Japan's trade balance narrowed last month but exports fell again, particularly to major market China, official data showed Thursday.
The disappointing export figures underscore concerns about China's growth, despite signs of a modest pickup in the Japanese economy.
The finance ministry said Japan's November trade deficit shrunk by nearly 58 percent from a year ago to 379.7 billion yen ($3.1 billion), beating market expectations of a 480 billion yen deficit.
In October, Japan posted its first on-year trade surplus in seven months as the value of energy imports slumped on falling oil prices.
In the latest figures, shipments by Japanese firms to China dropped 8.1 percent, the fourth straight on-year fall, due to declines in exports of memory chips and other electronics parts.
Total exports fell 3.3 percent, while imports were down 10.2 percent from the same month last year.
The figures highlight the challenges facing Tokyo's bid to kick-start the world's number three economy in the face of slowing global growth.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been trying for nearly three years to revitalise the nation's economy through his signature "Abenomics" programme based on aggressive monetary easing by the Bank of Japan.
Last month, official economic growth figures showed another contraction in the July-September period, suggesting Japan's economy had fallen into its second recession in as many years.
But later revised figures actually showed modest growth in the third quarter, as capital spending and factory output picked up.
The data come after the US Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised key interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade, underscoring its confidence in the health of the world's top economy.
The move offers some good news for Japanese firms doing business in the key US market, analysts said.
"The domestic situation in the US looks good, and if the US is strong, that's positive for Japan," Ayako Sera, market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, told Bloomberg News.
But Japan's latest trade data point to "broadly stagnant external demand", said Marcel Thieliant from research house Capital Economics.