Manager Phil Neville made eight changes from the side which had beaten Argentina 1-0 as the Lionesses sought to maintain their fine start to the tournament.
A technically proficient Japan proved testing opponents but this was a display that also showcased England’s quality, confident passing game and bravery as they withstood a second half Japanese onslaught.
Just as against Scotland in the group opener, White’s predatory instincts were to the fore as she produced a wonderful finish to fire England into a 14th minute lead after a stunning pass by Stanway.
And after surviving several close calls from Japan in the second half, White sealed the deal with by firing home a second goal six minutes from time.
The result means England will face a last 16 clash against either New Zealand, Cameroon or Chile.
Ironically, it was Japan – England’s conquerors at the 2015 World Cup semi-finals – who made the brighter start, Kumiyaka blazing a shot over after England had gifted away possession.
And it needed a superb eighth minute save from Karen Bardsley to keep the scores level, the City and England keeper somehow keeping out Yokoyama’s pin-point free-kick which was arrowing into the top right-hand corner.
England though slowly settled into their rhythm and on 15 minutes struck through the deadly combination of City’s White and Stanway.
Stanway was the architect fending off the challenge of Japan’s Hina Sugita before threading a superb through ball with the outside of her right foot into White’s path.
There was still work to do for the striker, but she showed both composure and lethal finishing skills as she dinked a delightful shot past Japan keeper Yamashita and over the line.
With their confidence up, England almost doubled their advantage through first Jill Scott and then Stanway with Yamashita producing a stunning stop to deny the City youngster.
Yamishita was then called into action on 34 minutes to deny a Rachel Daly snap-shot after a stunning through ball from City’s Keira Walsh.
England made a sluggish start after the break but Yamishita then produced another amazing save on 56 minutes to deny Toni Duggan’s close-range effort after a sumptuous cross from Lucy Bronze.
But Japan then took control and it needed a magnificent saving tackle from Houghton to preserve England’s lead on 66 minutes as she timed her challenge to perfection to block Yuika Sugasawa as she prepared to fire home after a defensive error by Millie Bright.
And England were then grateful for a poor touch from Sugasawa after a precision pass from the impressive Sugita before Sugasawa was then inches wide with a close-range flick from Sugita’s cross.
However, White then demonstrated her lethal predatory instincts once more by sealing the win with another wonderful finish on 84 minutes
Latching to a Karen Carney through ball, White again demonstrated her striking prowess by steering the ball home inside the near post to set the seal on a perfect group stage for the Lionesses.
Meanwhile there was heartbreak for Scotland as they let a 3-0 lead slip against Argentina in the other group game to draw 3-3 and so go out of the World Cup.
The Argentines claimed a draw with a last-gasp penalty that was retaken after keeper Lee Alexander had been adjudged to come off her line early in saving the initial spot kick.
The Scots, including City's Caroline Weir, needed to win and Kim Little turned in their opener before Jen Beattie and Erin Cuthbert netted from corners after the break.
Milagros Menendez then Florencia Bonsegundo replied for Argentina.
And a VAR-awarded spot-kick taken by Bonsegundo was saved by Alexander but she was off her line and the Argentina forward converted second time round.