Thanks again for the wonderful welcome to the Okinawa community that I received on my return visit. Us Aussies have been guilty of giving yanks a hard time but I can honestly say everybody I meet was super humble and had some interesting stories.
Niseko Chiropractic will be consulting at the same location by the sea wall in Sunabe Okinawa again on from the 8th to the 15th of December 2020 and then monthly after that.
It’s been a joy to see some complex cases and also assist in the number of new and growing families that are being created in Okinawa right now. I guess you have to pass the covid lockdown somehow 🙂 Also really enjoyed learning more about the US military and how family orientated it has become.
This trip I managed to squeeze in a trip to the massive aquarium, take a drive up the Okinawain cost and spend a few evening hours wondering American village, which to honest looked a little corny from the outside but transforms into a very funky place into the evenings.
I also managed to get an invite onto camp Foster where I meet with some representatives from the MCSS about getting a Marine snowboard trip organized to Niseko. It will happen but sadly with Hokkaido now considered off limits due to Covid it may now be late this season before this may happen.
If you are interested in seeing a Marines MCCS trip get organised slip me an email at email@example.com and I keep you in the loop or even have a coffee next time I am consulting in Okinawa.
This 2nd visit also cemented that being busy here was no accident and that there is an ongoing demand for chiropractic services in Sunabe and we do thank you in advance for your patience whilst we get something more permanent set up.
If you would like to make an appointment with an Australian trained but Japanese registered Chiropractor in Sunabe Okinawa you can do so again from the 8th-17th of December on the link below.
The with the all the understandable focus on Covid-19 right now it’s vital that we don’t loose of the ground that lifestyle medicine was begging to have on increasing the worlds ageing population.
And we are getting older. Right now 8.5% of the world’s population is over 65 and this will balloon to 17% by 2050 ( 1). That means for just under one quarter of the worlds population, me and perhaps even yourself keeping our bones strong and healthy should be one of life’s goals as we age.
Research from the lifestyle medicine field has shown the importance of healthy eating in maintaining strong healthy bones. One of the leading candidates to assist Omega 3 fatty acids or more commonly know as omega3 oil.
Our bones are constantly being remodeled.
Osteoclast cells are constantly breaking down and absorbing old brittle bone and osteoblast cells are constantly laying down new stronger fresh bone.
If they are forced to operate in an environment of poor nutrition the quality of the new bone laying down is not as good as should be. Over a lifetime even small changes can lead to dramatic result at pointy end of life.
Keeping your weight within a healthy limit is also vital for bone health. When excess fat starts to invade the bone marrow this may also affect our bodies ability’s to create to new health bone ( 1).
The ratio of healthy fat to saturated fat in the modern western diet is now thought to be as high as 25:1 yet in pre-industrial times it was around 2:1. Meaning simply we are eating way to much poor quality fats and not enough good quality fats.
How to get more Omega-3 in your diet
Bear in mind your body can’t make omega-3’s internally like we can some other fats and proteins. You need a constant fresh supply in your diet.
Omega-3s are found naturally in some foods and are added to other foods You can get adequate amounts of omega-3s by eating a variety of foods, including the following:
Fish and other seafood (especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines)
Nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil
A nice little summary of how to manage soft tissue injuries was recently published in the British Journal of sports medicine. PEACE in the first phase of injury and LOVE as thing start to turn a corner.
When I was at university the it was old about RICE but the use of ice and even too much rest for that matter may actually interfere with the bodies natural healing pathways. The inflammatory process whilst a sometimes a bit painful is actually the bodies way of creating the right chemical cascade to allow our injuries to heal at full strength.
The take home message here is in that acute phase make sure you protect the joint from further injury or take anti-inflammatory to quickly ( there are exceptions here and your GP for good reason may see a benefit ).
After a few days rest getting extra blood the area can actually be a good thing and the use of gentle walking for about 40 minutes, the use of an exercise bike or even aqua acrobics can be really helpful.
It’s often not a bad a idea to get an injury professionally assessed and I also amazed how much relief can often come by addressing some of the secondary spasms in surrounding tissues as well.
If you would like schedule a session with an English speaking chiropractor now in Okinawa as well as Niseko you can book online at
Without even a frost 2020 season has lept into action and already there ski slopes of Niseko have a few centremetres of base. With a few more flurry days ahead we can expect more white stuff.
Niseko Chiropractic was fortunate enough to have a wander around our local area and capture the morning glow on fresh POW at our local site of Arishima.
Now is a great time to take care of those pre season niggles so If you would like to make an appointment with an Australian trained English speaking chiropractor in Niseko head to our appointments page and book online.
Niseko Chiropractic returns from Okinawa. If you have not had the chance to get check it out, get down there. Peach aviation has some really cheap flights and the water is still really warm. Thanks to all the Okinawan locals I meet down there for making me feel so welcome.
