Nee Ta, a snowboarder, had been living his dreams after landing a job as a ski instructor in Niseko, on the northern island of Hokkaido, two years ago, his brother Nick told nine.com.au.
However, tragedy struck last Wednesday when the 43-year-old was helping clear a pile of accumulated snow on the roof of an employee dormitory building.
It is believed that Mr Ta fell and was buried under a large amount of snow.
“He was trapped under about six feet of snow for about 30 minutes while they tried to pull him out and rescue him,” said his sister-in-law Tori Ta.
Mr. Ta was taken to the hospital but did not regain consciousness.
Nine.com.au has contacted Niseko Adventure Center (NEC), the company that employed Ta, for comment.
Mr. Ta leaves behind his wife Ish and their two children; Jaime, six, and Ethan, three.
“Our family is completely devastated. Nee was only 43 years old, she had a zest for life and her life was just beginning in many ways,” said her brother.
“He deeply loved his wife and two young children, and he had so much more life to live.”
Nick Ta said his brother was “incredibly generous”, quick to help anyone in need and a devoted father.
“There is nothing he would not do for those two children,” he said.
The Ta family arrived in Australia by boat as Vietnamese refugees in 1978.
Nick Ta said his little brother was only 14 months old at the time and was seriously ill during the dangerous voyage at sea, and his parents feared he would not survive.
“It was like a miracle baby for my mother,” she said.
Mr. Ta contracted the “snow worm” after graduating from university and going to teach English in Japan.
“While he was there, he learned to snowboard and that became a passion for him,” said Nick Ta.
When Mr. Ta returned to Melbourne, he got a job as a ski instructor on the slopes of Mount Hotham, which is also where he met his future wife.
Nick Ta said his family took some comfort in thinking he was doing what he loved.
“That’s the only thing that comforts us. He was living the life he wanted to live,” she said.
Nick Ta said his family was now trying to bring his brother’s wife and children back to Australia, but had not been able to find out from the Department of Home Affairs or the Australian consulate in Japan how they could travel here.
“We can give children the support they need here, but it has been very difficult to decide how to get them back,” he said.
“Nee’s two children are Australian citizens, but since they are minors and his wife does not have a visa, I find it really difficult,” he said, adding that the pandemic was adding another layer of complication.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said consular staff were providing assistance to the family of an Australian who died in Japan, but declined to comment further for privacy reasons.
An online fundraiser created by the family to help support Mr. Ta’s wife and children and his efforts to bring them home to Australia has so far raised $ 100,000.
Nick Ta said his family had been deeply moved by the support they had received.
“We would really like to thank the many people who have offered their support through his GoFundMe page; his family and friends around the world, his wider ski and snowboard community, particularly in Hotham where he worked for some time,” He said.
“It has been really comforting to read your messages from around the world.”
Contact reporter Emily McPherson at [email protected]