Accommodation | Living in a Staff Dormitory
Read Jessica’s account of Dorm Life, living and working in Japan’s famous Ski Resort region, Hakuba!
Resort staff live in staff dormitories, with rooms for 2-4 Japanese or foreign staff. It’s rare to have a dorm room to yourself. Resorts sometimes place foreign and Japanese staff together in rooms, as it’s a great way to make friends and learn the language. However, due to some unfortunate incidents with foreign staff in the past (messy, noisy, etc.), foreign staff are usually placed together.
All dormitories are single-sex, and some have a curfew. Male and female dormitories are strictly separated. Entering dorm rooms of the opposite sex can get you fired. However, most dorms have common rooms where everyone can socialize. Where no common rooms are available, staff hang out in the dining room, nearby bars, restaurants etc.
Dorm accommodation is simple but adequate. All facilities are communal. Dorms usually include bunk beds, futons, sheets, blankets, pillows, washing machines, microwaves, toasters, and hot pots (to boil water). Ski Resort dorms also have room heaters. Beach Resort dorms have air-conditioning.
Communal Bathing: In Japan, single-sex communal baths are part of the culture. Bathing facilities in all Resorts are communal. There will be a single room, with a line of showers situated next to each other (where you first wash your body), and a single bath which fits about 4-6 people (which everyone gets into after their body is clean).
You will be required to bathe naked with the other staff. Please understand this has been part of the Japanese culture for thousands of years. If this will be a problem, please consider whether Resort work is for you.
Breakfast and dinner are served at set times in the dorm or resort cafeteria, while lunch is usually brought to you in a lunchbox at your work post.
Meals are simple, Japanese-style dishes; nothing fancy, but nutritious and satisfying. There may be quite a few deep-fried dishes, and not as many fruits and vegetables as you’re used to. If you grow tired of the dormitory food every day, you can eat out with your friends, or buy food from the local supermarket/convenience store instead.
SPECIAL DIETS: Resorts cannot cater to specific dietary needs (vegetarian, gluten-free, diabetic etc), as they have to prepare meals for hundreds of staff at once. In addition, staff aren’t permitted to use kitchen facilities to prepare their own food, so if you have dietary constraints, you’ll need to buy your own food every day.
VEGETARIANS: Please be aware that it is extremely difficult to live and work in Japan as a vegetarian. Read our Blog post from a past Vegetarian staff for details.
How much Free Time will I have?
Living and Working in Japan’s Resorts, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful scenery, and loads of fun activities! Carving fresh tracks in champagne powder, or lazing on tropical beaches in the sun will become routine activities.
On your days off, and before/after work, you’re free to do as you please (within resort guidelines). In some Ski resorts, you’ll also have the opportunity to do night-skiing/boarding after work.
During the busy holiday periods (Ski: Xmas/New Year’s Break + mid-February, Beach: Jul-Aug Summer Vacation), resorts will need all hands on deck. While ‘overtime’ is rare, you may be asked to take shorter breaks, start early or work late, or take one or two less days off (which you’ll get as extra in following months).
During these periods, please accept you may not have much free time (in some cases, staff can work up to 50-60hrs a week)! After the busy periods though, things quieten down a lot, and you’ll have about 7-8 days-off a month.
Try to look at the busy periods on the positive side; it’s a fantastic opportunity to: a) Learn Japanese, b) Make new friends at work, and c) After the busy periods end, you’ll have a sizeable paycheck, to go out and live it up a little!
Living and Working in Rural Japan
Please bear in mind that living and working in Japan’s Resorts means you’ll be in a rural area. On your days-off, you may have to travel on a train/bus for supermarkets, etc. Your Resort may be located quite far from the nearest village, so there won’t be many bars, restaurants & shops like you’re used to back home.
In the quiet season, most of the bars will be empty, so you may find there’s not much more to do than swim/ski/board, or hang out with your friends after work. It’s common for staff to feel lonely in the 1st month, until they settle in and make local friends! This is all part of the fun, and heightens the sense of immersion into Japanese society. It’s important to come with an open mind, and embrace being away from the “big smoke”. In Resort areas, the natural beauty, the friends you make, and the outdoor activities become the biggest source of enjoyment!
Try to immerse yourself in the Japanese culture as much as possible. Making new (Japanese!) friends at your resort will make your transition much more comfortable. It’s natural for foreign resort staff to become close, because most are English speakers, and can communicate freely. However, it’s very important to challenge yourself and make local Japanese friends too! You’ll learn much more about the culture, have more fun, and your Japanese will skyrocket!
How much Japanese will I learn?
A common misconception is that you’ll do all your language learning at work.
While you’ll learn (and then repeatedly use) many new phrases and vocabulary at work, it’s outside of work with your co-workers when you can really put your Japanese to the test! After all, you can’t talk about daily gossip in front of resort guests!
Advice from one of our Past Staff:
When it comes down to it, the biggest catalyst is how much you are willing to put into it. If you approach the trip and the language with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn, and push yourself outside your comfort zone, you will be amazed at the conversational progress you can make in a mere month, let alone three or four!
December ~ end-March
(some positions til end-Feb)
(most positions April ~ October)