If you would like to book a treatment in Niseko this week you can book online here
If you have ever strained an ankle it’s a horrible feeling. What’s worse is that a small minority of acute acute ankle injuries go to become chronic. Balance and proprioceptive training has shown to be useful in rehabing ankle strains but what about when it’s too sore to stand on and why does balance training even work anyway.
Try the other leg !
Here is where things get a weird.
A recent study in the International Journal of the Care and Injured did something pretty interesting. They took a population of being with ankle strain on the right side and gave them exercise and balance training on the left side which had no injury. And guess what happened ? Well the injured side improved significantly even they did all there training on the other leg.
What just happened ?
It goes to prove just how important the brain is in recovery from an injury. The brain helps control the neural pathways that provide splinting reflexes and also control muscle growth and activity. By doing some training on the unaffected side the system improves bilaterally so that you can get still get benefit even when you don’t work on the injured site.
Well ok What does this mean for me ?
It doesn’t mean we should all start working on the other leg.
What it does mean is that proprioceptive training is really important in dealing with a chronic ankle injury and also that a significant part of healing lies in a reflexes muscle tone and splinting reflexes.
So if you have an injury that is too sore to stand on it may be a good idea to at least start working on the side that can comfortably bear weight.
Please don’t give up on your chronic injuries ! There is often always something you can do and even though sometimes getting older can be an exercise in patience and niggle management it’s almost always trying something even if you can improve something rather than completely fix it.
When I my wife and moved to Niseko my dream was always to try and work between 2 paradises in Japan but somehow family pressures and commitments here always kept in on the backburner.
With international closed to Niseko until April 2021 due to Covid-19 I find myself busier than expected working with the amazing international community here but also for the first time able to revisit my initial plan of setting up a satellite clinic and working between the 2 communities.
As much as I try the Australian in me that grew up on the beach has never quite let go of the dream of being close to ocean again and Okinawa draws me closer.
I had ran the idea past my wife last week who is usually chief commodore grand Poo Poo of my hair brained plans but to my surprise she said ” I think we should go for it “.
So here we are.
Holding a return flight booked from the 26-31st of October next week with no idea on how this will pan out but a desire to see this dream through for better or worse.
So to members of the Okinawa community I would to introduce Niseko Chiropractic and services we can offer.
Brent Verco completed Master’s of Chiropractic at Macquarie University in Sydney before moving to Byron Bay Australia where he ran a multidisciplinary clinic treating the local surfing community and travelers alike.
After 12 great years in Australia our family decided that change was in the air and with a heavy heart we sold our business and purchased a 1 way ticket to Japan.
Niseko Chiropractic was established in 2018 and had we have enjoyed 2 amazing season treating snowsport injuries of both locals and visitors to Niseko.
What you will not get is any sales tactics, endless treatment plans or “revolving door ” treatments. Most of our sessions go for 30 minutes or more and if the jobs not finished then either are we.
A premium service
Our business model was chosen to allow quality over quantity. Niseko Chiropractic will take the time to do the right examination and match it with the best available evidence for gentle conservative care and management of acute and chronic injuries.
The treatment philosophy we use is to pay as much attention to the surrounding muscles as the joints we adjust. By combing deep tissue massage in combination with Chiropractic faster results are achieved in less treatments. It’s also really important to prescribe the right exercises and try and figure out what environmental changes also need to occur.
Patient centered care
The has been a paradigm shift in the delivery of modern health care. In the bad old days practitioners dictated the style and choice of treatments. Now the patient is firmly in the pilot seat of their own health choices and outcomes and we view our role to educate and support you in this process.
Apologies advance for any confusion as we investigate a permanent location.
If anybody does wish to see us whilst we are looking for the right location we are currently operating from Minatagawa for 1 week from the 27th -31st of October.
We would also love to touch base with anybody interested in coffee and you can reach Brent on firstname.lastname@example.org
Online bookings available 27th-31st October 2020
As an introductory offer all Initial consultations will be reduced 3,000 Yen for this week.
