Winnipeg skip Jennifer Jones and teammates Kaitlyn Lawes, Dawn McEwen and Jill Officer finished with a 9-2 record, good for second place behind Switzerland's Alina Patz (10-1). Jones and Patz will get a day off Friday before meeting in Saturday's playoff at the Tsukisamu Gymnasium with a berth in the gold-medal game on the line.
""The way the draw was set up and because we have to stay at the rink all day, it makes for really long days, so it's nice to have a break," said Jones. "We'll just hang out in Japan — we love it here. And I love where the team is at right now. I can't think of a better group of girls to play with.
"They're making big shots and making my job easier."
The loser of the 1-2 game will drop into the semifinal. Russia's Anna Sidorova claimed the third seed and will play the winner of Friday's tiebreaker between China's Sijia Liu and Scotland's Eve Muirhead in the Page playoff 3-4 game.
The 3-4 game winner will advance to the semifinal while the loser will play for bronze. The medal games will be played Sunday.
Canada silenced the home crowd early Thursday after back-to-back deuces in the second and third ends. Canada stole two more points in the seventh end when Japanese skip Ayumi Ogasawara — whose team is coached by Fuji Miki of Vancouver and J.D. Lind of Calgary — was wide and a little heavy with her last rock.
"That was a great way to finish," said Jones, the reigning Olympic champion. "I felt like we made some big shots when we had to and we felt great with the draw weight."
Earlier in the day, Canada beat Germany 7-5 in an extra end.
Canada hasn't won gold at this event since Jones won in 2008 at Vernon, B.C. The five-time national champion made her world championship debut in 2005 and won a silver medal in 2010.
Russia (8-3) locked up third place with an 11-6 win over China, which fell into a fourth-place tie with idle Scotland at 7-4.
"Hopefully we can go the all way," Sidorova said. "We just want to be a great team and great teams win lots of games. Last year we (won) bronze medals and this year we want to do at least the same."
Japan was alone in sixth place at 6-5. Sweden's Margaretha Sigfridsson, a four-time world silver medallist, struggled to a 5-6 mark.
Denmark and Germany were next at 4-7, followed by the United States (3-8), Finland (2-9) and Norway (1-10).
Canada leads all countries with 15 gold medals and 31 podium appearances at the world championship since 1979. Sweden is next with eight gold and 23 total medals.
Notes: The World Curling Federation announced Thursday that former Canadian champions Russ Howard and Ray Turnbull will be inducted into the World Curling Hall of Fame next month. Japan's Hiroyuki Saito, a former World Curling Federation executive board member, rounds out the Class of 2015.