The Nikkei 225 share average tumbled 1.3 percent to 18,504.81 in midmorning trade, the lowest since December 7.
The yen hit five-month highs against the U.S. dollar, euro and sterling on Wednesday, as simmering geopolitical tensions checked risk appetite and put the safe-haven Japanese currency in favour.
The broader Topix fell 1.1 percent to 1,462.60 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 was down 1.2 percent to 13,114.20.
WALL STREET'S LEAD: Overnight trading offered scant direction, drifting between small gains and losses ahead of the Good Friday holiday.
Investors edged back into European stocks on higher oil prices and hopes of positive earnings on Wednesday, but gold, the yen and low-risk bonds all held at multi-month highs as geopolitical tensions from the Middle East to the Korean peninsula simmered.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: Germany's DAX inched down 0.2 percent, while France's CAC 40 lost 0.5 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.4 percent to 7,379.97.
"Trump's big mouth.is creating volatility in the market", said Norihiro Fujito, a senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, adding that short-term hedge funds might welcome the volatility, but a lot of other investors are cautious. Tensions are rising over North Korea, which threatened the USA against making any military moves after it sent aircraft carrier to the divided Korean Peninsula.
On Syria, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson flew to Moscow on Tuesday to confront the Kremlin about its support for the government of Bashar al-Assad, amid US statements that Russian Federation tried to cover up a chemical attack.
QUOTEWORTHY: "Global tensions and a rush to safety ruled the NY session, and this has followed through to Asia", said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.
"There are four gauges of global market risk sentiment that are closely watched - they of course reflect their own idiosyncratic developments too, but when they all move like they did last night they are a pretty clear signal of risk aversion", the market note said.
Sterling also fell to five month low against the yen, with GBP/JPY touching a low of 136.5, but remained supported against the dollar, with GBP/USD at 1.2497. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was steady at 24,262.18, while the Shanghai Composite fell 0.5 percent to 3,269.39. Korea was down 0.5 percent while Australia was up by 0.4 percent. In an unaudited financial report, the company said there are "material events and conditions" that make it questionable whether it can continue as a going concern.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 110.94 yen from 111.15 yen late Friday as investors shifted into the traditionally "safe haven" currency.
The dollar declined below ¥110 for the first time since last year's election where Donald Trump was announced as the new president of the United States while the yen recorded new fresh highs to ¥109.50 per dollar.
The Pound to Euro exchange rate is up 0.50% at 1.1774, near a daily high at 1.1778.
Global benchmark Brent crude settled down 0.7 percent at $55.86 a barrel, while USA crude settled down 0.5 percent at $53.11. It was up 64 cents, or 1.2 percent, at $52.88 a barrel in NY. Brent crude, the standard for worldwide oil prices, was up 52 cents, or 0.9 percent, at $55.76 a barrel in London.
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