I was able to go to Niseko Chiropractic in Okinawa. This was my first ever chiropractic appointment, and I was a little... apprehensive about it since I’m 36 weeks pregnant. Brent was kind and easy to talk to, and he talked me through everything he was doing throughout the appointment. Although I didn’t have any major pains, he was able to loosen up some knots in my hips, back, and neck. I appreciate that he sent a follow up email about my appointment and suggested some resources and exercises to help me at home.read more
After my initial appointment, one of my problem areas was much better and in the following days I had more range of... motion with the other. I was apprehensive at first but am very pleased with the already noticeable results and look forward to my next appointment.read more
Brent currently provides adjustments in Okinawa in a temporary location as expands his clinic. He is professional and... friendly. He focuses on the most problematic areas using a combination of skeletal manipulations and soft tissue work. I have felt improvement just after a few visits. Also, he was kid friendly. He was patient with my daughter who was in the stranger danger phase.read more
Brent is very professional and welcoming. He takes the time to listen to you and figure your pain points. After your... adjustments he sends you off with an action plan. I will be booking additional appointments.read more
I was only able to meet with Brent twice before I moved off the island, but even after two sessions I feel so much... better and confident that I won’t fall apart during this move! He’s very professional and listens to your needs. I appreciate that he sits down to chat with you before each session to see how you’ve been, if there’s anything new he should consider, and if the last session was effective or if he needs to try a different approach. I highly recommend him!read more
Brent was professional and yet very personal. I had shoulder pains and aches and he knew where to apply pressure to... relive the pains. Magic fingers! He had good follow up and also recommended a few exercises and I can't wait to try them.read more
I sprained my ankle and got swollen for almost 2 weeks. My friend recommended to do this. The result is amazing! I was... afraid at the beginning because this was my first experience with a chiropractor but ended up think that it was my best decision to come. The treatment is not only for my sprained ankle, I told my back problem as well. After that, I had a good night and slept so well. The next day I got a report with a strategy for what to work on to optimize the treatment. Overall, highly recommended!read more
Very patient, helpful, and knowledgeable about the body. He could tell exactly where I needed assistance and was very... thorough in his treatment. He followed up the very next day with a strategy for what to work on to combat my migraines and neck/back tension.read more
This was my first experience with a chiropractor while pregnant (33 weeks), and Brent was great. Super personable, and... was able to help adjust my hips, shoulders, and neck. Admittedly, I was a little sore after the treatment, but two days later I'm definitely feeling better than I did before. I would for sure recommend this practice to any of my fellow pregnant people, especially in the third trimester!read more
I have been dealing with hip pain for the past year and a half and have tried massages and finding specific mobility... workouts to help with no avail. Within the first appointment through his combination of soft tissue work and adjustments I found immediate relief. In a follow up email he also sent me some links to videos that demonstrate certain exercises to optimize my treatment. Very pleasant experience with a very knowledgeable and educated chiro. Will definitely be returningread more
I’ve been to chiropractors and massage therapists, but I’ve never had both services taken care of in one visit.... Brent’s combination of adjustments and massage have definitely helped ease the pain in my back (which I’ve lived with for all of my adult life) and shoulder. He’s also very thorough and takes his time. During our initial visit, he found issues that I forgot to mention!After our appointment, Brent shared a detailed report as well as exercises with me to help manage my pain. I’m so glad to have found his business and that he’s extended his services to us in Okinawa.read more
Saw Brent on two occasions in which time he was able to fix an issue with my back. Overall experience was great. Easy... to book, came to my house and was even able to pay with credit card. And he's a genuinely nice guy with good chat. Would recommend Brentread more
Was looking for a chiropractor to help me with a very locked up back. Found Niseko Chiropractic through google and,... thankfully, it was nearby. Was able to get an appointment quickly, and better yet, it was a house call. Brent was very nice and professional. We chatted about my issue while filling out paperwork and then he did an assessment before treatment. He was able to loosen up my back, giving me much needed relief. He also worked on my neck and sternum-clavicle joint which I had hurt. We went over an hour, but he still only charged me for the hour. In his follow up email, he sent me some stretches and exercises to do to help with my issues. This follow up is something I’ve never gotten before from a chiropractor. Great service and a very nice guy. Highly recommend.read more
As a regular visitor to Niseko I have occasionally needed the services of a chiropractor. I was fortunate to be... referred by a friend to Brent Verco, Niseko Chiropractic.His treatments have been better than any I have received in Australia and I feel completely confident and comfortable with his gentle hands-on approach. His 60 minute massage and adjustment focusses on the area of need whilst relaxing the whole body.I thoroughly recommend him to anyone needing relief from pain or stress.read more
Brent provides absolutely first class service!Initial consultation was thorough, and a methodical treatment plan was... worked out.In addition to the excellent chiropractic work, Brent's massage skills are also on point. Numerous problem areas were addressed and worked over with great skill.In the course of the massage, he also found and addressed an issue I had forgotten to bring up in the initial consultation - clearly the sign of a guy engaging with his work and applying his expertise to great effect, rather than just going through the motions.The work done, both chiropractic and sports massage were really great, I'd recommend his services to anyone, without hesitation.I will be booking again in the future, and if you have any back, hip, shoulder or knee issues, or just need a damn good massage, Brent is your guy.Follow up post appointment was great, with clear instruction on how to address and improve on the work done in the session.10/10 would book again. Thanks Brent!read more
There is some opening of borders under the ” Business track system ” for business travel from limited countries such as South Korea and Singapore but you will still have to undergo a mandatory 14 days quarantine and 2 rounds of Covid testing so getting here is going to no easy feat even for those with a vaild business reason to travel.
