Captain Greig Laidlaw sparked a late turnaround as Scotland toiled to beat Japan 21-16 on Saturday, ending their two-test tour of the Far East with a second win.
Watched by Japan\’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, and a record rugby crowd of 31,000 in Tokyo, Laidlaw kicked four second-half penalties to give the tourists a victory they barely deserved.
Beaten 26-13 last weekend, Japan led 13-9 at halftime, punctuated by a breathtaking try from scrum-half Kaito Shigeno, who began and finished a superb, coast-to-coast move after 21 minutes.
The Scots, who inflicted Japan\’s only loss of their astonishing World Cup under Eddie Jones last year, struggled to get a foothold against some tenacious tackling from the Brave Blossoms.
Yu Tamura kept the scoreboard ticking over for Japan with three penalties, the third giving Japan a 16-9 advantage early in the second half.
But Scotland coach Vern Cotter, who had rested Laidlaw to give Henry Pyrgos his fifth international start at scrum-half, turned to his trusty skipper to rescue the situation after 50 minutes.
Laidlaw\’s right boot quickly brought Scotland to within a point and they took the lead on 71 minutes with another huge kick from the Gloucester star, who popped over his fourth penalty two minutes from time.
"We showed a bit of character at the end to come back and win," Pyrgos told reporters.
"We know Japan are a good team, who always spring something you don\’t expect but we\’re just happy to get the win."
Japan interim coach Mark Hammett made just two changes from last week\’s side but was missing key players with injury, with skipper Michael Leitch and Ayumu Goromaru watching on in suit and tie.
"Just like last week, we couldn\’t come up with the win," said Tamura.
"I would like to apologise deeply to this big crowd. We still need to gain more experience to be able to win tough games like this."
Japan famously stunned South Africa in their opening game at the 2015 World Cup but Scotland took the wind out of their sails with a crushing 45-10 victory in their next match.
The Asian champions, who subsequently beat Samoa and the United States but narrowly missed out on a place in the knockout phase, host the next World Cup in 2019.