups in February. Now he will be hoping to build on his rather meagre 84 seats (out of 350) in congress and start again. But there is a wider story: the rising influence of far-right groups such as those that voted down Sánchez’s plan. Vox is poised to become the country’s first far-right party to occupy more than a single seat in congress since the death of Franco in 1975. The recent slew of elections may be tedious but turning out on Sunday is more important than ever.

Transport / New York

On the right track

The number of people riding New York’s subway is down and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is in need of a revenue boost. Fortunately it has had an illuminating idea: turning its rooftops into solar fields. From bus depots to train yards and repair shops, the MTA has identified more than 930,000 sq m of rooftop space it could lease to solar companies, who would then sell the power back to the grid. It’s estimated the plan could generate enough clean, green energy to power 18,000 homes, while creating a sorely needed revenue stream. The transit agency has struggled to maintain service in recent years due to dwindling funds so it’s a clever plan that may leave other cash-strapped transit agencies green with envy.

Politics / Philippines

Hot off the president

Rodrigo Duterte isn’t averse to crying “coup”: last year the president of the Philippines accused the opposition Communist party of the Philippines of plotting to oust him by force. This week claims of another scheme emerged. The Manila Times released a report declaring that some of Duterte’s most vocal critics (journalists among them) were conspiring to topple him. The story was written by Dante Ang, chairman of the newspaper and a longstanding Duterte devotee. The source? The strongman president himself. The newspaper’s decision to publish the story prompted the resignation of its managing editor, Felipe Salvosa II, who publicly called the accuracy of the report into question. As voters prepare for next month’s midterm elections, the fourth pillar of Filipino democracy is looking increasingly wobbly.

Urbanism / South Africa

True colours

Modernising cities is a delicate art: introducing changes to urban landscapes sometimes takes an unfortunate toll on their more unique and charming qualities. In the Bo Kaap, one of Cape Town’s oldest residential neighbourhoods, people are celebrating after winning a four-year fight against redevelopment. The brightly coloured houses there now have heritage status and new buildings must adhere to guidelines on height, style and construction materials – which means no towers of glass and steel. But their preservation is about more than making sure the streets look colourful and quaint: the Bo Kaap is a symbol of Cape Town casting off apartheid-era rules. In the 1990s the mainly Muslim tenants, who had been forbidden from decorating the whitewashed houses they leased, were allowed to buy the properties. The colour was (and continues to be) a celebration of their community’s freedom. Canny urbanism, remember, doesn’t always mean getting rid of what came before.

M24 / The Sessions at Midori House

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela wow us with their strumming skills as they play from their new album Mettavolution and discuss a career that’s taken them from busking in Dublin to playing at the White House.

Film / USA

San Francisco: The Monocle Travel Guide

This energetic city perched on its Pacific peninsula still serves a healthy dose of Californian cool. Monocle’s travel guide will help you navigate its precipitous slopes and go from forward-thinking retailers to the cosiest coffee shops. Published by Gestalten, The Monocle Travel Guide to San Francisco is available now at The Monocle Shop.

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