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Powder snow. It’s one of Japan’s finest natural assets.

Over the past 20 years, Japan has become known around the world as a dream destination for skiers and snowboarders. Yet the country has had an on-and-off love affair with snow sports.

As domestic interest in skiing and snowboarding has waned, resorts have become increasingly reliant on international visitors. So when the pandemic hit, and Japan’s borders were shut, many of them were plunged into crisis.

Japan Times contributor Francesco Bassetti joins Deep Dive to discuss the rise and fall of the Japanese ski industry, and how resorts are faring with so few people able to enjoy them.

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Transcript

Note: Deep Dive is made to be listened to, and we recommend this transcript be used as an accompaniment to the episode. This transcript has been generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcription, and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the episode. 

Oscar Boyd  00:09

Hello and welcome to Deep Dive. From The Japan Times, I’m Oscar Boyd. 

Oscar Boyd  00:13

Powder snow. It’s one of Japan’s finest natural assets. And over the past 20 years, the country has become known around the world as a dream destination for skiers and snowboarders, with pro athletes from Jon Olsson to Jeremy Jones waxing lyrical about the white stuff. Yet Japan has had an on-and-off love affair with snow sports. And as domestic interest in skiing and snowboarding has waned, resorts have become increasingly reliant on international visitors. So when the pandemic hit, and the borders were shut, many of them were plunged into crisis. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been working with Japan Times contributor Francesco Basetti, to look at the rise and fall of the Japanese ski industry, and how resorts are faring with so few people able to enjoy them.

Oscar Boyd  01:06

Francesco Bassetti, welcome to Deep Dive. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Francesco Bassetti  01:10

Thanks a lot, thanks for having me. It’s good to see you again.

Oscar Boyd  01:13

You’re kind of living the work from home dream. You’ve managed to rent out a house in Hakuba, a big ski resort in Japan, for the whole season. And you seem to be taking every opportunity you can to get out into the mountains. So what’s it like skiing in Japan at the moment?

Francesco Bassetti  01:28

I mean, I’d like to say that it isn’t everything that you dream, but it’s actually been an exceptional season. There’s been a lot of snow and of course the fact that there’s a lot less people on the slopes is, I have to admit, very nice. But at the same time, it’s also this bittersweet feeling. There are certainly moments when you’re out on the slopes in Hakuba, or in any of the other mountains, and you kind of look around and you see that everything’s a bit empty, particularly during the week. I’ve been out a few times and everything is completely empty. And you just wonder, how are businesses doing? What are the long term effects going to be for these mountain resorts? And I think that’s actually what kind of motivated me to write this article and to get on board with you and look into what are the effects of the pandemic on these ski resorts.

Oscar Boyd  02:23

Right. And I joined you in Hakuba at the beginning of the year to help research this article — do a little bit of skiing as well — and I do remember sitting at the bottom of Hakuba 47, one of the resorts there, at the end of a day of skiing. And at the bottom of the resort they have a base station with cafes and bars and all sorts of restaurants. And there was, I think, one or two customers. No one was eating or drinking or doing any of the usual après ski activities, and the car park was half full at best.

Francesco Bassetti  02:53

Yeah. And I think it is a big contrast for a lot of people who have been here for many years and have skied in Japan for many years. And they often speak about how crowded it can get in these resorts. I’ve only been here for just over two years, and I haven’t experienced that at all.

Oscar Boyd  03:08

So before we get too deep into the effects that the pandemic is having on the ski resorts, I’d actually like to get into a bit of the history of skiing. So when was skiing first introduced to Japan?

Francesco Bassetti  03:21

Well, I think Japan has quite an interesting ski history. I mean, of course, they have a lot of snow, so skiing has always been — in a primitive form — has always been part of the culture.

Oscar Boyd  03:32

So you’re talking like long planks on your feet and maybe some bamboo poles?