I think we can be be fairly certain on the April timeframe too.
Japan has expressed an iron clad determination to see the rescheduled July 2021 Olympic games take place and they will need open borders weeks to months before this event if it is going to be success.
If you are yet to see Niseko in Spring and Summer I urge you to consider making here up here in the green season during the 2021 warmer months.
For those that can manage to get to Niseko this Winter it will no doubt be unforgettable. For those that can’t us local riders are committed to shredding the Pow in your absence (its the least we can do ) and will do our best to find pick off the fresh lines.
Some more info on resorts is below.
Niseko Resort announce lift operations
We also now have some certainly regarding lift operations.
Annupuri resort will be open from the 28th of November and Honazono and Grand Hirafu wil be open from the 5th of December.
Lifts at Honazono will be operating as normal and I suspect Annupuri. Grand Hirafu has some cancelations to minor lift status and you can see more information on the link below
If there is one thing I love about living in Niseko it’s the ability to see the 4 seasons play out and you get to appreciate the rate of change that nature can serve up living here. In my home country of Australia the difference between summer and winter is the optional hoodie that you may take out just in case.
Like the rest of us we our family is trying to trying to squeeze in that one last BBQ before we get swallowed by the endless white powder that takes over for the next 4 months.
I’m sure you heard the same rumors’
I’m not that superstitious.
But I guess I have my moments and there does seem to be a consensus’s amongst the old timers living here that the snowfall this season is going to be insanely good. Maybe it’s just wishful think but I think we can all agree Niseko is overdue some good lady luck so maybe this really is our time to shine.
Like many of us the business environment is going to be challenging but as locals living here year around I hope we can all put some time away to enjoy the most uncrowded conditions we will be probably see for many years to come if not ever.
Update to Business hours this week
As my building projects are winding up Niseko Chiropractic has some increased availability this week and most likely over the next few weeks. If daytime appointments are more preferable to evenings for you there will be some more options now available.
* Wed the 30th 9am to 12pm
* Thur the 1st of October All day
* Friday the 2nd of October 9am to 12pm
* Mobile 2 hour appointments free this Saturday and Sunday both daytimes and evenings
If you would like to book any of the above sessions click on the button below
Interesting article about the importance of a good diet during the whole covid-19 pandemic.
Whilst I think it’s a stretch at this point to think you can change your chances of getting covid with your diet you can make a drastic change in your chances of a better recovery with a good diet.
A healthy diet lowers the amount of what is known as meta-inflammation in your body. Having a body that does not have a chronically high level of baseline inflammation may put you in a better position to avoid the cytokine storm that has been an issue for some covid patients.
Likeways make sure you are doing some moderate to high cardio-vascular exercise a few times a week to ensure you have a good residual lung capacity.
Have the governments not given enough attention to this simple thing that the world needs to do anyway in their covid-19 messages to the public ?
It’s no surprise to you dear reader that our flexibility and range of motion decreased in our spine as we age but there is not as much published research as you would think as to where this occurs within the spine, particularly in the normal population.
In a great new study published in Springer Nature the authors looked at 600 people that did not report significant neck pain and they examined what individual segments we actually loose range of motion in our necks as we age.
What they found was pretty interesting. The older you get the more range of motion you loose in the lower part of your neck but the upper part where the spine joins the base of the skull remains pretty mobile your entire life. This is reassuring both for patients and therapists that the range of motion in our upper joints stays pretty good.
You an see the differences clearly in the graphs below
The other thing that surprised me was how linear the loss was up until about age 70 where after that it actually slows down a bit. I would have guessed that the most marked loss of range of motion would have been in the last decade of the graph.
Just a reminder that Niseko Chiropractic will be available for mobile locals consultations over the summer and also at the ” Studio ” powder yoga’s newest premises.
To make an appointment with Brent Verco please click on the link below
Niseko Chiropractic in conjunction with Powder Yoga is excited to launch our first introduction to relaxation massage workshop. This short course will give you the practical info you need to give a high-quality massage to friend or partner. The powder yoga massage 6-hour workshop will run on Saturday and Sunday the 18th and 19th of July form 6pm-9pm.
The course will run over 2 evenings with 3 hours per session. No previous massage or anatomy knowledge is needed but you will get more out of the experience is you have had some previous related training. The focus will be on concepts and applying specific techniques rather than running through a set routine.
