Nee Ta, a keen snowboarder, had been living out his dreams after landing a job as a ski instructor in Niseko, in 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 snow built up on the roof of an employee dormitory building.
Mr Ta is believed to have fallen and was buried underneath a large amount of snow.
“He was trapped under about two metres of snow for about 30 minutes while they tried to get him out and rescue him,” his sister-in-law Tori Ngo said.
Mr Ta was taken to hospital but did not regain consciousness.
Nine.com.au has reached out to Niseko Adventure Centre (NAC), the company who employed Mr Ta, for comment.
Mr Ta leaves behind his wife Ish, and his two children; six-year-old Jaime and three-year-old Ethan.
“Our family is utterly devastated. Nee was only 43-years-old, had a zest for life, and his life was just beginning in so many ways,” his brother said.
“He loved his wife and his two young children deeply, 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 dad.
“There is nothing he wouldn’t do for those two children,” he said.
The Ta family came to Australia by boat as Vietnamese refugees in 1978.
Nick Ta said his little brother was just 14 months old at the time and seriously unwell during the perilous journey at sea, with his parents fearing he wouldn’t survive.
“He was like a miracle baby for my mum,” he said.
Mr Ta caught the “snow bug” after graduating university and going to teach English in Japan.
“While he was there he learnt how to snowboard and that became a passion for him,” Nick Ta said.
When Mr Ta came back to Melbourne he got a job as a ski instructor on the slopes at Mount Hotham, which is also where he met his future wife.
Nick Ta said his family took some solace in the thought he was doing what he loved.
“That’s the one thing that we do take comfort from. He was living the life he wanted to live,” he said.
Nick Ta said his family was now trying to get his brother’s wife and children back to Australia but had been unable to find out through the Department of Home Affairs or the Australian consulate in Japan how they could travel here.
“We can provide the kids with the support they need here but it’s been really hard sorting out how to get them back,” he said.
“Both of Nee’s children are Australian citizens but because they are underage and his wife doesn’t hold a visa I’m finding it really difficult,” he said, adding that the pandemic was adding another layer of complication.
A spokesperson for The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said consular staff were providing assistance to the family of an Australian man who died in Japan but declined to comment further due to privacy reasons.
An online fundraiser set up by the family to help support Mr Ta’s wife and children and their efforts to bring them home to Australia has so far collected $100,000.
Nick Ta said his family had been deeply touched by the support they had received.
“We would really like to thank a lot of the people that have offered support through his GoFundMe page; his family and friends across the globe, his broader skiing and snowboarding community, particularly at Hotham where he worked for some time,” he said.
“It’s been really heartwarming to read their messages from all across the globe.”
Contact reporter Emily McPherson at email@example.com.