If you’ve seen that picture with snow banks higher than the coach driving down the road then you probably know why Japan is legendary for skiing! 15 metres is the general annual snowfall figure bandied around, and snowfall is often more in certain resorts.
Visas and work regulations
If you’re a Japanese passport holder, have a Japanese spouse visa or have Japanese permanent residency then you’ve no worries. However, for most people reading this, that’s unlikely to be the case so you’ll need to get a visa. The easiest (relatively) visa to get is the working holiday visa (only relevant for certain countries). If the working holiday visa is not applicable to your passport then you’re best to get in touch with your Japanese Embassy or the Japanese Immigration Bureau. This will probably be the one time in your life that you will be referred to as an ‘alien’ (no jokes!). Working on the working holiday visa, you’ll be taxed at 20% but you’ll be able to claim this back at the end of the season depending on a number of factors.
Similar to the USA, you don’t actually need to hold qualifications to work as a ski instructor in Japan, but qualifications and experience will definitely help you in this competitive job market. Your wage may reflect your level of qualification as well,
You don’t need to speak Japanese either as it’s likely that you’ll be teaching a lot of Australians, tourists from Hong Kong and China, and the odd Brit or American as well. It’s very unlikely that you’ll be teaching a Japanese native. And most of the Asian clients that you’ll have will speak English given that it’s the international business language. This also means that your peak season times will be different to those in Europe even though winter is during the same time period. The main Australian holiday is in January and so will likely be really busy. Christmas and Easter might not have the same emphasis and peak as they would in Europe.
Whilst the Japanese don’t really have their own mainstream ski instructor qualifications, there are a number of companies that run ski instructor courses in Japan, often working through the BASI or NZSIA systems.
- EA Ski and Snowboard: ski instructor courses in Japan with help finding a job afterwards.
- Niseko Instructor Training Academy: ski instructor courses (different lengths) and internships in the NZSIA system.
- Snow Trainers: 8 week NZSIA Level 1 and Level 2 course in Niseko.
Most of the renowned ski resorts in Japan are based on the smaller north island of Hokkaido with Niseko being the main one, but there are some other, often smaller, resorts on the main island of Honshu, home to the Japanese Alps. Snow Japan has a full list of resorts in Japan.
Japan is not a cheap Asian country to live in, but you’ll likely find some things are more expensive than others. It’ll probably be cheaper to eat out than in Europe, but you might find buying certain types of food such as fruit will be more expensive. But then you’ll be able to buy a huge sack of edamame beans for the same price as a small bowl-full in the UK. A lot of the time, there are staff accommodation premises and an allowance for this will be taken out of your pay packet, you may also get a cleaner included in the cost (big bonus on a ski season!).
Working and living in Japan will also give you a different experience to the European, North American and Australia/New Zealand experiences. Whilst it may be branded as a “mini Australia” during the winter season as the Aussie staff descend on Japan for their year-round winter experience, you will be able to experience the friendly Japanese culture. Embrace the food and drink experimentation with Saki and sushi (or sashimi for the faint-hearted), noodles and Japanese beer, and many others. The annual Sapporo Snow Festival is not to be missed either.