You will have the chance to work on various body types and there will be plenty of time to allow for practice and refinement of techniques in the sessions. The workshop will be facilitated by Brent Verco from Niseko Chiropractic who has a 12-year background in teaching remedial massage in Australia as well as anatomy at a university level. Massage tables will be provided but please bring your own sheets and pillows.
There will also be an opportunity to purchase some tables at a discounted price at the end of the workshop.
This workshop is strictly limited to the first 10 participants. To register your interest please click on the link below. If you have any specific questions about the workshop content please contact Brent directly on email@example.com
We currently have 6 spaces remaining and you can book on the link below. Please note that due to system limitations it only shows the course running on the Saturday evening but rest assured it will be running from Saturday and Sunday from 6-9 pm.
Sure there are plenty of other options here in Niseko and Hirafu, but I am still a bit lazy and enjoying a good excuse to delay rehabbing my dodgy knee conditioning my joints for the stresses of doing Chiropractic and bodywork all day.
When I was training last summer season there was a school of thought going round the gym and probably every gym that you really need to keep pushing your reps until you fail, until you are not able to squeeze out even one more press. That was the point that you had a short rest, then repeated the movement. It was based on the idea that by pushing to failure you are more likely to cause the micro-damages necessary to cause muscle hypertrophy and also help train your nervous system to better at muscle recruitment.
Here is the interesting thing. that theory has not been tested by science as much as you think it would have by now. A brilliant study was just published by Lacerda et al ( 2020) that looked at the effect of weight training to failure verses just doing an equal amount of reps overall but not pushing up to the point that you simply can’t perform one more press.
And what did they find ?
The good news is they both work.
If you start training regularly you will get stronger. This is also suits the findings or other research looking at number of reps verses amount of weight etc. Whatever you end up doing. If you do resistance training regularly you will stronger and the difference between various methods may not be as much as we think.
What Lacerda’s study did was divide the group of 10 untrained me in to 2 groups. Over 35 training sessions one group pushed right to failure the other just did the same amount of reps but with a little more rest. Interesting for about 50% there was no difference whilst some individuals found a small difference with some getting better results with going to failure, others getting better results just doing the volume.
But the take of the home message of this study has to be that it’s really the volume and number of training sessions that seems to be more important that if you go to failure or not. This is certainly new news to some gym folk law that is still passed around. The caveat here is still need to be putting in a hard effort however, please don’t misinterpret this message as ” working hard doesn’t matter ” it’s just we are trying to tease out just how important it is if go right to point that we simply can’t perform the last rep.
The findings of this study may be particularly interesting to you if you rehabing an injury. Obviously by pushing to failure there is much high chance of loosing good form in our lifts and also becoming unstable and risking further injury.
So if you are comfortable training to failure and can maintain your good lift form even at failure you are probably just fine to keep on going the way you are, but if you are new to weights, nursing through an injury or worried you may slip and fall then you can pull back from this brink and know you are still getting a great workout.
Niseko Chiropractic can provide quality chiropractic and rehab and consultations are now available at The Studio in Kutchan where Powder yoga runs from.
Lacerda LT, Marra-Lopes RO, Diniz RCR, et al. Is Performing Repetitions to Failure Less Important Than Volume for Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength?. J Strength Cond Res. 2020;34(5):1237-1248. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000003438
I’m sorry its like some sort of Niseko Chiropractic tourette’s syndrome.
Do they work ? Sorta.
A recent meta-analsysis was recently published in the Dove Open access Journal of sports medicine that reviewed 21 studies on the usefulness of below knee compression stockings in athletes. If compression stockings are going to be useful they are going to have 2 benefits
Increased performance in competition
Decreased recovery time
What the authors found in a nutshell was that 3 studies out of the 21 showed some performance improvement and others showed mixed or neutral results.
However many more studies found that there was better evidence to support the idea that compression stockings may reduce the number of hours needed for recovery and also decrease the pain from delayed onset muscle soreness associated with high level competition.
So if you are comfortable wearing them in competition and find them helpful then it may be worth considering them but it seems the current evidence casts doubt that this action alone is going to send you to the front of the pack.
On the recovery side of things there is stronger evidence to support their use after competition to improve lymphatic flow and aid circulation.
A nice meta-analysis was recently published on migraine headahces.
The authors reviewed many of the recent research in regard to what affect exercise programs have on the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches.
They found that exercise was particularly beneficial for those suffering from low endorphins in their system as well as those that have other co-morbidity such as neck pain. More interestingly it appears that few bouts of high intensity training may be better than moderate exercise.
It’s certainly been the experience of Niseko Chiropractic that the best migraine treatment involves some moderate changes to lifestyle including a daily exercise program, some release work on the mucles in the back of the neck and having a good look at the triggers. Caffeine and alcohol usually seem to end up in the mix somewhere.
