Wednesday 12 June 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 12/6/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Big draw: Cherry blossoms in Tokyo

Image: Reuters

Tourism / Christopher Lord

Japan’s tourist industry is booming but does the country need to take steps to tame its growth?

Spare a thought for the large groups of US tourists who decamped to Tokyo this spring. Many were taking advantage of the cheapest yen in almost 40 years but found that they had just missed the cherry blossom. This pink profusion doesn’t reveal itself to everybody, which is part of its allure – and the same could once have been said for Japan itself. For a long time, it was a prohibitively expensive destination for many. Last week, when I flew over the Pacific from my base in Los Angeles to our Tokyo bureau, I was struck by how many tourists, especially Americans, were making the same crossing.

“The country will have to adapt to an era of cheap yen,” says one long-standing expat in Tokyo, who is pleased that more people are getting to see the place but fears that the “old Japan”, complete with limited tourism, might be a thing of the past. At the weekend I took a trip to Kyoto, where there are three Hilton Group-owned properties and two more opening this year. Foreign accents, particularly Chinese and American, echo along the Kamo river. The Times reports of tensions between residents and tourists over, for example, ringing the blessing bell of a shrine a bit too emphatically. On Sunday morning I was politely ushered out of a coffee shop that had a long line of gaijin waiting to get in. “Too many,” said the barista, accompanied by some rather vigorous, conciliatory bowing.

How should new arrivals be managed in a country that isn’t used to welcoming the world en masse? Right now, Japan seems a bit flummoxed. Visual obstructions have been put up to deter visitors from thronging a shop that happens to have perfect views of Mount Fuji. There’s talk of a new tourist tax. Tourism boosts economies and bolsters small businesses but it also tests the residents. The question is whether this supposed blessing can be stopped from becoming a curse.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings


South Korea cashes in as exports to the US soar

The US is on course to become South Korea’s largest export market for the first time since 2002. According to official data released this week, South Korean shipments to the US between January and May reached $53.3bn (€48.6bn). This figure exceeds the equivalent figure for China, which has been Seoul’s biggest trading partner for much of this century. South Korea’s major companies, known as chaebols, are largely responsible for driving up exports to the US, benefitting from strong consumer demand for cars and batteries. Shipments to America are forecast to continue rising as these large manufacturers invest more in US production and smaller companies seek to reduce their economic reliance on China.

Far-flung features: Enter the Salon showcases international brands

Image: Mathias Eis

Design / Copenhagen

Global brands bolster Copenhagen’s 3 Days of Design trade fair

Many Nordic furniture brands will unveil their 2024 releases at this year’s edition of 3 Days of Design, which begins today, rather than at more globally renowned furniture fairs such as Milan’s Salone del Mobile and Paris’s Maison & Objet. Over the past decade, the event in Copenhagen has established itself as one of the world’s leading design fairs. Signe Byrdal Terenziani, its managing director, says that this shouldn’t come as a surprise. “Danes have design in their DNA,” she told Monocle before the event kicked off.

Many international brands and designers are also exhibiting at this year’s fair, which runs until Friday. Group showcase Enter the Salon (pictured), for example, features works from Japanese firms Karimoku Case and Ambientec, Singaporean-Portuguese outfit Origin Made, Sweden’s Carpe Diem Beds and Ladies & Gentlemen Studio from the US, among others. This edition’s strong domestic showing and international presence confirms 3 Days of Design’s reputation as a major industry event.

Growing pains: Coffee producers in Ethiopia

Image: Sprudge Special Projects Desk

environment / ETHIOPIA

Why Ethiopia’s coffee growers might be bitter about the EU’s bill of beans

Coffee from Ethiopia is among the most sought-after by baristas and aficionados alike. But tougher EU rules could limit the amount of beans that the country can export to Europe. A new law that will come into effect in December will require Ethiopian coffee producers to prove, using co-ordinates and satellite data, that their supply chains do not contribute to deforestation. In southern Ethiopia, this has already proven to be a challenge because of the cost of supplying the requisite information, poor internet coverage and non-existent land registries.

“This demonstrates how far issues that are discussed in Strasbourg and Brussels can travel,” Naveena Kottoor, Monocle’s Nairobi correspondent, tells The Monocle Minute. “Coffee growers in Ethiopia are now having to use drones and artificial intelligence to prove that their coffee production is legal and sustainable.” Many producers are unlikely to meet these new traceability requirements, so Ethiopia and other countries could see bean sales significantly fall in 2025.

Beyond the Headlines

THE LIST / Food markets

Sample the best of France’s seasonal abundance

To celebrate the release of our new book, France: The Monocle Handbook, we pick three of our favourite Gallic food markets, where you can find everything from soft apricots and golden pots of honey to salted rounds of chèvre and crusty loaves of bread.

Marché des Arceaux, Montpellier
Every Tuesday and Sunday, about 80 small-scale producers from across the Occitanie region set up their stalls beneath the stone arches of the 18th-century Saint-Clément aqueduct. If you find yourself there this week, pick up cheese, charcuterie and oysters from the nearby Thau lagoon.

Marché de Beaune, Beaune, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté
Every Saturday the town’s Place de la Halle fills with the shouts of traders. This is where neighbours natter, farmers fraternise and baskets brim with the bounty of the surrounding countryside.

Marché des Lices, Rennes
France’s second-largest market has taken place every Saturday since 1622. It’s an impressive showcase of Breton gastronomy, spreading across the Place des Lices. The longest lines are for the stalls serving galettes-saucisses, a speciality consisting of a hot pork sausage wrapped in a buckwheat crêpe.

For more drinking and dining recommendations, pick up a copy of ‘France: The Monocle Handbook’, which is out now.

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Food Neighbourhoods: Praga North, Warsaw

Mateusz Mazzini takes us on a tour of Praga North in Warsaw. This once-neglected district is now bursting with life, thanks to a wave of redevelopment and a unique mixture of local creativity and international experience.


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