Francesco Bassetti  03:36

Exactly. Bamboo poles and primitive pine skis. Just as a means of transport, essentially, for mountain communities in the winter months. And then, let’s say the first sort of official arrival of skiing as a discipline that was developed and taught, was in the early 20th century. Basically, it occurred because the Japanese army had a big accident up in the mountains in the north of Japan in the Hakkoda Mountains in Aomori Prefecture. Around 200 people lost their lives, and the military suddenly realized that it would have been a good idea to develop a means of transport on snow. And so they brought over a major from the Austrian army called Theodor von Lerch, and he was a very proficient skier. There’s actually a really funny picture of him in Japan in his military uniform with a big black top hat and this bamboo pole and wooden skis, and it’s very far removed from what we see today with our GoreTex and big skis. Anyway, he was brought over to teach the Japanese military how to ski. And actually there’s a funny anecdote from when I was out in the mountains around Hakuba skiing. One day we were out backcountry skiing, and we were in one of these beautiful Japanese birch forests, lots of snow, wonderful setting, nobody around. And suddenly we found ourselves face to face with three young men who were interestingly dressed. So they had like very old school clothes, big leather backpacks, wooden skis.

Oscar Boyd  05:14

Why? Why was this? Why were they dressed in gear from the early 20th century?

Francesco Bassetti  05:19

Exactly. Well, we were very confused when we saw them. One of them even had a raccoon skin attached to his backpack. And basically, we started chatting, and they were part of the defense force, and they were just out training in the woods. Yeah, I just found that very amusing. It looked like they were straight out of the 1920s.

Oscar Boyd  05:38

So one of those stories where they went off one day and got caught in some time portal, and, you know, have been living in the forest ever since. 

Francesco Bassetti  05:47

That’s kind of what it felt like to be honest. 

Oscar Boyd  05:49

So when did skiing start to get a bit more exposure as a leisure sport that the general public can get involved with?

Francesco Bassetti  05:57

I think the first big step was definitely the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. This was the first time that Japan competed in a Winter Olympics. And this really helped give the sports, or winter sports in general, visibility and sort of bring people to the mountains. So that was the kind of period from 1928 onwards, then obviously, there was the war so there was a lull. But then back in the 1950s, we then get the next chapter in Japan’s skiing history. And here economic growth and increasing prosperity sort of went hand in hand with more skiers going to ski resorts and a period of gradual increase in interest in winter sports and in spending time in the mountains.

Oscar Boyd  06:45

This growing popularity leads to Japan’s first major winter sports event, which is the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics, which was also the first Winter Olympics to be held in Asia, right? So not just a significant milestone for Japan, but also for the continent.

Francesco Bassetti  07:02

Yeah, extremely significant. Not only did Japan also win various gold, silver and bronze medals at the Winter Olympics in Sapporo, it also established this long history that they have with the ski jumping events, and we just saw the other day in Beijing 2022, with Kobayashi Ryoyu of Japan winning gold in the men’s normal hill ski event.

Oscar Boyd  07:24

Quick side note, I just find it fascinating that the men’s ski jumping, and the women’s as well, is called the normal hill.

Francesco Bassetti  07:32

It’s everything but a normal hill, right? 

Oscar Boyd  07:34

Yeah exactly. 

Francesco Bassetti  07:36

Yeah, every time I look at it, I just think ‘I’m never going to jump off that, not in 100 years.’

Oscar Boyd  07:45

And so the 1972 Winter Olympics, winning all these gold medals, what does that lead to in terms of interest in snow sports in Japan?

Francesco Bassetti  07:54

Well, I think this kind of opens to the next chapter, which is very tied to what was going on in terms of Japan’s economy as well. So the sort of Bubble Era. And just like in the Bubble Era — there was big spending, everything was over the top — the same thing definitely happened in the ski world. There was a massive development of ski resorts, and a massive interest in skiing. It really became the national sport for young people in Japan. Well, I think the peak was in 1997. And they had over 18 million skiers, active skiers, in 1997. And that was spread over something like 700 separate ski resorts in the 1990s.

Oscar Boyd  08:37

It was a real boom period in Japan in terms of skiing and the ski industry.

Francesco Bassetti  08:41

Absolutely, yes, absolute boom period. Japan was one of the countries with the most ski resorts in the world, up there with the United States, France, Italy and Austria. And it was, you could also say, an unsustainable, unsustainable growth. And in fact, that leads to the next chapter, which is the Nagano 1998 Olympics, which sort of marks the peak of all this.

Oscar Boyd  09:13

How Japan’s ski industry responded to the falling visitor numbers, after this short break.

Oscar Boyd  09:18

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Oscar Boyd  10:27

You said 1998 marks the start of the decline of the Japanese ski industry and that the number of active skiers peaked in 1997, with about 18 million taking to the slopes. How many active skiers are there now?

