Semester on the slopes

LSU senior takes time off from school to work as ski instructor in Japan

LSU international trade and finance senior Kenta Kamo spends his days skiing — in Japan.

Kamo is a ski instructor at a ski resort in Tsugaike Kogen, nestled in the Nagano prefecture of the Japanese Alps. He primarily teaches children from 5-years-old through high school.

This is his second stint working at the ski resort. He taught from January to April 2012 before studying abroad at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Japan, for the spring semester.

Kamo receives free room and board at the Hotel Belle Cour Inomata in exchange for his instruction and helping with guest meals in the morning and evening.

Kamo said that although days can be hectic and busy — sometimes working nonstop from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. — not much about his job is difficult, except, perhaps, not having a car. But with rent and food provided by the hotel, Kamo said he doesn’t spend money. And he has become part of a family there.

Although he is from Baton Rouge, skiing isn’t new to Kamo. He has spent much of his life skiing with family and friends. Kamo started skiing every winter in Colorado with friends and on LSU ski trips, said Kamo’s father, Yoshinori, a sociology professor at LSU.

But Kamo said he was “easily” the worst skier at the ski school when he started. “I was still decent compared to normal everyday skiers. I’ve become a lot better. Now I’m just average.”

Or maybe not.

Kamo recently participated in the All-Japan Collegiate Ski Technique National Championship, one of the largest collegiate competitions in the world with more than 1,000 male and female participants. It was held 10 minutes away from Tsugaike at the Hakuba Iwatake Snow Field.

Kamo said the competition is judged on ski technique and skill. It is not a timed race.

“My goal initially was to make it past the preliminary rounds — top 300 of 600,” he said.

Instead, he made it to the finals and placed 170 out of 820 participants.

Kamo said if he delays his scheduled December graduation and skis next year, he plans to form his own ski club and enter under the LSU name.

“I’ve already recruited several local college students at the ski school that are willing to join and enter under the name,” he said. “This began as a joke but (I) later confirmed that it’s a legitimate possibility as long as we all are current students at a university.”

Kamo’s decision to be a ski instructor in Japan was not a coincidence — his extended family lives in Japan. He attended public schools there every summer from first- to eighth-grade to remain bilingual, his father said.

But Kamo said he is seen more as an American. “It’s definitely easier because I speak Japanese, but … I make more friends because people know I’m American, and many see me as American, even though I look and speak Japanese,” he said.

Although none of his acquaintances have been able to visit him, Kamo will travel Europe with his friends from the LSU Lab School, his alma mater, this summer.