Japan beat Yemen in Asian Cup qualifier
Striker Tasuya Tanaka fired a 66th-minute winner for the three-times Asian champions after Zaher Farid had cancelled out Shinji Okazaki's early goal in Kumamoto.
"We had a young team out there and their inexperience showed," Japan coach Takeshi Okada told reporters after an unconvincing start to 2009.
"We got the result we wanted but we should have been more clinical and scored more."
Japan failed to gain automatic qualification for the 2011 Asian Cup after losing to South Korea in the third-place playoff at the 2007 tournament won by Iraq.
Okada's side travel to Bahrain for their next game on January 28. Hong Kong are the other side in Group A. The top two teams from the five groups advance.