You can read more about the study on the link below
Barber, M., Pace, A. Exercise and Migraine Prevention: a Review of the Literature. Curr Pain Headache Rep 24, 39 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11916-020-00868-6
Due to the current state of emergency declared on the 13th of April Niseko Chiropractic has made the difficult decision to temporarily cease trading until the state of emergency is lifted or we are directed otherwise by the Hokkaido government.
We wish all our past and future clients the best getting through this challenging period and hope to update further on our re-opening when it is safe to do so.
Steps we will be taking to reduce the Covid-19 transmission
Once Niseko Chiropractic is directed to reopen for business steps our business will take to reduce transmission is
* The use of masks for both patients and practitioner
* Spreading appointment times so that there is no overall between patients
* disinfecting headrest and table after each visit
* Single use towels for each client
* Additional screening for risk factors such as fever and dry cough
* Handwashing for patient and practitioner at each visit
Nobody really knows where the Covid-19 pandemic is heading for Niseko. Let alone me.
A worldwide pandemic of this nature has not been seen since the Spanish flu of 1918 which was still holds the unbeaten record of killing the most humans in one sweep with 50 million lives being taken (1) . Thankfully Covid-19 is far more mild but still a serious concern.
But some of us here in Niseko do not have the luxury of throwing up are hands and saying “well we will just see what happens”
Businesses here must plan for the future and that means having some sort of model or thoughts ( even if they change quickly ) on how this will likely pan out.
I must also add the caveat that I am not suitably qualified to write on this topic and this is my non expert opinion. I’m just trying to get my head around it all like everybody else.
It’s entirely possible that by the you reading this some of the content may be out of date and superseded with better knowledge. However I do have some background in health research and in the absence of somebody more qualified (who I hope turns up soon ) perhaps this little article may at least get us asking the right questions.
It’s also been a very emotional journey for all of us Niseko locals.
If feels like our little hedonistic Niseko bubble where we could just hide from the cruel world, discover our inner child again, let out a yippee !! and slide down the pow then party after has been burst.
An entire seasonal staff crew was laid of early and there is now sadly some downsizing already of some valued year round staff identities as the Niseko comes to grips with a cessation of international tourism for the time being.
What was already a season of marginal snow quality ended sharply in a way we could never have imagined. Stories from our friends and family back around the world regarding job looses and economic hardships also weigh on our minds. And it’s only just began.
Getting to the meat and potatoes.
What is Covid-19 and what does it mean for Niseko ?
I think this question is best split into 2 parts
The Health implications for the Niseko region and Japan in general
The economic impact of Covid-19 on Niseko and it’s implications for next season
1. Covid-19 health implications on Niseko and Japan
coronavirus 2 (covid-19 ) was first identified in Wuhan in Dec 2019 spreading quickly through China resulting in the world health organisation declaring it a pandemic on the 30th of January 2020 (2)
But firstly what makes Covid-19 a nasty little critter are 3 things
For most it’s just a nasty flue but In a very small minority of cases Covid-19 can result in a viral pneumonia which essentially means your drown in your own lung fluid if you can’t get access to an ventilator. Covid-19 is deadlier than the seasonal flu so forget those bloggers trying to play it down but It’s nowhere near as deadly as ebola and would not be usually such a big problem if was not for point 2. Which brings us to…….point 2
Covid-19 is relatively easily transmittable. Epidemiologists have used the term R0 to describe how easily transmittable a virus is. It’s essentially how many people you are likely to affect once you have it. For covid-19 that number is estimated to be somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people depending on your source ( 3 )
So if you have Covid-19 it’s likely on average that you pass it to 1 to 3 of your friends. That’s actually not as high measles (12 to 18 people ) which is really contagious before vaccination started but it’s still pretty high (3).
And that brings us to the topic of exponential growth. There is an old myth that the inventor of the game of cheese requested his payment from the king be a single grain of rice placed on a chess board. So on sqaure one would be one single grain, sqaure 2 would contain 2 grains, square 4 would have four grain. By the end of the chesboard the king was unable to pay as the rice would cover the entire continent of India deeply and be greater than the worlds rice production by several thousands of times.
A great video about exponential growth and it’s implication for viruses can be found here
3. Last point 3. Covid-19 has another secret weapon compared to other viruses doing the rounds.
It has fairly short serial interval (4) This is the time it takes for one person to start to get symptoms before the next person gets symptoms. Say you contracted Covid-19 on Sunday. By about friday you are developing symptoms. But you already gave it your friend Jake on Wednesday before you developed symptoms. Jake starts to feel crappy by the following Tuesday but has already passed it Sally on the weekend.
So the serial interval of Covid-19 is about 4 days.(4) from the time you got symptoms on Friday to the time that Jake got symptoms on Tuesday. The implications of the short serial interval is that means Covid-19 is sometimes transmitted by individuals that do not have symptoms at the time.
