Home to some of the world's driest powder, varied terrain and minimal chairlift lines, Japan is quickly becoming one of the best ski destinations in the world. It’s also packed full of weird and wonderful cultural quirks and home to some of the kindest people on the planet. A season in Japan is a unique experience, blending the ski lifestyle that we know and love with Japanese culture.
Here are four reasons for doing a ski season in Japan.
- Japanese Culture
- World-class terrain and world-famous snow
- Kampai! - The Japanese après ski
- Money earning potential
If you are interested in becoming an instructor in Japan download our free guide.
1. ...It’s Japan
If Japan is not on your bucket list, it should be, it's a travelling nomads dream!
Japan is a place where ancient tradition blends seamlessly with ultra-modern urban city life like it is the most natural thing in the world, and there's something to please everyone. In Japan, you'll find everything from tropical beaches, snow-capped ski mountains, underground music scenes and Buddhist temples.
Most urban centres, such as Tokyo and Osaka, offer vibrant 24-hour drinking and dining scenes perfect for foodies and partiers. Tokyo, Japan's centre for food, fashion and late-night entertainment is a travelling destination all on its own. It's well known for the interesting but strange museums such as the Meguro Parasitological Museum, where you can browse a fairly gruesome mix of parasites and even take one home with you preserved in a keyring… if you’re into that kind of thing.
Venturing out of the cities you won't be disappointed with an abundance of diverse and beautiful landscapes from picturesque waterfalls stunning beaches to vast mountain ranges. If you're more into your history, Japan's rich culture and traditions are even more apparent throughout its smaller towns with grand temples, shrines and fascinating architecture. If you want to know more, check out this list of the “10 most beautiful towns in Japan”.
Japan has many tourist festivals throughout the year. Two events not to miss are the Sapporo Ice Festival every winter and the Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival.
It's also worth mentioning, getting around Japan is easy, affordable and something to tick off your bucket list! Mix a chaotic dash to grab the last few remaining seats with the world's most polite culture, and you get some sort of magical adult version of musical chairs. It's also super quick, and you can travel from Tokyo to Kyoto in 2 hours, travelling at speeds of 320km/h thanks to the network of high-speed train lines spread across the country.
Our interns at Canyons snowsports school live in Nozawa Onsen, famous for its natural hot springs (onsens). Most bathers dip in naked which is very natural for the Japanese however, it can be an entertaining experience for foreigners (Gaijin) visiting Japan… an excellent initiation into your ski season in Japan.
2. World-class terrain and lots of snow
Japan is fast becoming one of the world's hottest ski destinations. Japan's ski scene has been rising in popularity, rivalling the Northern Hemispheres mega-resorts in North America and the Alps because of one reason.
It snows, a lot.
73% of Japan is mountainous, and you'll find some of the best powder snow in the world! A Japan ski season means super soft pillow lines, endless waist-deep powder, mushroom topped trees and incredible off-piste skiing! In a good Japan snow season, you can expect to receive up to 16 metres of powder snow, with an average of over 10 metres each year!
But trust us when we say it's not all about the powder skiing, there are over 500 ski resorts in Japan (that's more than the USA), so you're spoilt for choice when it comes to the variety of terrain on offer. Each ski resort offers something different. You can find excellent piste skiing, well-groomed trails, tree runs in Rusutsu, gnarly bump lines in Shiga Kogen, and of course, that all-important back-country terrain. Japan's freestyle scene is also growing with terrain parks getting bigger and better every year!
3. Kampai! - the Japanese take on après ski
Kampai is the Japanese word for ‘cheers’. It directly translates to ‘empty your glasses’ and we like to think of it as the Japanese après-ski. Après-ski is an all-encompassing term describing the fun that transpires after the lifts stop spinning and the drinks start flowing. Nowhere in Japan has embraced it like Niseko in Hokkaido. If you’re looking for the typical western après-ski experience, you might not find what you’re looking for, but you won’t be disappointed.
Start the night right, Netflix and chill? How about Onsen and chill?
Whether you are looking to start a relaxing night in, give your muscles some well needed TLC or simply prepare your body for the ensuing night out a dip in an onsen (natural hot spring) is the perfect post mountain activity. Onsens are ingrained in Japanese culture and one not to be missed when visiting Japan for a winter season.
Forget apple cider or hipster potato vodkas, in Japan, it's all about the rice wine, sake! It's a Japanese staple, and there are sake bars everywhere, it's practically impossible (and potentially illegal) to visit Japan without tasting (and falling in love with) sake! Japan is also home to edgy whisky bars serving up whisky that has beaten Scottish distilleries to the title of best in the world.
There's nothing quite like a night out in Niseko, to change your opinion of Japan as a quaint family-friendly ski destination. At night, you'll find the streets filled with guests and resort staff sipping on sake in all-you-can-drink karaoke bars. There are also plenty of western bars such as the famous Wild Bills where you can dance the night away and forget that you are even in Asia.
4. Money earning potential
Japanese ski resorts are known for treating their staff well by offering consistent work hours and decent pay. As a ski instructor in Japan, you can expect to earn between 1400-2200 JPY per hour, which translates to between £10 - £16 p/h.
Some ski resorts such as Club Med, will pay their team a fixed full-time salary package for the entire ski season meaning you can build up some good savings to put towards heli-skiing next season ;)
Japan is becoming a hub for travelling ski and snowboard instructors from the Southern Hemispheres, meaning there is an abundance of highly qualified trainers to learn from. The potential to network with high placed instructors throughout New Zealand, Australia and South America open doors to securing ski jobs in these sought after locations! Many of our interns doing a ski season in Japan go on to secure jobs in Australia and New Zealand taking the first steps on their journey to endless winters!
We’re still accepting applications for ski instructor internships in Japan for the 2019/2020 ski season. Spaces are limited, and fill fast. Find out if you’re eligible for a ski instructor internship with EA Ski and Snowboard and secure your spot!
Check out our intern James Watchers clips from his ski season in Shiga Kogen last year!