Eddie Jones’ Japan rugby squad went down 40-21 at the hands of the French Barbarians despite a second-half surge from the Asian champions on Wednesday.
Coming off three defeats to Fiji, Tonga and Samoa at the Pacific Nations Cup on home soil, Rugby World Cup winner Jones fielded an experimental side which did not respond much to the Barbarians in the first half.
The visitors sat pretty on a 32-7 lead at the break, reaching the scoreboard in just the second minute as Benjamin Lapeyre crossed for his first time of the evening.
The Barbarians piled up the points with three more tries by Lapeyre, Thierry Lacrampe and Marvin O’Connor while Camille Lopez was successful on three of the four conversions.
Lopez and Lapeyre also each added a penalty.
Japan did not have an answer until the 33rd minute when Kosei Ono pulled back a try with Yu Tamura converting before the teams headed into the tunnel.
The Brave Blossoms off to a fast start in the second half, Tamura touching down in the 42nd minute before scoring the conversion himself.
Kobe Steel veteran Shoji Ito further closed the gap eight minutes past the hour with a five-pointer, and Ayumu Goromaru came off the bench to make it a 32-21 contest.
But Japan turned over the ball a few times too often as the Barbarians, who padded out their lead with a late Pierre Bernard penalty and a try by Julien Arias, held on for victory.
The two sides meet again on Sunday also at Prince Chichibu Stadium.