Japan's preparations for their final World Cup qualifier away to Saudi Arabia hit an unexpected snag on Sunday, when the team bus failed to turn up at their hotel to take the squad to practice.

According to Japan Football Association press officials, the bus got caught in a traffic jam as the busy "hajj" annual five-day Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca came to an end, forcing coach Vahid Halilhodzic and his players and staff to take taxis to training at Al-Ahli Saudi FC's home stadium.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation is partly responsible for handling Japan's travel arrangements while the team is in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah for Tuesday's qualifier.

Japan have already reached next year's World Cup finals in Russia, while the Saudis' hopes of direct qualification rest on the outcome of their final Group B match.

Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima wondered aloud whether the team had been victims of sabotage but was able to see the funny side when he spoke to reporters after the training session, which started around 20 minutes behind schedule.

"It was an enjoyable trip and there's nothing wrong with experiencing (something like that) for the first time," joked Kawashima.

"Whether or not it was intentional I don't know, but there is no point in getting stressed out about it. We just have to keep our focus on the task at hand."

Defender Tomoaki Makino also laughed off the late arrival and said the players were able to make use of the extra time hanging around at the hotel by talking more about Tuesday's game.

"I don't think I've ever shared a taxi with teammates (to the training ground), not even in my youth team days," he smiled. "But there are a lot of experienced players in our team and you have to enjoy this kind of situation. You can't let it wind you up."

"All of the players were relaxed about it and it didn't really irritate anyone. In contrast it actually gave us more time to talk about tactics and stuff ahead of the match," said the Urawa Reds man.

"We have already qualified for the World Cup, so we spoke about the need to stay tight and not slack off."

Now that Japan have booked their tickets to the finals, the competition for places in the final squad for Russia will intensify over the next nine months, starting with Tuesday's game.

"This is going to be the first game since we qualified so in a sense for us players it is the starting point heading to Russia," said Makino.

"The coach often uses words like battle and survival and for us players, and this is only my opinion, none of us know who will be playing in matches and none of us are guaranteed to be going to the finals. Only the team is."