Op-Eds

In-depth features and interviews, and photo essays   
  1. Takumi Kawahara is watching his wife, Marie Kondo, massage her face with a brush. She’s wearing a white dressing gown and standing next to a bouquet of pink cherry blossoms. She has asked for soft instrumental music to be piped into the room. It appears to calm her on this February morning in Los Angeles as a dozen production workers mill about, capturing footage that will show Kondo’s 2.5 million Instagram followers how to dry brush their faces.Kondo closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and…
  2. Missing mum: My dad was a British Royal Air Force squadron leader and I was born in an RAF camp in Newark, Nottingham, in 1958. My youngster sister, Anne, was born a year later. When she was just a couple of months old, our mother died of septicaemia. My dad was heartbroken. He said two things about her: she was the best woman in the world and she died screaming in agony.When I was about two years old, Anne and I went to live with an auntie and uncle in Enfield, Middlesex. We had a wonderful…
  3. In 1999, while most people were anticipating what the new millennium might bring, American academic Jared Diamond cast his gaze back 10,000 years to question whether the agricultural revolution that had germinated settled society had really been such a great leap forward. Writing in Discover Magazine, Diamond contended, “With agri­culture came the gross social and sexual inequal­ity, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence.” Significantly, epidemics that “couldn’t take hold when…
  4. At the quiet end of Gough Street, in Hong Kong’s Central district, stands a pocket-sized shop easily overlooked. A wooden bench outside tempts passers-by to pause, and if you peek through the picture window, you’ll likely catch a glimpse of two chocolatiers perfecting their craft. Hakawa Chocolate is one of just five bean-to-bar makers in Hong Kong, and the only one where you can see the production in process. The heady richness of roasted beans – an aroma scientifically shown to reduce stress …
  5. Each year, Grist, an American online magazine that has been publishing environmental news and commentary since 1999, compiles a list of 50 “emerging leaders from across the United States who are working on fresh, real-world solutions to our world’s biggest challenges”. The list recognises those who can see what a more just, sustainable future might look like and have the drive to pursue that vision. This year’s 50 Fixers list includes the following five innovators of Asian heritage.As the world…
  6. When Jimmy’s Kitchen closes its doors at the end of this month many will mourn the loss of one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most storied restaurants. Indeed, the 92-year-old Central eatery was set to close in April but was given a month’s reprieve following a surge of interest from patrons who wanted to dine at Jimmy’s one last time.“The response has been so overwhelming we have extended the closure into May,” says Epicurean Group’s food and beverage director Anthony Russell-Clark.Even if you…
  7. The message from Dubai in late 2018 wasn’t unusual. It’s just part of daily life for Alejandro Cao de Benós to open his email and find some intrepid capitalist who wants to do a little business in North Korea. Recently, there was the one from a guy in Hawaii who wanted to open a McDonald’s in Pyongyang. That’s an easy no. Privately owned businesses are forbidden in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). “No McDonald’s, no Kentucky Fried Chicken, no Burger King,” says Cao de Benós,…
  8. On March 22, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi implemented a janta curfew – the people’s curfew. Everyone was to stay indoors from 7am to 9pm and observe social distancing to help fight the coronavirus, which at the time sat at just over 300 reported cases in the country (current numbers are well past 70,000). But there was more at work than Modi’s usual calls for patriotic tokenism: the mass lighting of candles, the clanging of pots, or in this case, five minutes of clapping for health…
  9. As the story goes, a lonely Chinese princess was to be married to a man with whom she was not in love. On refusing, her father pushed her into the Yangtze River, where she drowned. The waters, however, took pity on Princess Baiji and reincarnated her as a dolphin, and for millennia, the so-called Goddess of the Yangtze pulsed her slender body through the river’s currents.Over the past four decades, however, the goddess was again betrayed. As China crested an eco­nomic wave, the baiji, or “white…
  10. Back in 1963, when a newspaper like the Daily Mirror could expect to sell close to five million copies a day, Australian journalist John Pilger was desperately searching for a job in swinging London. Interviewed by the Mirror’s then assistant editor, Michael Christiansen, Pilger found he seemed to be more interested in recruiting players for the paper’s cricket team. “You’re just what we want,” he boomed. “An Australian. What do you do best?” “I bowl,” bluffed Pilger, who knew nothing about…