Working a winter snow season in Japan - Everything you need to know!

Working a winter snow season in Japan


Japan is home to some of the best powder skiing in the world. If you’ve been considering working a snow season in japan, now is a great time to start looking for a job (July!). Employers are hiring and jobs are filling up fast. If you want to work in Japan and have an awesome ski/snowboard adventure, check out this guide to get you started!


Mt Yotei in Niskeo Japan

Photo by Alexa Hohenberg for Niseko Photography. Taken at the cat ski terrain where Alexa is a guide.


Working holiday visa for Japan

If you’re Australian, it’s relatively easy to get a Japanese Working Holiday Visa if you are aged 18-30. The visa can also extended up to 18 months if you return 6 months later and do another winter season! You can also get a visa if you are from New Zealand, Canada, Korea, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Norway and for residents of Taiwan and Hong Kong. When applying you need to be in your country of residence, have funds in your bank account and be in good health.

For Australians, visit this page to find out more.

Also note that you will need to physically go to the Japanese consulate in your country to sort the visa. Allow loads of time to do this as it can take weeks on end.


Read: 10 things you must see and do in Hakuba Japan


Cat skiing in Niseko with Niseko Photography

The day I went cat skiing. So much powder!


Getting sponsored to work in Japan

For those of you over 30, or from a country that doesn’t offer a Japanese working holiday visa, you will need to get sponsored. This is much harder than it sounds and carries large fees for your employer. Every industry will have their own rules but for ski instructors, you need to have 36 months solid experience on your resume, a University degree, plus references to back this up. Do your research as every field is different. Work directly with your potential employer and immigration lawyer to see if you qualify.


Powder skiing in Japan

Powder days…. for days.
Cat skiing with Niseko Photography.


How to find a job and accommodation in a Japanese ski resort

The best time to apply for a working a winter snow season in Japan is June and July. Organising a job before you arrive will also make it easier to find accommodation. Many companies will offer shared accommodation which is within walking distance from the slopes. You might have to share a room, but that’s a great way to make some new friends!


It’s quite tough to find accomodation on your own, especially from overseas. Don’t be afraid to rock up without a job. You’ll make contacts, find work and a place to stay. Many people get injured during the season or go home so jobs become available. Just ensure you have enough reserve funds to support yourself or you might have to go home early.


Get a $50 free travel credit for AirBNB to use when you arrive (or at home!)


Check out some of these websites to find a job in Niseko:


Jobs for ski instructors:


Niseko tour and accommodation companies:


Niseko Bars, restaurants & retail:


Doing a ski season in Japan - expect to have a shot ski!

Brace to yourself to have A LOT of fun on your season


How to get to the Japanese ski resorts:

There are many flights daily to Japan from the major cities in Australia so keep an eye out for good deals from Jetstar and Airasia, to both Tokyo on main island Honsu and Sapporo on the northern island Hokkaido.


Once you arrive in Japan, public transport will be the easiest way to get around and also get to your seasonal accommodation. Japanese public transport is almost always on time, so make sure you’re onto it or you might miss your train. If you have a job organised, find out if your employer can help you get from the airport to where you’ll be staying. If not, you can catch a bus, train or rent a car from the airport. The train from Sapporo to Kutchan (the big town near Niseko), is very cool!

Check out this Japan transport site for all the info you will need.


You can also have your baggage sent ahead of time to your accomodation if you want to do some sightseeing before the winter season starts. This is a great service and really inexpensive. Drop it off hen you arrive at the airport and then make your way to your accomodation without dragging your stuff on the train or through the cities. Check out Black Cat Japan.


Ski Mt. Yoeti with Niseko Photography & Guiding

Snowboarding on Mt Yotei in Niseko. Alexa guiding clients to the top & snapping photos with Niseko Photography & Guiding


Travel insurance for skiing in Japan

Travel insurance is essential for a ski season in Japan. There is always risk of injury when on the slopes. Although it’s very unlikely that you will get robbed in Japan, there are some sneaky foreigners that pickpocket ski jackets and some annoying drunk people that take the wrong jacket in the bars. It is also not uncommon for airlines to lose luggage, so do yourself a favour and buy some travel insurance! Make sure the travel insurance covers you for skiing and snowboarding.


One that I recommend is World Nomads as they can cover you for backcountry adventures. You can buy and/or extend it after you have left home . You don’t have to pay the money up front with them either for claims, so that is huge when you have medical bills!


The Fridge Door Niseko

The Fridge Door in Niseko is an absolute jewel of a bar


Cash vs card in Japan

Japan is still a cash country and ATMS aren’t that easy to find (they can be found in every post office!). Arrange Japanese YEN before you leave and definitely do not convert your money at the airport! Make sure you have debit or credit card in your wallet and a backup card just incase, that you keep in a different place. Keep a few thousand dollars in your bank account for backup and reserves to get you through a month without income.


