Tokyo shares closed 0.32 percent lower on Wednesday after US stocks ended mixed in a market that traders said looked overheated.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 47.23 points to 14,731.28, while the Topix index of all first-section shares was down 0.23 percent, or 2.80 points, at 1,219.92 in low-volume trading.
Investors were watching the mid-morning release of the preliminary HSBC China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), which came in at 47.7 in July vs 48.2 in June, an 11-month low, suggesting a continuous slowdown in the huge economy.
"The PMI data didn't add a great deal of pessimism to the already negative market, but it may very well act as a weight," an equity trading director at a foreign brokerage told Dow Jones Newswires.
He noted that trading volumes were light.
"With several players out for the summer holiday and others waiting for confirmation of earnings results, overall activity is simply not very robust."
Japan reported it had logged a $1.82 billion trade deficit last month, reversing a small year-earlier surplus.
In the currency market, the dollar was trading at 99.82 yen, up from 99.48 yen in New York Tuesday, while the euro fetched $1.3195 and 131.76 yen, against $1.3222 and 131.53 yen.
Kao, the parent of cosmetics firm Kanebo, fell 6.24 percent to 3,230 yen as the subsidiary said more than 2,000 Japanese had complained about skin discolouring after using its whitening products while it had also widened a consumer recall outside Japan.
China-related shares fell, with Fanuc off 0.32 percent at 15,130 and Komatsu down 0.45 percent at 2,386.