Japan set to ease visa rules for foreign ski instructors amid tourism surge


Staff Writer

The government may ease visa requirements for foreign ski instructors by March next year to cope with a recent surge in foreign tourists visiting resorts in Japan, officials said Thursday.

The move comes amid rising calls from some of the nation’s prominent ski resorts asking for a greater number of foreign instructors, said a Japan Tourism Agency official who asked not to be named.

Foreign tourists numbers have jumped in recent years mainly due to a weakening yen and visa-relaxation programs for Southeast Asian countries. The recent rise in foreign visitors to ski resorts, including those in Hokkaido and Nagano Prefecture, has highlighted the need for non-Japanese instructors who can better communicate with the tourists, the official said.

Under the current immigration law, prospective ski instructors from abroad are required to have at least three years of relevant experience to qualify as candidates.

But the three-year prerequisite is often considered too onerous, immigration official Junji Ito said.

The sport, he said, has such a long off-season period that it typically takes would-be instructors more than three years to meet the requirement.

Although the ministry is not likely to relax the three-year requirement, it will consider giving candidates other alternatives to prove their competence and coaching skills, such as international certification, Ito said.

The visa-relaxation plan is expected to be added to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s growth strategy, which is slated to be approved by the Cabinet at the end of this month.

The number of foreign visitors in Japan hit a record 13.41 million in the 2014 calender year, up 29.4 percent from the previous year, according to data compiled by the Japan National Tourism Organization.