Francesco Bassetti  10:41

Yeah, absolutely. So by 1997, we have the peak. And then today we’re looking at around 6 million active skiers in the country. So a massive, massive decline in the total numbers. And also in the number of ski resorts. It’s kind of hard to get the numbers, but it’s believed that there are about 500 ski resorts left in Japan. And every year, a few shut down. And in all but a few of the main ones that are kind of attracting new interest, there’s very little investment and it’s just been a steady decline. One of the sort of legacies of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano Prefecture — and it’s kind of reflective of what happened in the rest of the country — was just the amount of debt which was accumulated by the prefecture. This was something that a lot of people that we talked to in Nagano commented about, like the sort of negative economic impacts of those Olympics, it was kind of a new unanimous view, that they came at the wrong time, and that they didn’t bring what they expected. In contrast to that, especially now, because in Beijing, you obviously have a lot of Japanese athletes out there — and, for example, there are four athletes who are locals of Hakuba — there’s also a lot of pride as well. So the negative side, everyone talked about how the 1998 Olympics was very bad for us economically, but then at the same time they do also say it inspired a whole new generation of athletes, and it did bring this awareness about winter sports. So there are two sides to that coin.

Oscar Boyd  12:17

I guess as part of that bringing awareness piece, it brought awareness to Nagano not just domestically but also internationally. And I think those Olympics really helped put Nagano and Japan on the map as an international ski destination. It was around this period, as the domestic numbers were starting to flatten, that people we talked to said that ski resorts and businesses began looking to target skiers from overseas, pivoting their operations to appeal more to international customers, particularly people from Australia. So skipping ahead a little bit, how were things going in the lead up to the pandemic?

Francesco Bassetti  12:56

Well, I think you touched on it exactly. In that period, there was a realization that something had to be done differently. So there was, especially in certain resorts such as Niseko, and Hakuba, also Nagano in general because of the Olympics, there was the realization that appealing to international tourists could provide a solution seeing as there wasn’t a pickup in the domestic market. So I’d say the next chapter in Japan’s ski resort history is definitely let’s call it the international chapter, and attracting foreigners. And initially, this was certainly Australians, obviously for a geographical factor where they were interested in skiing and Japan’s the closest place to them. 

Oscar Boyd  13:37

And in a similar time zone as well. 

Francesco Bassetti  13:39

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Just a lot of reasons why it made sense for Australians to come and ski in Japan. And then, more recently, we have interest from European and American tourists. And then even more recently, in the last few years, there’s been a large uptick in East Asian interest — tourism and a lot of investments. So developers from China, Hong Kong, Singapore. So to fast forward to today: today, Japan is definitely considered a ski mecca and home to some of the best snow in the world. The big unique selling factor of Japanese ski resorts is definitely the snow. The snow is what brings people to Japan for skiing. 

Oscar Boyd  14:23

One of the things that we also heard from owners of businesses in ski resorts, and we heard this repeatedly, was how valuable international skiers were compared to domestic customers. And that’s not to downplay the importance of domestic customers at all, as they still make up the majority of skiers here. But they were saying that international guests who come to Japan for winter sports typically stay much longer and spend much more money than domestic visitors do.

Francesco Bassetti  14:50

Yeah absolutely. So this is something that a lot of the business owners that we talked to pointed out, is the different sort of behaviors. It’s also a question of spending power. So, for example, the Japan Tourism Agency estimates that inbound tourists for winter sports spend an average of ¥225,000 during their stay in Japan, compared to an average of ¥153,000 for inbound tourists in general. But the other thing is that compared to domestic skiers, the behavior is different. So whereas a domestic tourist, especially Japanese tourists, will tend to enter a hotel resort or a ryokan and stay within that, let’s call it, bubble, and just spend [money] there, international tourists will stay for a longer period of time and they’ll want to explore different resorts, try different food, go to the yakitori place, try the different onsens. And you kind of like spread the money across the whole community. So people really realized that that brought an added value to tourism in their communities. And one story that stuck out for me was, there’s the owner of a really very nice ryokan in Hakuba called Toshiro Maruyama, and he’s the owner of the Shirouma-so ryokan in Hakuba. And it’s this wonderful, quaint ryokan where you walk into the lobby, and he has 300-year old wooden beams that were the ones of the original farmhouse. And he’s done really well in catering to international tourists, because he realized that they would stay for longer. So this has really helped his business which was struggling after the lull of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Oscar Boyd  16:32

So pre-pandemic, we have a ski industry that is much smaller than it was at its peak, and one that is increasingly reliant on international tourism. So what happened when the pandemic actually hit?

