The government plans to ease visa requirements for foreign ski instructors to help attract leisure skiers from abroad amid the sport’s declining popularity in Japan, a government source said Saturday.
Assuming the introduction of instructors with foreign language skills would help revitalize the domestic ski industry, the Justice Ministry eyes amending the relevant ordinance as early as this summer, according to the source.
The ministry also aims to bring an end to the trend of foreigners illegally working as ski instructors after entering Japan as tourists, the source said.
The ordinance attached to the current immigration law stipulates a required minimum of three years experience in instruction or competing in major international events like the Olympics or world championships as a baseline to acquire resident status as a sports instructor.
The ministry also plans to allow instructors holding the highest-level qualification issued by the Switzerland-based International Ski Instructors Association as eligible for resident status, the source said.
The ISIA was formed in 1971 and there are currently 39 member nations representing the very best in ski instruction around the world. ISIA said about 10,700 people have the organization’s top accreditation worldwide.A panel of experts for the Japan Tourism Agency on the promotion of winter resorts said in an interim report last June that it would be vital to secure instructors who can speak foreign languages, while pointing to the visa requirements as an issue.
The agency sent questionnaires to 129 ski schools across Japan and found 25 of the 57 school respondents said they hope to hire foreign instructors. The number of foreign ski instructors they wish to hire totaled some 80.
Niseko ski resort in Hokkaido is the most famous Japan resort. Niseko is situated at the base of a dormant volcano -- Mount Yotei. Because of its northern location, Niseko is fed more by weather fronts that come from Siberia and is internationally renowned for its consistently good falls of the lightest powder snow and its long ski season which runs from late November until early May.