Over the past decade Niseko, a small ski resort in Japan, has experienced rapid growth in international tourism. Informed by a small-scale qualitative study, this article provides an account of Niseko residents’ perceptions of tourism and, more specifically, compares their responses to two key groups of inbound tourists, those from Australia and China. Where increases in the number of Australian tourists and tourism business owners have had significant influence on this previously homogeneous town, the reaction of residents to Australians is generally more positive than the response reserved for the more recent arrival of Chinese tourists. Although the former group is associated with increased living costs, leakage of profits and inappropriate behaviour, Australians were generally characterised by research participants as ‘friendly’ and ‘relaxed’ and relations were typically described as ‘harmonious’. Conversely, Chinese tourists were viewed by residents as being pushy and demanding, and these host–guest interactions were described as ‘difficult’. Drawing on Japanese notions of hospitality and residents’ discussions of cultural difference, this article explores the different reactions engendered by foreign presence, pointing as it does so to the ambivalence and contingency that underpins many host–guest relationships.