Francesco Bassetti  16:45

So when the pandemic struck, we started to see signs in the 2019-2020 ski season, but the travel ban was only enacted in March 2020. So a lot of ski resort towns that rely on just ski tourism and winter sports were probably feeling quite relaxed and like, ‘Well, this is going to last a few months, but the Olympics are coming and next season is going to be good.’ I think that was the general feeling. But then yeah, fast forward two years and there’s still no international tourists and still fewer domestic customers. Because that’s kind of been the real double whammy, let’s say, has been that not only have international tourists been cut off completely due to the travel ban of March 2020, which is still ongoing, but also the various states of emergency and general unease within Japan about traveling, obviously due to the pandemic, the ongoing pandemic has also scuttled plans for domestic tourists.

Oscar Boyd  17:50

Yeah, we’ve also seen some of the worst moments of the pandemic, times with the highest number of COVID-19 case counts, coinciding with the ski season, because cold weather helps contribute to the spread of the virus. And as a result of those high cases and states of emergency, the number of domestic skiers has also been reduced.

Francesco Bassetti  18:09

Yeah, and we’re seeing that now, actually. As you were saying, I’ve been up in Hakuba for the last few months and, whereas Christmas was a pretty good season, as in a pretty good moment for them, where things were pretty full, obviously just domestic tourists, but it seemed like business was doing well. Now with the growth in Omicron cases, the town feels really empty.

Oscar Boyd  18:32

And so what does this mean for the ski resorts? How have they actually been impacted by the fall in customer numbers?

Francesco Bassetti  18:38

Well, the effects have been varied in that it’s depended a lot on the ski resorts and their business models. There’s certainly been closures and although this does kind of follow the pattern that we were talking about before where, in general, smaller ski resorts have been closing down every year. But COVID has certainly pushed quite a few of them over the brink, the last straw that broke the camel’s back. The ones that come to mind are Mizuho Highland and the Utopia Mountain Resort in Shimane Prefecture, which both went into administration. The Mount Racey ski resort in Yubari, Hokkaido, which filed for bankruptcy in January 2021. And the Sanosaka ski resort, which closed its doors this winter after almost 40 years of operations. So there’s certainly been closures and these are all, it’s worth noting, smaller ski resorts. So it seems to be affecting the smaller ski resorts which are showing signs of being less resilient.

Oscar Boyd  19:37

So how is somewhere like the Hakuba Valley say, which has something like 10 ski resorts that all fall under the Hakuba brand, and which was receiving around 1.5 million skiers a year pre-pandemic, how has a large ski area like that been affected?

Francesco Bassetti  19:52

Yeah, it’s had a massive effect. As you were saying it was 1.5 million skiers per year pre-pandemic, of which around 380,000 were international guests in 2018. And they were really expecting that number to grow. So people had been investing in their businesses expecting growth. And the 2020-21 season saw only 800,000 guests in total coming to Hakuba, which is around half. And these are similar numbers, I mean we talk about Hakuba, but we see similar numbers in Niseko as well. So in Niseko, the 2019-20, winter saw 1.7 million tourists of which about 550,000 were international. And then fast forward to 2020 and it’s about 620,000 guests of which virtually zero are international. And the effect is obviously, we heard a lot of stories of struggling businesses, people having to lay off staff, investing in new ventures. But one thing that surprised me, to be honest, seeing the numbers and the decline, imagine losing half your income in one year. I would have expected a lot more closures. And surprisingly, we didn’t hear that many stories of businesses shutting down. And I think this is a testament to how well these resorts were doing in the years up to it. They sort of had a bit of a cushion, a lot of people we talked to were like, ‘We have a bit of a cushion. We can do this for this season. But if this continues, things are going to get really serious.’

Oscar Boyd  21:31

Yeah, one story that really stood out to me from our interviews was when I spoke to Andrew Spragg, who’s a backcountry ski guide and owns a company called Rising Sun Guides in Niseko. He’s not sponsoring this episode but actually, if you are skiing in Niseko, he’s a really solid ski guide, and took me to the top of Mount Yotei last year. Anyway, he was saying to me that before the pandemic he had just over 20 full time staff in his employ. But now it’s just down to him, his wife and one staff member who’s really not working full time at all. And it’s gotten so bad in Japan for Andrew that he decided to move to Canada for the season to guide there because it was a more reliable source of income than in Japan because he was getting so few customers here while the border restrictions are still in place.