A recent study from the Diamond Princess that made the perfect controlled environment for study estimated that the asymptomatic transmission rate of Covid-19 is about 20% (6) so there is a 1/5 you will catch or give the virus to somebody else before either of you know it.
This has implications for Niseko employers and accommodation providers too. Screening for symptoms is still going to miss 20% of possible transmissions of your guests and staff. We still need to be cleaning like crazy to minimize transmission risk.
So now we have a virus that is relatively nasty particularly for elderly, is transmitted up to 3 people on average and is hard to detect because you get it from people that are not displaying symptoms yet. Oh goodie.
So where are we now ? By the time you read this graph it will be well out of date but it does demonstrate just how quickly this have grown around the world since Dec 2019.
It’s also very interesting to see the different rates between vary countries. Researchers are scrambling to try and explain the differences and probably making some mistakes along the way but it’s going to a be complex interplay between geography, population density, climate,culture etc.
The good news that must viruses tend to mutate and burn out long before we are able to come up with vaccine. There is some pleasing news from China and South Korea that peak infection rates may have already occurred. The jury seems out on how long new hotspots will keep emerging there as public freedoms increase again.
So how does this effect Niseko and Japan ?
There is some good news here. Japan has not seen the crazy growth of Italy Iran or the US and in fact has not even seen the moderate growth of Australia. As of the 13th of March Japan has 1307 cases (7)
For Hokkaido we seem to be steady over the last week or 2 as of the 26th of March at 163 cases but only 2nd to Tokyo as being the highest in Japan (7). Japan seems to be doing a pretty good job of ” flattening the curve” with the culture of cleanliness, social distancing and adhering to government advice far better than other countries.
Perhaps the culture of not shaking hands and not socializing as much has helped. As the husband of a Japanese wife I can tell you how hard it is to get somebody around for a dinner party !
It’s too early say for sure but It’s entirely possible and maybe even likely that Japan may be able to quell the rate and dodge an economic bullet that smashed europe and now the US.
Niseko has been all but shut down to international visitors and with domestic tourism not due to pick up until July anyway we have a nice little window of quiet and less humans moving through here so that should aid containment a lot.
Should Japan see an exponential rise in cases they are also better placed to handle it than many countries with a good track record of handling disasters and one of the highest rates of hospital beds of 13 per thousand in the western world (9)
Some bad news: Japan was slow to start test and still does not have a high testing rate. South Korea over the last month was testing at rate 10 times higher than Japan (10). Japan also has not taken the kind of action as Australia and New Zealand such as limiting public gatherings etc.
Tokyo’s population density is one of the highest in the world and I think those will be the figures to watch closely to see if Japan can bring this back under control.
Should Japan see a rapid rise it also has larger problem than many other counties. It has a very high percentage of elderly and high risk patients. over 28% of Japan’s population are over 65 and 14% are over 75 (11). Should Covid-19 take hold in japan the death rate would far higher than average than purely based on the age distribution.
Japan in my mind does not have the option of the ” herd immunity ” strategy that was briefly discussed by the UK and now seems to be considered by Trump as a possible strategy for the US. They must stamp this out at any costs.
In Kutchan the main town services Niseko the number of people over 65 makes up 60% of our 15,000 odd population( 11) and the effect of outbreak would be a little ugly.
Japan can’t afford to be complacent and although the rate is far lower than other countries cases are still growing daily and I think we can expect pretty draconian action from the government such as limited travel over prefecture borders etc should number of cases build over a few thousand in the next few weeks.
So in summary my current read on the health implications for Niseko is we have a good chance here in Hokkaido of bringing this under control by the end of summer (13) but if we see sharp rise in the mainland I think we should prepare for a similar journey that western countries are now starting to live through with tight restrictions on public gathering and hospitality to come under lockdown too.
So that concludes my thoughts on the health situation and risk but what about the econcomic impact to a small Ski town that depends greatly on international tourism ?
The economic effect of Covid-19 on Niseko
Without yet knowing how this is going to pan out in Japan and Hokkaido it’s really hard to say but I think we can start to draw some conclusions for the implications for next season.
I think it’s fair to say that distantly viewed in the scheme of human health threats Covid-19 is getting an unfair amount of coverage.
In 2018, there were an estimated 228 million cases of Malaria worldwide and the estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 405 000 in 2018 (15) but the economic hardships will be very real and very pressing and I think still not fully appreciated.
The UN is anticipating the effect of Coronavirus on the world economy of 1 Trillion dollars (18) with global production . I don’t even know how much a trillion is so I had to write it down.
1,000,000,000,000. You could give ( or perhaps more accurately take ! 1 million dollars from one million people !
