Eddie Jones challenged a much-changed team to “smash” his former side, but England were in danger of being humiliated when they trailed 15-10 at half-time on Saturday.
An enterprising Japan team were great value for their lead, Ryoto Nakamura and Michael Leitch scoring first-half tries, with England disjointed after Jones made 11 alterations to his starting line-up following the defeat to New Zealand.
Danny Care’s early try had put England in front but they lacked cohesion in a poor first-half display before raising their game following the introduction of Owen Farrell at the interval.
George Ford, captain for his 50th cap, scored 12 points with the boot and Elliot Daly was on target with a long-range penalty in a first half which Japan dominated, but they were ultimately emphatically beaten.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 17, 2018
England took just three minutes to take the lead with a blistering counter-attack, Daly, Cokanasiga and Jamie George combining down the left flank and Care darting away for an opening try after Yu Tamura failed to find touch.
Japan applied sustained pressure in a brilliant response, Tamura getting them on the board from the tee after they had opted against shots at goal in favour of set-pieces when scenting a try.
The Brave Blossoms were rampant and capitalised on their numerical advantage with George in the sin-bin for going off his feet after a careless pass from Care was intercepted.
Nakamura took a fine pass from Fumiaki Tanaka to burst through and go under the posts as England were caught out from a scrum and although Daly levelled with a long-range penalty, Japan were back in front with a second try just after the half-hour mark.
It was again a combination of inventive attacking and poor defending which gave the underdogs a half-time advantage, Leitch ploughing his way through Care and stepping past Daly all too easily before touching down after Chris Ashton was withdrawn due to injury.
Jones introduced Farrell at the break and Ford reduced the deficit to two points with his second penalty.
Japan were finally undone for a second time, Ford throwing a dummy and feeding the onrushing Wilson, who finished off a slick move just before the hour-mark after Care got rare quick ball.
Ford added the extras and was on target with another penalty before Richard Wigglesworth picked out Cokanasiga with an inviting pass, and the powerful young wing shrugged off a couple of tackles to score on his international bow.
Hartley dotted down when Japan failed to halt a driving maul to add gloss with Japan fading after causing England so many problems with a vibrant first-half display.
Tell us what you think about the Rugby World Cup and you could win £100