Monday. 13/6/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Junichi Toyofuku

Open season

For many Japanese citizens and residents, it has been a long two and a half years of not being able to travel overseas. Now, as the rainy season arrives in some parts of the archipelago, including Tokyo, this also means that summer is just around the corner. With humidity in the air, there is an optimism in the streets that this year will, finally, be closer to the pre-pandemic Japanese summer we know and love.

The clearest sign is that large events are returning, with crowds. In July, Fuji Rock, the country’s biggest outdoor music festival, will be held in Niigata with a mix of domestic and international performers, bringing back musicians from overseas for the first time in two-and-a-half years. Rock in Japan and Summer Sonic will return to entertain more music lovers in August, both after two years of cancellations.

The Japanese summer is also incomplete without a wide array of matsuri cultural festivals. Kyoto and Aomori will see the return of Gion and Nebuta festivals, respectively, with an army of people marching along with decorative colourful floats in the incredible heat (I’m tempted to visit the spectacular Nebuta Festival, in particular – and for the first time). These events usually attract millions of visitors; matsuri big and small across Japan provide occasions for people to wear their yukata unlined summer robes, get out onto the streets and see friends and family to embrace the summer season together.

The matsuri have played an important role for decades and – in some parts of the country – even centuries. They help to nurture and maintain the bond in communities because no matsuri can be held without an organised team of men and women, young and old, from the neighbourhood. Here in Japan, we’re all hoping that the chochin lanterns we use to illuminate the forthcoming matsuri nights will represent the light at the end of a very long tunnel.

Junichi Toyofuku is Monocle’s associate bureau chief in Tokyo.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Russia

Neighbourhood watch

There is a question that hangs over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: might things have been different had European countries further from Russia listened to the warnings of those closer to its borders? Carl Bildt, former prime minister and foreign minister of Sweden, recalls early conversations with Vladimir Putin suggesting that the Russian president’s imperial grandiosity is not a recent development. “He has become more and more interested in Russia’s past – and less interested in its future,” says Bildt on the latest episode of Monocle 24’s The Foreign Desk, the second part of our coverage of the Globsec summit in Bratislava earlier this month. And Simona Cojocaru, chief of policy at Romania’s ministry of defence, notes Russia’s interest in Snake Island, a Ukrainian outcrop that overlooks Romania’s Danube delta. She urges the deployment of more Nato troops to her native country to prevent the lessons of Ukraine from being lost on its neighbours in future.

Listen to the latest episode of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Aviation / Canada

Plane pain

Tensions are high at Toronto’s Pearson Airport amid long lines and major delays. While officials are blaming labour shortages, others point to mandates that require passengers to prove their vaccination status before entering the country. While this made sense at the height of the pandemic, experts and travel groups argue that it’s no longer necessary, as vaccines don’t significantly prevent transmission (especially since the Omicron variant).

Calls to remove the stipulation echo recent moves by European countries such as Italy and Germany, which scrapped their vaccine prerequisite two weeks ago in advance of the summer travel season. Business leaders in Canada are worried about the travel chaos affecting the country’s image – and with good reason. Last week former hockey player Ryan Whitney posted a video after his flight from Toronto to Boston was cancelled. “This is the worst airport on Earth,” he wrote. “It is the biggest disgrace known to man.” For hockey-mad Canada there is no worse indictment.

Image: Khoo Guo Jie

Art / Singapore

Work flow

The Singapore Art Museum’s main 19th-century building is undergoing a major overhaul but that doesn’t mean that the institution is staying idle while it waits for the grand reopening in 2026. Arguably Southeast Asia’s most important contemporary art establishment, it has opened its newest exhibition in a warehouse in the historic Tanjong Pagar Distripark, Singapore’s busiest cargo port. Lonely Vectors reflects its curious surroundings, using a host of interdisciplinary practices to present a series of artworks that draw attention to the flow of bodies and labour in the global economy. “Opening this new space is part of our plan to take art into unexpected places,” said June Yap, director of curatorial and collections, in Monocle’s June issue. Following the initial exhibition the works will move to various places, including libraries and public hoardings, before returning to Tanjong later in the year. By thinking outside the box, the museum is keeping the artistic fires burning while its renovations move forward.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / Italy

Festive Florence

Florence’s Estate Fiorentina summer festival kicked off this month with a slew of programming that brings together art, film, music and more, and is set to keep the city entertained over the next four months. Here’s what to look out for.

Le Piazza dei Libri
From 1 to 10 July booksellers will set up stands at the Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza Strozzi and other public areas to encourage people to look up from their phones and browse for novels instead. Many bookshops will also be involved in presentations, debates, readings and literary meetings.

Florence Dance Festival
Dance aficionados will be able to enjoy performances from national and international ensembles, including the Israel Galván Company and the Fondazione Nazionale della Danza, from 22 June to 24 July.

Open Cinema
From 27 June to 7 August the team behind Open Cinema will organise outdoor screenings throughout the city. Previous locations have included the Piazzale degli Uffizi opposite the Uffizi gallery and the cloister of the Novecento Museum.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown

Zimbabwe

Monocle 24’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco looks at the top songs in the southern African nation.

Monocle Films / Denmark

Community spirit in Denmark

Housing co-operatives are numerous in Denmark, providing residents with affordable places to live, keeping community spirit strong and cultivating samfundssind: the Danish concept of putting society’s needs ahead of individual interests. Monocle visited the Jystrup Savværk co-housing community, an hour outside of Copenhagen, to explore the meaning of the word. Discover more stories and ideas from the region with The Monocle Book of the Nordics, which is available now from The Monocle Shop.

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