I think the 3 key questions are
Can people even get to Niseko ?
Will they want to ?
Can they afford too ?
Can our international guests even get to Niseko ?
1. Many international airlines will collapse. Qantas in Australia just laid off 20,000 flight staff and grounded it’s entire international fleet (12). The larger airlines are seeking government bailouts of up to 50 billion of taxpayers dollars and may likely get them but many smaller operators that our guests use for those affordable direct Niseko flights will sadly probably collapse.
Government travel bans on hotspots such as China and Italy seem likely for many months yet and as of the 26th of March about half of the international flights scheduled out of New chitose are cancelled and the recent boom of options for international flights into Niseko is going to be over for probably a few years.
It seems likely that travel bans will start to be lifted after Japan’s peak infection rate tipped to be around late April and last until August (13) but the worldwide trend towards maintaining self isolation after international travel may be with us for 6 months or more so I think it’s likely that we can dismiss any chance of much summer international tourism in Niseko purely based on the physical logistics of getting here.
Winter should be possible if the rest of the world also peaks around May but again I think we need to see the removal of the 14 day self isolation rule that many countries have imposed for some time before we see chance of a viable winter season again. I can’t imagine punters wanting to sit around their hotel rooms for 14 days before they hit the pow.
By June we should see what the trend is here in regards to government policies on travel over our precious booking window but the chances of any bookings coming in early for next season seems greatly reduced. Needless to say heavy restrictions still in place by December on international travel would catastrophic for Niseko and it’s economy.
Do they want too ?
It’s no doubt the world has changed.
The effect of Covid-19 is probably the most significant event in consumer behavior since the great depression. I think we will see a lot less buying on credit for nice things like holidays and much less buying in advance and people may feel that travel now has risks in both personal and economic security that will be with us for some years yet.
Many consumers will have lost money on overseas holidays and will rightly be asking themselves ” What’s the real advantage of booking ahead at the moment ” and is travel going to increase my chances of acquiring an infection. You can bet our bastard insurances companies are busy changing policy wording to make getting healthcare from Covid-19 whilst traveling that little bit trickier too.
Given that most businesses are looking at reduced occupancy rates perhaps it worth reviewing cancellation policies to allow a full refund for anything but very last minute cancellation if there is any chance of getting forward bookings for the next season ?
It seems going to be a bumpy ride with a lot of uncertainty and last minute bookings and this is going to make planning for staff numbers very tricky indeed.
But let’s remember too. People have short memories and us humans are not very good at panicking for that long.
The pow in Niseko is not going anyway and many astute snow lovers may realise that next season may be a very good chance of seeing a significant improvement in the crowd factor that quickly chops up Strawberry fields !
Can they afford too ?
By now it’s becoming apparent just how bad the effects of some of the some of the government polices on controlling the outbreak have had on economies. Australia’s unemployment rate is forecast to go from 5 to 11% and the amount of disposable income is going to drop to a trickle (14). The effect of restaurant closures and the hospitality and tourism sector is going to be brutal.
There is also the effect of exchange rates to consider. In times of global uncertainty the Japanese Yen grows strongly in value and this will make the average ski holiday a few thousand dollars more expensive that it was last season. In March 2019 the rate was 80 yen per dollar but that has now dropped to around 60 and this may be a factor in the affordability of Niseko.
I think it’s fair to say for the average Aussie family that did the odd Niseko holiday that next season just got a little trickier.
But Niseko has been changing. The “average ” Australian ski family now makes up a smaller proportion of our international guests as interest from the top end of town from China and South East Asia and I there will still be no shortage of demand from the wealthy for a trip to Niseko even in times of economic uncertainty and job losses.
Perhaps it’s also time Niseko concentrated on an unfairly neglected part of it’s success.
Japanese domestic tourism.
In all our interest to bath in our new found glory as the Swiss alps of Asia have we treated the Japanese tourist as well as we should have ? I remember one of my wife’s friends being upset that no staff in her hotel she checked into spoke the language that should be used here. Even now I still have not got around to making a Japanese version of my website.
Can we lift our game to cater better to the people that allowed Niseko to get established as the worlds best powder resort ?
Anyway more questions than answers perhaps on all of this and I would to wish everybody the best of luck in getting through this together and also remind you and me and that as long as the slopes stay steep, the powder stays deep and mount Yotei humbles us we will get though this.
Oh and Kutchan has it’s own toilet paper factory !
If you are like me on the wrong side of 40 you might experience some knee pain when skiing or snowboarding Niseko.
There is already good evidence that weight training can help increase our knee stability and reduce pain but now some surprising new research suggests that marathon running can actually increased the quality of our joint cartilage and internal structures.
So if you are considering long distance running to help your ageing knee’s research suggests that for a health population you may expect some improvement in your joints function.
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