Francesco Bassetti  22:20

Yeah, yeah, exactly. These are stories that we heard everywhere. A similar one was David Enright, who’s the owner of Evergreen Outdoor Center in Hakuba, which is the largest international ski school in Hakuba Valley. And pre travel ban, 95% of his clients were foreigners. So he went from 250 full time winter employees in 2019, to I think less than 25 in 2021, and 10% of his revenue. And interestingly, he was talking about how the government was helping in the sense that when he was leaving employees at home, they would receive their salary, so there was sort of a safety net. But yeah, this is an unsustainable situation for these businesses, and also for the Japanese government, which is obviously giving out a lot of subsidies and supporting entire communities.

Oscar Boyd  23:16

Obviously we know that the entire ski industry has been affected by the pandemic, but are there any resorts that seem to be doing better than others?

Francesco Bassetti  23:25

I think the key to the resorts that have done better than others has been diversity in operations and diversity in business. One excellent example, I think, is the ski resort town of Furano, up in Hokkaido. It is obviously a ski resort town, but its summer season is also very, very important. So actually, in terms of total revenue, the summer and winter season generate the same amount of revenue. And so this has kind of meant that they spread their business over the entire year, and it means that they’ve been a lot more resilient to the impacts of reduced winter sports tourism. Not to mention the fact that the area has a really important agricultural sector, so that’s another source of income for local communities. Another great example, I think, is in the town of Higashikawa, which is by the city of Asahikawa, up in Hokkaido as well. And we talked to Kanako Wilcock, the managing director of Higashikawa Tourism Association. They explained that the town hadn’t been overly affected by the international travel ban and also the domestic travel restrictions. Obviously, there had been effects, but their opinion was that it wasn’t as severe because Higashikawa had sort of aimed to promote a different type of tourism, a model of tourism that kind of encouraged people to come and stay and not just get on the bus, ski for the weekend and then run back home. There was a lot of workations, people who have moved over there since they’re able to work remotely, and just, in general, a different model of tourism.

Oscar Boyd  25:15

In our last episode of Deep Dive, we were focusing on the Beijing Winter Olympics. And in the second half of that episode, we had a really interesting chat with Madeline Orr about how the Winter Olympics are being affected by climate change. So I wonder, how is climate change impacting Japanese ski resorts? And is it being factored into future planning as the industry recovers from the pandemic? 

Francesco Bassetti  25:37

Well, absolutely, yes. In very simple terms. The climate issue is something that I take very much to heart. A lot of the reporting I do focuses on environmental issues. And one of the things that surprised me the most when researching this article was how everyone we talked to, whether we presented the question or not, wanted to discuss climate issues. And one quote that particularly resonated with me and stuck was when I was talking to Mr. Fukushima from the Tourism Commission of Hakuba Village. And I was asking him what he thought the long term effects of COVID would be. And he just answered by saying, ‘Look, it’s hard to answer that question, because what we are really worried about in the future is the impact of climate change.’ And this really stuck with me because everyone we talked to who had been in these areas for their whole life, or for decades, at least, was talking about how the mountains have changed, how snowfall patterns have changed. And if you rewind to what we were talking about before, snow is such an important factor for resorts.

Oscar Boyd  26:56

Right, we’ve seen Japanese resorts really pushing the idea of Japow — Japanese powder snow. It’s really the main selling point of Japanese resorts, right? It’s not the quality of the pistes that’s boasted about or how steep or long the runs are. It’s the ability and opportunity for skiers in Japan to take advantage of the copious amounts of fresh powder snow that falls all across the north of the country.

Francesco Bassetti  27:20

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. People come to Japan because they want to have that experience of being chest deep in powder, and sort of all the stuff you see in the ski videos. And if that changes, then how is that going to impact the ski resorts? And this is a question everyone’s asking themselves. Everyone who is involved in businesses in these areas is asking themselves. Actually, after working on this article, I talked to Dr. Hiroaki Kawase from the Meteorological Research Institute. And his focus is specifically on future changes in Japan’s climate and particularly in snowfall patterns. And he absolutely backed up what people were saying. He explained that, of course, snowfall is greatly affected by changes in temperature, and obviously higher emissions will bring a decrease in overall snowfall for Japan. Obviously, there is large variability according to altitude and also latitude. Japan is spread over a wide variety of latitudes, so there will be differences in how things change locally. But in general, the pattern will be a decrease in overall snowfall, increase in temperatures and possibly also an increase in extreme snowfall events. So maybe one day with massive amounts of snow and then the following day high temperatures, which is exactly not what people come for when they think about skiing in Japan.

