“You can ski in Japan…really?”
“I desperately want to ski that Japanese powder!”
This is how it goes. Half of people aren’t aware of the incredible reputation that precedes Japan as a place to ski and instruct - and the other half are day-dreaming about skiing in the most incredible powder conditions and figuring out whatever it takes to head out there for their first season.
It’s a great place to be a ski instructor. Japan is one of the most snow-sure countries in the world, literally metres can fall overnight! The quality of the powder is legendary and Japan’s fascinating culture and unbelievable food is also present in the country’s ski resorts. It’s a unique place to instruct with some of the best skiing conditions in the world.
You may also be surprised to know that finding work in Japan is actually not too difficult and and jobs for instructors are widely available and in demand. We spoke to ex-SnowSkooler Tom O'Hanlon who currently works as instructor in Japan, who gave us a great insders insight into exactly what its like.
For many though, like New Zealand, Japan is a far off pipedream that’s unlikely to happen - however it doesn’t have to be unrealistic if you break it down into steps!
So, without further delay, here is our guide on how to become an instructor in Japan, in 5 simple-steps:
- 1. Gain an internationally-recognised L2 ski instructor qualification
- 2. Obtain a working holiday visa for Japan
- 3. Apply for jobs in as many Japanese resorts as possible
- 4. Phone interview
- 5. Pass the interview, receive and accept your job offer!
1. Complete a Ski Instructor Course and Gain an internationally-recognised Level 2 ski instructor qualification
To work in Japan, you’ll firstly need to get qualified. Most of the major Level 2 qualifications will allow you to work in ski resorts around the world in the ISIA covered countries - and this includes Japan.
On this, SnowSkool has 3 excellent Level 2 ski instructor course options for you to choose from that will be recognised in Japan: BASI, CSIA, and NZSIA.
You can get certified with your:
- BASI Level 2 in Meribel, The Three Valleys France
- CSIA Level 2 in Big White, Canada or in Banff, Canada
- NZSIA Level 2 in Cardrona New Zealand.
Once that’s out of the way you’ve got the qualification covered and you’re onto the next step...
2. Obtain a Japanese working holiday visa
Next, get your visa. Japan provides a 1-year working holiday visa for citizens of 19 countries at the time of writing.
To get a visa you’ll need:
- To be from one of the 19 countries covered (this includes the UK, Australia, Canada, NZ and Ireland but not the US).
- To be aged between 18 and 30
- To be applying for your first Japanese working holiday visa
- Provide an itinerary and reason for your visit
- Show you have adequate funds to support yourself – including funding a return ticket.
If you’re from the UK, like many of our readers are, then you’ll need to get in quick as there are limits to the number of visas issued – only 1,000 at the time of writing. Some other countries, like Australia and New Zealand, are issued an unlimited number of visas.
You should wait to have your visa approved before applying for a job. But once approved, you’ll be able to work full-time as an instructor within the limits of the visa.
The application process and eligibility varies very slightly by country – to check the latest information see this page from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Note: There’s nothing wrong with working as a ski instructor in Japan on a working holiday visa. However, it is important that throughout the application process you do not say that your main intention is to work as a ski instructor. Doing so could lead to your visa being refused. Technically, you should be in Japan for a holiday, first and foremost, and to explore the country and its culture.
3. Apply for jobs in as many Japanese resorts as possible
Now it’s time to apply for jobs. Give yourself the best chance of getting an interview by applying to as many Japanese ski schools and resorts as possible. It’s really important not to be too picky, there are limited opportunities and you should just get as many applications off as you can.
And while you are applying for jobs in Japan, apply for other northern hemisphere countries as well. If Japan doesn’t happen first time around then you can always come back again with more experience.
The allure of China is growing – and while China may not have the snowfall or popularity that Japan does the demand for instructors is great and the employment packages are hugely attractive. Europe and Canada are other established destinations. See our other blogs on how to become a ski instructor in Canada and Europe for more information.
Instructor often wonder if only speaking English will harm an application. Fortunately, you will find that in Japan the majority of people around the resort and tourist centres are English-speaking. The vast majority of Snowsports schools will actively recruit English speaking instructors with no Japanese language skills. However, we do recommend trying to learn some basic Japanese, this goes a long way when meeting and greeting Japanese guests. Just like any country where English is not the native language, the more local language skills you can learn, the greater your experience and the bigger the impression you leave the guests and your ski school.
If you’re really committed then you could get a head-start on your Japanese language skills with a free app like Duolingo.
4. Phone interview
Time for an interview. This is where you have your moment to shine, sell yourself, your experience, and explain why you would make a brilliant addition to the Japanese ski school in question.
The interview process in Japan is similar to other countries like Canada and New Zealand, with a phone-interview being enough for a ski school to offer you a job thereafter. However, if you happen to be in the country traveling or already on your working holiday, meeting and showing interest in person can put you ahead of other candidates.
5. If successful, receive and accept a job offer!
Hopefully if you do well at the interview stage, this is where you’ll receive an offer and (if you accept) then you’ll be off on a plane to Japan with a job secured. You have now officially become a ski instructor in Japan.
So, if working as a ski instructor out in Japan is on the top of your list then a SnowSkool Instructor course is the first step to making that a reality.
Get Step 1 covered with our Level 2 ski and snowboard instructor courses:
And if you want to extend your job in Japan beyond the 1-year working holiday visa, then impress and a school can sponsor you to stay, see ex-SnowSkooler Tom's case study on living and working in Myoko, Japan as a ski instructor.