v Canada - 25 September, 1700 BST, Bordeaux
Recent form: Finished last in this year's Pacific Nations Cup, but earned their first win in the tournament, against Tonga. A 71-10 loss to Australia A showed their lack of depth though. Played warm-up Tests against Italy (lost 36-12) and Portugal.
Coach: One of the great All Black wings, and a World Cup winner in 1987, John Kirwan led Italy to two wins in the 2003 World Cup and hopes to similarly invigorate Japan after taking over as coach in January. Ended his playing career in Japan, and started coaching there with the NEC Green Rockets.
Captain: Number eight Takuro Miuchi previously spent a year playing at Oxford University, and was at open-side in the last World Cup. Relieved of the captaincy by previous coach Jean-Pierre Elissalde before Kirwan reinstated him this year.
World Cup pedigree: The Cherry Blossoms, as they are known, have appeared in every World Cup, but only won one game in 16 attempts. So not exactly blooming.
World Cup high: Their 52-8 win over Zimbabwe in Belfast in 1991 remains their only victory, but performances in Australia four years ago offered hope. They only trailed Scotland 15-11 until the last 15 minutes, and lost 39-26 to the USA.
World Cup low: Being trounced 145-17 by the All Blacks in Bloemfontein in 1995, a record number of points conceded by any team in a World Cup match. The media and public viewed it as an utter humiliation, and lost interest until 2003.
World Cup legend: Moustachioed fly-half Seiji Hirao almost inspired a shock win over Australia in 1987, but flying wing Daisuke Ohata is the man of late. Dazzled defences last time out but injury has cruelly denied him a third World Cup.
Present star: Daisuke Ohata overtook David Campese (64 tries) last year as world rugby's record Test try-scorer. He has 69 from 58 Tests, even if only a quarter have come against major nations. But having recovered from a ruptured Achilles, he injured his other one in Japan's final warm-up.
Maverick: Kosuke Endo. In the recent absence of Ohata, Endo endeared himself to fans by scorching away from Jonah Lomu against the Classic All Blacks and then nonchantly handed off Carlos Spencer en route to a dazzling 60m try.
Enforcer: Phil O'Reilly? Shouldn't he be playing for Ireland?! In fact the tough-tackling open-side was born in New Zealand. Earned a reputation as one of the best players in Japan's Top League in recent years with the Sanyo Wild Knights.
Strengths: According to Kirwan, "our strengths are our agility, strength and intelligence".
Weaknesses: Despite the presence of one of their four Kiwis, lock Luke Thompson, the line-out is far from secure. Heads can drop too if things go against them. "We need to learn to play for 80 minutes," Kirwan acknowledges.
Did you know? Ohata came to prominence when he won a TV show called Kin-niku Banzuke - Japan's Superstars.
World Cup base: Seilh (from 2 September)
They say: "Japan carries the dreams and hopes of a nation for whom rugby is about to explode. We need a great World Cup and we need the players to be great. If we can do that then we can rejoice in the success it will bring everyone."
Coach John Kirwan
You say: "Japan are in fine form and could challenge Fiji."
claytorj on 606
World ranking: 18
Our verdict: The Japanese RFU has set Kirwan a target of two wins in France, but with an unhelpful schedule that sees them play all four pool games in the space of 18 days, a single victory against either Fiji or Canada would be a triumph.
Ranking and odds correct at 26 August. Odds supplied by William Hill.