Oscar Boyd  28:48

So if we take the impacts of the COVID pandemic, and the potential for climate change and worsening snow conditions in the future, what do you see as the outlook for the ski industry here in Japan?

Francesco Bassetti  29:01

Well, the outlook is certainly not entirely bad. Obviously, the effects of the pandemic are still unknown in terms of the long term effects. Obviously, we have this looming shadow of climate change. But investors are maybe not seeing the same things we are, because there’s definitely a lot of money pouring into I would say are the main resorts. Money seems to be concentrating in certain ski resorts such as, for example, Niseko, Nozawa, Hakuba. And especially up in Hokkaido with the prospect of the Sapporo Winter Olympics in 2030, which is still not a certainty but looks like it is a likely outcome, there’s a lot of investment. Also think about the Winter Olympics going on now. Beijing 2022 is taking place in China and that’s going to potentially expose around 300 million people to winter sports. This is a huge source of potential clients and it’s a short flight to Japan, and you already have existing infrastructure, you have large amounts of snow, you have an exotic vacation destination. So it does make sense for a lot of Chinese investors to put money into existing ski resorts, bring them up to modern standards, and promote skiing in Japan.

Oscar Boyd  30:25

Yeah although there’s a cruel irony there in that if Japanese resorts become even more reliant on guests flying in from overseas, yes they might survive in the short term, but if the number of people flying also increases, it will only make the problem of climate change worse in the long run, and potentially hasten the decline in snow quality. Which must be something that resorts are thinking about as well.

Francesco Bassetti  30:47

Absolutely. And I think that was another thing that really surprised me in the research for this article. There’s a big push for nighttime skiing in Japan, which is something that was new to me, coming from Europe. And I always looked at all those lights driving back home in the evening in Hakuba and was thinking, ‘wow, that is a lot of energy for all those lights.’ But actually, it turns out the energy to power the night skiing in the Goryu Resort of Hakuba Valley is produced using renewable energy. And Happo-One, which is one of the main resorts in Hakuba Valley, a significant portion of the energy that they use to power the lifts is renewable energy. Iwatake Resort aims to be the first plastic free resort by next season. There’s definitely a consciousness about climate issues in Japanese ski resorts that, in some senses, puts it ahead of the rest of Japanese society in terms of awareness and planning for climate change and the effects of climate change. And that was very refreshing and good to see.

Oscar Boyd  31:55

And does it seem like resorts have this understanding now that if they want to survive into the future that they can’t just develop the ski season, they also have to develop the green season for other outdoor activities, to make sure that they have income all year round?

Francesco Bassetti  32:12

Yeah, absolutely this. We need to look at the summer season, we need to diversify. We can’t just keep relying on the winter season because we don’t know what the snow situation is going to be. We’ve also seen the effects of the pandemic. So there’s a turn towards mountain biking, trekking, standup paddling, rafting, like an idea of just developing the four seasons. And that’s certainly a big project, we’ve heard it throughout in most resorts, but it’s certainly a big part of Hakuba Valley’s outlook going forward.

Oscar Boyd  32:43

Francesco, thank you very much for joining me today.

Francesco Bassetti  32:45

Thanks a lot, Oscar. Thanks a lot and I look forward to getting out and skiing with you soon.

Oscar Boyd  32:56

That was Francesco Bassetti. My thanks to him for joining us this week. I’ve put a link to our article on how Japan’s ski industry is coping with the pandemic in the show notes. 

Oscar Boyd  33:05

Also in The Japan Times this week: As Japan continues to endure the omicron wave, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has set a target of speeding up COVID-19 booster vaccinations to 1 million shots a day by the end of this month. This week, the government is also expected to decide on whether to extend the quasi state of emergency in Tokyo and 12 prefectures. The current measures are set to expire on February 13, at the end of this week. 

Oscar Boyd  33:31

Before we wrap up this week’s episode, I wanted to let you know that we are currently experimenting with providing transcripts of new episodes of Deep Dive. You can find the transcript for this episode and last week’s episode on The Japan Times website. If you find the transcripts useful, please do let us know how you’re using them and how they can be improved. Get in touch with us on Twitter or by mailing deepdive@japantimes.co.jp. Thanks as always for listening and until next time, podtsukaresama.