How they qualified: Boss Alberto Zaccheroni has overseen a period of transition in the last couple of years, ditching the dead wood and bringing in new faces. Losses to Uzbekistan and Korea DPR were low points in qualifying, before a strong finish got them back on track.
World Cup pedigree: This will be Japan's fifth successive World Cup finals appearance. They have twice made it to the Round of 16, in 2002 on home soil, and last time out in South Africa, when they lost to Paraguay on penalties.
Main man: Manchester United man Shinji Kagawa is the leader of Japan's new school of talent. The creative midfielder is blessed with superb agility and touch, plus a keen eye for a killer pass. He'll need to impress fans in England after an unconvincing start to his Premier League career.
One to watch: Another Shinji, Okazaki, managed eight goals in 14 games during qualifying and will be looking to get on the end of Kagawa's assists. Japan have wanted for a true goalscorer for years and the Mainz frontman will look to buck that trend.
What are their chances? It's hard to see Japan making serious progress, though they have a good shot at escaping Group C. They're loaded with decent ball players, for sure, such as Kagawa and Keisuke Honda, but rather lightweight at the back, especially in the company of Europe and South America's heavyweights.