Exports to China meanwhile spiked by 42.8 per cent, boosted by brisk sales of cars, plastics and organic chemicals.

China overtook the US last year to become Japan's top export market.

Trade with European and US markets remained sluggish, with exports to the EU increasing 1.4 per cent, the first increase in 17 months.

US-bound shipments, continued to decline, falling 7.6 per cent.

"The focus of the world's growth is shifting to China and other emerging economies," said Kyohei Morita, chief economist at Barclays Capital in Tokyo.

"China will remain a trade partner as important to Japan as the United States in the future," he said.

However other analysts cautioned that an overreliance on China could have its own problems as Beijing looks to tighten monetary policy, putting the brakes on loans and liquidity to stave off inflationary pressures.

"As Chinese authorities are trying to rein in overheating in the economy, export growth will probably slow down a bit," Hiroshi Watanabe, senior economist at Daiwa Research Institute, told Reuters news agency.