Japan's self-professed "omotenashi" (spirit of selfless hospitality) is often misinterpreted to force predetermined services on foreign visitors, says one longtime observer.

Cultural services expert David Atkinson, 49, says the nation's confidence in what it offers the world is misplaced: Many foreigners who visit leave unfulfilled.

Atkinson runs Konishi Decorative Arts and Crafts Co., a Tokyo-based team of heritage restoration professionals who help to conserve the nation's cultural properties. The company itself has around 300 years of history.