After a slow start, the Lionesses had early chances through Lauren Hemp and Bethany England but to no avail and Japan looked the better side.
However, Phil Neville’s side grew into the game and began to look more confident going forward but still lacked that ruthless edge, until White struck with less than ten minutes remaining.
Following their loss to the USA in the opener, Neville made six changes to the side with Ellie Roebuck, Rachel Daly, Demi Stokes, Jordan Nobbs, Chloe Kelly and England all starting.
Neville's got off to a shaky start with Japan having a shot on goal after just 15 seconds, following a poor clearance by Steph Houghton, but it went comfortably over the crossbar.
However, the Lionesses soon had a chance of their own when Hemp stole the ball of Risa Shimizu and was clean through with a one-on-one with Sakiko Ikeda but the keeper’s touch pushed the shot into the side netting.
With ten minutes gone, Japan nearly had an opener when Hina Sugita’s dipping strike looked goal-bound and left Roebuck scrambling, only for it to hit the base of the post.
However, minutes later England had a superb opportunity as Japan made another error at the back and the Chelsea striker went through on goal, but her shot was saved.
Confidence began to grow for Neville’s side with Nobbs whipping in a cross, which was cleared by Shimizu.
Just before the half-hour mark, England had another chance when the Arsenal midfielder broke for a counter-attack but Georgia Stanway’s shot was blocked.
England looked to be through on goal again after being played in by Nobbs, but the Chelsea forward took it early and Ikeda was on hand to save again.
Japan’s Mina Tanaka then came close to an opening goal, but she failed to get on the end of a floating ball.
After failing to make the breakthrough in the first 15 minutes of the second half, Neville rang the changes with Leah Williamson, Toni Duggan and Nikita Parris entering the fray.
It was an instant impact for the trio, who provided experience to the side, and made England look better in the final third.
With twenty minutes remaining, White was brought onto the pitch for England while Stanway was replaced by Lucy Staniforth.
The Lionesses found the breakthrough when Japan played out from the back and Williamson put pressure on the defenders, with Duggan winning the ball back.
The winger then crossed for White, who was waiting in the box, and the striker slotted home with a half-volley to spark her trademark celebration.
England then went close with a second when Duggan struck from long-range, but the ball was gathered by Ikeda.