Vern Cotter's side came into the match fresh having not featured in the tournament so far, and they set about making a quick start to test the fatigue of Japan - just four days removed from their seismic shock against South Africa.
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The game was just two minutes old when Scotland skipper Laidlaw provided the first points of the contest, knocking over a penalty on his home club ground.
Laidlaw added another to double the advantage, but the first try of the day would go to Japan. Ayumu Goromaru's kick just about found the corner to hand the Brave Blossoms side a lineout, and Amanaki Mafi touched down from the resulting driving maul.
The boot of the Scottish captain kept the scoreboard ticking over, however, and two more penalties from Laidlaw saw Cotter's men quickly regain their advantage.
It was the attacking attitude of Eddie Jones's side that endeared them to the rugby world in the dying stages against the Springboks, and that was on show again as they turned down a simple three points to go for the corner, despite having a man in the sin bin.
The tactic did not prove successful, however, and given the same choice moments later captain Michael Leitch this time opted to go for the posts. Goromaru lined up the kick, but sent it wide to leave the gap at five points.
That was how it stayed until the interval as the Scots withstood some heavy pressure from Japan towards the latter stages of the half, before themselves being denied in the opposition 22 by a fine try-saving tackle as the clock ticked red.