FIFA WWC: Netherlands make quarter-finals for the first time
Martens put the Dutch in front after 17 minutes, only for Yui Hasegawa to level on the stroke of halftime, but the forward sent the European champions through with a spot kick in the last minute.
Japan, who hit the woodwork twice, dominated the second half but lacked the finishing touch.
The Netherlands, taking part in only their second women’s World Cup, will play Italy in Valenciennes on Saturday after the Azzurre beat China 2-0 earlier on Tuesday.
The Oranje dominated early on with Vivianne Miedema’s shot hitting the post and they were rewarded in the 17th minute when Martens back-heeled a corner into the net to open the scoring.
Japan, however, had their chances with Yuika Sugasawa racing through only to see her curled shot crash against the post.
They deservedly equalized two minutes before the interval as Hasegawa scored with a cool finish after being superbly played through by Mana Iwabuchi.
The pace dropped after the break, with the Netherlands controlling the match without putting Japan under the pressure.
Japan only mustered half chances until the 79th minute, when Hina Sugita’s rising shot hit the crossbar just before Sari van Veenendaal was forced to save at full stretch to deny Yuka Momiki.
The game eventually went the Netherlands’s way when Saki Kumagai handled the ball in the area and Martens converted the resulting penalty.
The Netherlands’ victory ensured that seven of the eight quarter finalists were Europeans.