Kagawa then converted from the spot.
Japan did what no other Asian team had ever done at a World Cup - beat a South American squad on the biggest stage in soccer.
Akira Nishino's men came into the tournament as one of the lowest ranked teams but they defied their position by making good use of their man advantage and fully deserved to have their lead restored when FC Koln forward Yuya Osako headed the victor in the 73rd minute.
"He played well in Germany this season", Honda said of the Werder Bremen forward.
Pekerman brought on 2014 World Cup Golden Boot victor James Rodriguez in the second half but the Bayern Munich star, not fully recovered from a calf injury, was not allowed much of the ball by a disciplined, energetic Japan side.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said Tuesday his team will continue to fight for a place in the World Cup knockout stage after a "painful" defeat to Japan in their opening Group H match here.
Sanchez did not speak to reporters after the match.
"The positive side of this is you can see the team managed to rise to the occasion and managed a draw even though we lost one of our most important players", Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said. For Colombia, it turns the next two matches against better competition in Poland and Senegal into must-win games.
It took just three minutes into Tuesday's game against underdogs Japan in Saransk for their plans to unravel.More news: Why Didn't Kate Middleton, Prince William Attend His Cousin's Wedding?
"If we had actually won the World Cup, we would have had a parade on the main street of Saransk", Japan coach Akira Nishino said. "We still have the same dream that we arrived here with", Sanchez said. We're a team that's characterized itself for that.
Not only was Osako instrumental in both goals, he sprawled to block a close-range shot by Colombia midfielder James Rodriguez in the waning minutes.
- None of Colombia's 19 games at the World Cup have ended goalless.
"After that huge effort and scoring the goal, we were exhausted and worn down, and it was very hard for us to recover possession and Japan had its opportunities". The result also brought a smile to Japanese princess Takamdo, who attended the match.
"I tried to man the midfield with players who can take the initiative", said Nishino after the win over Colombia, who had thumped the Japanese 4-1 four years ago in Brazil. Okazaki did get in the game, but not until the 85th minute.
Colombia started without Rodriguez, the leading scorer at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Bayern Munich star Rodriguez earned a late yellow card for sliding into Japan midfielder Genki Haraguchi.
He came on to join captain Radamel Falcao in the 59th minute, but his best chances were thwarted by Japan's desperate defending near the goal. "Sanchez is a good player, but this handball today shows he has no World Cup mindset".
When the game was due to start, Falcao walked across to Japan's side of the field and spoke to referee Damir Skomina in a discussion that lasted beyond the official countdown to kickoff.