A shrine on the shores of Lake Toya, Hokkaido Japan

Lake Toya on the north island of Japan, Hokkaido.


Getting a Japanese SIM card and WIFI

There are a few good sim card options in Japan, however it’s almost impossible to get your own Japanese number so the best thing to do, is get a data only sim. A 6 month data sim from B-Mobile will give you 5GB a month and I purchased it on Amazon! If you don’t want to get a sim, ask for the wifi password at local businesses.


Cat skiing in Niseko

Cat skiing is a great way to get around!
Photo by Alexa for Niseko Photography


Getting around the ski resort

Ski resorts are generally known having little villages that surround them and in Japan.  Some are more spread out than others, but offer busses and taxis linking up the main bits. Get a bus timetable in the local area guide and utilise your employers transportation if possible.


Cat skiing in Niseko

Alexa’s cat machines from 1984.


Driving in Japan

You will need to get an International driving license before you leave your home country if you want to drive in Japan. You will not be able to rent a car without one.


Skiing in Japan in snowy Hokkaido

The snowy sunsets over Hokkaido


Buying a car in Japan

You can do this if you have a residency card. You will need to prove you have somewhere to park it – someone will come round and measure the space to confirm! Do this through your employer as there is quite a lot of paper work. Car rental for the season is also an option and far less stress.


The whisky is also very good in Japan!


Where to do your grocery shopping

If you don’t want to spend your monthly paycheck each week in the convenience stores, go to the local supermarket and stock up. You will find amazing fresh produce, Japanese cooking essentials and some International foods. The Daiso 100YEN shop is great for basics & cooking utensil, nuts etc. Shopping is an experience in itself!


If you don’t have a car, get your backpack and some re-usable bags (must have) and get the local bus or a taxi to the shops. You can also order loads of food on Japanese Amazon including organic health foods. They also have Costco in Japan which is great for a large shop.


Read: 10 lessons to be learnt from Japanese culture


Japanese temples and powder skiing

There is nothing more magical then a winter in Japan


Language and culture in a Japanese ski resort

In ski resorts throughout Japan, it will be very uncommon to find a Japanese person who doesn’t speak a little bit of English. Step outside of the ski resort and it can be a different story all together! If you are interested in learning a few phrases while you’re working your snow season in Japan, get a phrase book or watch a few YouTube videos that cover the basics. The only advice I can give, is be friendly and polite and anyone will help you.


Packing List: 13 essential items to pack for a winter season in Japan


Packing essentials for working a snow season in Japan


Realities of getting a job/being overseas

Working at a ski resort can be a big commitment as you will be away from your friends and family for at least 4 months. But, you will always be able to make new friends for life. Everyone working in a ski resort has one thing in common, they love skiing, snowboarding and that perfect powder day! It isn’t for everybody and I sure know a lot of people who have cut their working holiday short because they missed home.


If you’re reading this and you’re at university but don’t think you can do a season in Japan, think again. You have at least a 3 month window to get some good riding, make a little bit of money and have an amazing time in Japan all before semester 1 starts.



So in summary: Do your research, get a visa to work, sort a job and accomodation, get travel insurance and have a great time!


If you want to go cat skiing in Niseko drop Alexa a message and she can give you all the info you need as well as be your guide on the day!


  • Love this! Having taught English in South Korea for 3 years, I’m a huge advocate for spending some time working overseas- it’s the best way to see the world. I can imagine that working as a ski instructor in Japan would be lots of fun and this is so helpful for anyone who wants to pursue this career choice. Thanks for sharing your insider info! :)

  • I would love to do this! Maybe after I finish grad school : ) Thank you for posting such an informative article about it. Also, your photos of the area are gorgeous!

  • Hi Alexa, great blog and very informative. I have been a regular in Niseko for 10 years or so and thought I knew the ropes. Last trip the wife and I were in Sapporo and an old lady clipped us at the traffic lights. Seemingly only a minor problem except the cops kept us for 6 hours in seperate rooms and the detective Inspector treated us like we were terrorists. The reason was not made obvious until late in the event but it turns out that you need to carry your passport everywhere in Japan or you commit an offence against the immigration act.We had to get someone to go to our house and take our passports to the police station in Kutchan for faxing to Sapporo. We had international licences and lots of ID with us but no passports.
    We ended up signing confessions about how naughty we were and promised never to do it again.
    In light of this it would be great to include this as a warning in your blog about the necessity to take your passport everywhere. The detective told us that in Tokyo they will put you in Jail for the same..
    Maybe not such an issue in Niseko/Kutchan area but Sapporo is a must for Passports.

    • Yeah right! That’s kind of crazy but really good to know, thank you! I’ll add this in the driving section. I always carry my resident card with me everywhere (you only get this when you are employed). Definitely a good idea to carry your passport. Thanks!

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