Tuesday. 25/1/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Taro Terasawa

Opinion / Fiona Wilson

Same difference

Anyone who loves Tokyo has to accept that change is part of the package. Old buildings are swept away with little sentimentality and new ones thrown up in their place. I was reminded of this recently when I went to check on a prewar building in Jimbocho, Tokyo’s book district, that I had long admired.

The narrow brick structure from 1929 might have been unnoticed in London but in Tokyo it was a remarkable survivor that had somehow escaped firebombing and redevelopment. I walked my usual route only to find that the building had gone; like a missing tooth, there was an empty space where it had stood. I dropped in at an old print shop nearby and asked the owner whether he knew what had happened. Oh yes, he said, that was a good building. But even he, a purveyor of historic maps of Tokyo, didn’t seem too bothered.

I found myself reflecting on Tokyo’s intriguing blend of change and continuity again while sitting in an old workshop in Shinjuku, watching Yuichi Hirose print delicate patterns on kimono silk. He is the fourth generation of his family to do so. With his gelled hair and Nike high-tops, Hirose is an unlikely guardian of tradition but this highly skilled work is still done by hand, just as it always has been.

The next day I was passing Lawn (pictured), a classic kissaten coffee shop with a pristine 1960s interior and a soundtrack to match. I was afraid that it too might have been bulldozed when I wasn’t looking but it was unchanged: the proprietor was busy making his warm egg sandwiches, The Beatles were still on rotation and the old pink telephone was still by the door. Renewal is Tokyo’s lifeblood but it’s comforting to know that some things stay the same.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Burkina Faso

Desperate measures

Burkina Faso’s president Roch Kaboré was detained at a military barracks yesterday by mutinying soldiers – but this is no ordinary coup. The actions appeared to be spearheaded by soldiers and officers below the top military brass who believe that both the government and military have failed to deliver a strategy and resources to confront an ongoing Islamist insurgency. “This is a country that was at peace for the longest time, and they are devastated,” Sam Mednick, the AP’s correspondent in the capital Ouagadougou, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “The soldiers I’ve spoken to say they don’t know who to fight, they’re not equipped enough, they’re not trained enough.” Even citizens, some of whom held anti-government protests over the weekend, appear to back the efforts. “People have even said to me, ‘Democracy doesn’t work for us, we don’t need that right now,’” says Mednick. It’s a particular kind of desperation when an attempted military coup is supported by its citizens.

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / Hong Kong

Stuck at the gate

Hong Kong’s flag-carrier Cathay Pacific says that it’s burning through more than HK$1bn (€114m) of cash every month as it continues to suffer under the city’s rigid border policy and crew quarantine restrictions. The obstacles have forced the airline to cut cargo and passenger capacity and yesterday it predicted a financial loss in 2021 of HK$6.1bn (€694m). That’s less than a third of the amount that it lost in 2020 but hardly enough of an improvement to safeguard the airline’s future. Cathay Pacific’s chief executive Augustus Tang warned that the “regrettable” capacity reductions would force the airline to evaluate the effect on its “operations and cost base”. Hong Kong’s role as Asia’s transportation and financial hub is already in question, following the departure of a record number of expats; headhunters are also reporting problems recruiting from overseas. If Hong Kong still has any hope of convincing its doubters, ensuring a future for its flagship carrier must surely be a top priority.

Media / Canada

Small print

Canada’s regional newspaper sector has been hit particularly hard by the disruption to traditional, advertising-led business models over the past 15 years: more than 250 papers have ceased to operate since 2008. But one small title in the province of Ontario is bucking the trend. The Tilbury Times, a weekly founded in 1884, was closed in 2020 by its then publisher Postmedia, which permanently canned 15 of its papers. From March, though, The Tilbury Times will be revived as a print monthly by journalist Mohsin Abbas (pictured), who arrived in Canada as a refugee from Pakistan in the early 2000s. “We’re getting a lot of good feedback,” Abbas told Monocle 24. “People are reaching out to us from towns where newspapers were published by big corporations and they want to shake our hand.” Abbas, who is bankrolling the operation himself initially, says that finding a sustainable business model starts with contacting advertisers in the area. But he has also been contacted by other independent publishers that are eager to lend a helping hand. As Abbas says, “Canada can benefit from reviving these small publications.”

Tune in to this evening’s edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ for more from Mohsin Abbas and the state of regional print media in Canada.

Image: Bryan Adams

Photography / USA & Italy

New beat

The man who was behind the camera for Pirelli’s iconic annual calendar in 2022 is a recognisable name – but not necessarily for his photography. Canadian singer Bryan Adams took the reins for a shoot that was inspired by the life of a musician on the road. Adams, who begins the European leg of his latest tour this weekend in Portugal, offered a fresh take on the Pirelli shoot by bringing in iconic names from the world of music, such as Cher (pictured) and Iggy Pop. “There has been a big change in the calendar: no more naked supermodels,” Adams told Monocle 24’s The Stack. “I got Iggy naked instead.” With a new album So Happy It Hurts out in March, Adams remains very much invested in music but says that his photographic work has attracted attention too. “During the pandemic, I was getting more calls to photograph than to make music,” he says.

M24 / The Menu

Regaining the momentum

What will it take for the hospitality industry to get back on track to success?

Monocle Films / Switzerland

Zürich: co-operative living

We head to Mehr als Wohnen, a unique mixed-use development housing a happy and healthy community.

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