《Hokkaido: the migrants’ choice – from Niseko》
From the town of Niseko in the Shiribeshi sub-prefecture, where many migrants gather, we introduce stories surrounding the ‘choices’ of people who decided to relocate.
《Hokkaido: the migrants’ choice – from Niseko》⑪ Confidence in revival prompts decision not to return to Taiwan
Usually, Niseko would be overflowing with foreigners in winter. This year, due to the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, such foreigners were few and far between, but the number was not zero, as one has decided to settle here.
We asked Bonny Wu, a Taiwanese snowboarder who has lived here for the past 5 years, what prompted her to come to Niseko.
Originally from the city of Taipei in Taiwan, Bonny works as a manager for a ski tour company that caters for Chinese tourists. Since her childhood, she had visited different countries around the world and dreamed of living abroad someday.
The turning point occurred in 2014, when she encountered snowboarding in New Zealand and became addicted to the exhilaration of riding on fresh, pure white snow. She worked at a local Japanese restaurant at the time and began to teach herself Japanese in a bid to get along with the people around her. “I wanted a job that involved snowboarding and the Japanese language.” She came to Japan five seasons ago.
While searching the internet for a place to work in 2016, Bonny came upon an opening for reception staff at an accommodation facility in a town called Kutchan. Upon visiting, she was taken by surprise. It was in the Niseko region known in Taiwan as the ‘skiing paradise,’ with condominiums galore and signs written in English.
In her second winter in Niseko, Bonny was offered a managerial role by the company she currently works for. To her, Niseko’s natural environment was appealing. Not only the powder snow, but also the summers that she likes even more. On her days off, cycling to the michinoekis (roadside rest stops) was fun.
Over several years, the number of Chinese tourists has increased exponentially. Potential employees that can speak the three languages of Chinese, Japanese and English are never short of a place to work. In the ski season, approximately 20 instructors worked full time and earned a whole year’s pay in the winter alone. “Since arriving in Niseko, I have gained one more dream – to acquire permanent residency. It’s hard to find such an appealing environment elsewhere. Maybe I can get it five years or so.” Just when she thought she had realized her dream, Coronavirus struck unexpectedly.
The company’s turnover has been reduced by a frightful 99% of that for the same month in the previous year. Meanwhile, Taiwan has succeeded in containing Coronavirus infections. Bonny consulted with her family, considered returning home, and calculated her savings. “If it’s the same next winter, I could no longer remain in Niseko.” As far as Bonny is concerned right now, this is the reality.
On meeting Bonny again for the first time since last summer, it’s clear her Japanese has become very good. “I’ve been studying Japanese,” she laughs.
Why did she stay in Niseko? “I’d finally found the place where my dreams could come true. Niseko’s natural environment is superb. But it’s appealing because there are Japanese people who kindly accept foreigners like us. Therefore, I want to improve my Japanese and make lots of friends.”
There is a young foreigner in the town who has confidence in Niseko’s revival and who chose to remain there while studying hard. As the unusual ski season nears its end, let’s hope Niseko continues to be a place where young people who have discovered their dreams can gather.