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The Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange was down 155.11 points at 11,105.24 at the start.
Market concerns over eurozone political instability came ahead of Italy's February 24-25 election, while Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy faced corruption allegations, which he has denied.
"The market consensus has been that political stability will lead to the implementation of necessary policy steps," Yoshihiro Okumura, general manager of research at Chibagin Asset Management, told Dow Jones Newswires.
"These developments are casting a shadow on that," he added.
US stocks fell sharply after government data showing industrial orders rose less than expected in December which weighed further on sentiment.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 129.71 points (0.93 percent) to finish at 13,880.08.
Analysts said that Wall Street had been due for a breather after the Dow closed Friday above the psychologically important 14,000 level for the first time in more than five years.
The dollar remained firm against the yen in early Asian trade, buying 92.28 yen compared with 92.11 yen in New York on Monday afternoon.
The euro bought 124.67 yen and $1.3510 against 124.28 yen and $1.3503.